A mikve, the Jewish ritual bath [Illustrative].
(photo credit: CHABAD.ORG)
NEW YORK – The Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, created by the American Jewish Committee in 2014, strongly opposes a Knesset bill preventing the Reform and Conservative movements from using public mikvaot for conversion ceremonies.
The legislation, currently before the Knesset for consideration, was proposed by United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni and backed by several other haredi lawmakers along with four Bayit Yehudi MKs.
The bill, which would allow local religious councils to deny conversion services to particular expressions of Judaism as they choose, was introduced after the High Court of Justice ruled that excluding Reform and Conservative converts from immersion in public mikvaot was discriminatory and illegal.
The Committee for Interior Affairs discussed the bill on Monday, in preparation for further committee hearings.
“Passage of this bill would leave those seeking to convert within the Reform and Conservative/Masorti movements with no legal option for ritual immersion in Israel,” J-REC said. “Given that public mikvaot are dependent on government funding for construction and maintenance, their usage must not be restricted to a subsection of the community.”
“Not only does this bill disregard the decision of Israel’s High Court, but it also sends a message that Israel is unsupportive of Reform and Conservative/Masorti Jews worldwide,” it added.
J-REC chairman Dov Zakheim added that passage of this bill would be “a major step backward in securing Jewish religious equality in the Jewish state.
“We need more measures to ensure that all expressions of Judaism, not just the Orthodox, are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as members of Israeli society and the collective Jewish peoplehood,” Zakheim said. “J-REC is committed to working with partners across all movements of Judaism – both in Israel and in the Diaspora – in stopping this bill that limits religious freedom in Israel and weakens its democratic values.”