The rabbis of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate.
(photo credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)
The Chief Rabbinate has issued a decision which states that public mikvaot should not be used for the immersion of converts from any denomination, so as to prevent converts from the Reform and Conservative Movements using them.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that the non-Orthodox denominations must be allowed to make use of public mikvaot, or ritual baths, for the final immersion ceremony required of converts.
Until the ruling, the local religious councils which operate the public mikvaot within their regional jurisdictions would not allow non-Orthodox converts to use them.
The Chief Rabbinate’s decision was made Thursday during its council’s monthly meeting. The decision states that the mikvaot should only be used for the ritual immersion that religious women perform once a month, and not for the converts of any denomination, including the Orthodox conversions conducted by the state conversion system, in order to avoid legal challenges to the decision on the basis of discrimination.
A representative of the Chief Rabbinate said it was working on a solution for Orthodox converts to immerse.
The religious establishment was outraged at the Supreme Court’s ruling, with United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni introducing legislation to prevent the Reform and Conservative movements from using public mikvaot.
According to attorney Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha’arei Mishpat Academic Center, the Chief Rabbinate’s decision is not legal and will not be enforceable.
Hacohen pointed out that the Chief Rabbinate does not have administrative authority over public mikvaot which are run by local religious councils and are therefore under the authority of the Religious Services Ministry.
Reform Movement in Israel head Rabbi Gilad Kariv said the Chief Rabbinate’s decision was a “desecration of God’s name” and illustrated how the Orthodox monopoly over religious affairs is crumbling.
“The idea that the Chief Rabbinate and the Religious Services Ministry are willing to prevent Orthodox converts completing their conversion just in order to block non-Orthodox converts is a massive sin, bearing in mind the Torah’s injunction to love converts,” Kariv told The Jerusalem Post. “These people have lost their minds and their hearts. This is a symbol of the deep moral and theological crisis of the Orthodox establishment in Israel. We don’t need any more proof than this decision to see that days of the Chief Rabbinate and the Orthodox monopoly are over.”
Kariv said the Reform Movement would be writing to the attorney-general tomorrow to request that he instruct the Chief Rabbinate to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
A spokesperson for the Chief Rabbinate said it would ask the state conversion authority to use private mikvaot for its converts instead, in order to allow Orthodox conversions in Israel to continue.