Chief Rabbinate instructs mikve attendants not to force inspections

By
November 27, 2013 02:02

Decision follows bill proposal to prevent mikve attendants conducting intrusive checks on women seeking to immerse in a mikve.




A mikve attendant.

Mikve attendant 390. (photo credit:Courtesy)

The Chief Rabbinate has announced that, together with the Religious Services Ministry, it will be instructing mikve attendants not to conduct intrusive checks on women seeking to immerse in a mikve.

The announcement comes following the submission to the Knesset last week of legislation to prevent such practices.

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Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie and the ITIM religious services advisory and lobbying group, who respectively proposed and advocated for the bill, said that mikve attendants frequently question women and request that they be allowed to conduct physical checks before allowing them to immerse.

In Jewish law, women must immerse in a ritual bath, or mikve, every month after their period as well as on other occasions, and specific and detailed rules govern the ritual of immersion.

ITIM had sent a letter to the Chief Rabbinate on the issue three months ago and received a reply on Monday.

“Mikve attendants are supposed to help a woman immersing to fulfill the commandment of immersion according to Jewish law, and the attendants are expected to offer their help for this purpose,” the Chief Rabbinate wrote to ITIM.

“However, mikve attendants are not permitted to compel [any] practices, checks or investigations on women wishing to immerse against their will,” the rabbinate’s letter continued.

The Chief Rabbinate said that an official directive of the Religious Services Ministry stating this policy will shortly be issued to attendants, and that notices bearing the pertinent Jewish laws on mikve immersion, including those relating to preparations and checks, would be posted in mikvaot to “improve the service provided to women immersing in the mikve.”

Despite the Chief Rabbinate’s announcement, Lavie will not be withdrawing her proposed legislation but said in response that she was “happy that the chief rabbis understand the problem” with the current situation and that they are working to fix it.

“We have to ensure together that women who want to immerse in public mikvaot feel comfortable and are not forced to undergo humiliating interrogations which frighten them from going to the mikve,” Lavie added.

ITIM also welcomed the Chief Rabbinate’s letter and said that the Religious Services Ministry should post in all public mikvaot the directive that attendants may not demand to question or check women.

The office of Deputy Minister for Religious Services MK Eli Ben Dahan issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the ministry had several months ago instructed staff to draw up a directive for mikve attendants for respecting the privacy of women wishing to immerse in a mikve.

The directive is expected to be released in the coming weeks, the ministry said.

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