jewish ritual bath (mikve).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The public has been overpaying at least NIS 5 million a year in mikve fees due to systematic overcharging by numerous local rabbinates around the country.
In response to a class-action suit filed by the ITIM religious services advisory and lobbying group, the Central District Court in Lod found that 19 local rabbinates including Jerusalem, Rehovot and Rishon Lezion, have been overcharging women for mikve use, and ordered them to pay all legal costs as well as compensation for the women who participated in the suit, amounting to NIS 230,000.
Since local rabbinates are public bodies funded through taxpayer money, and the rabbinates in question committed to ending the practice of overcharging, they will not be required to pay any further compensation.
In total, 13 local rabbinates will bear the NIS 230,000 fine.
Although the Religious Services Ministry determines how much a local rabbinate can charge for mikve use, in some cases the local rabbinates more than double the fee.
In other instances, local rabbinates charged women in the first year of their marriage for use of the mikve, despite the exemption from charges to which these women are entitled.
“Women who go to the mikve out of a sense of holy duty to fulfill the religious obligation of immersion should not have to feel humiliated or cheated,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber following the court ruling.
“They should feel that the fee they need to pay is justified. It would be appropriate for local rabbinates to take care to ensure that women come to immerse out of happiness and that this feeling will continue through all the stages of immersion. We in ITIM are happy that we have been able to help in obtaining justice for women who wanted to fulfill this fundamental and important mitzva.”
The Religious Services Ministry said that it was reviewing the case and ruling and would “strengthen procedures vis-a-vis local rabbinates so that these type of lone incidents will not be repeated, as is fitting for a ministry which leads from the front and serves as a model for public service.”