Published On: Tue, Jul 21st, 2015

Israeli NGO to Supreme Court: Protect women’s rights at the ritual bath

Organization files complaint asking that women be permitted to use mikveh without supervision from attendants

mikveh YOUTUBE

An Israeli NGO ITIM filed a complaint with Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday to protect women’s rights at the mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath.

Observant Jewish women use the mikveh for purification rites, with some immersing themselves in the water on a weekly basis and others less often.

The ITIM Advocacy Center petitioned the court on behalf of 13 married Orthodox women against the Chief Rabbinate and the Jerusalem Religious Council, asking that they allow women to use the mikveh without supervision or with their own personal attendant.

ITIM charges that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is not enforcing rules passed last year that permit women to use the ritual baths without being asked invasive questions by mikveh attendants.

In one case, a woman reportedly kept from using the mikveh because of her hairstyle even though she had invited the mikveh attendant to consult with her own rabbi. In another, a woman was asked how many times she planned to immerse herself, and when the answer was unsatisfactory to the attendant, the woman was prevented from using the bath.

“The mikveh is an incredibly vulnerable place, ” Rabbi Seth Farbor, the head of ITIM, told JTA. “Women have rights there as well.”

“There is no other public service that demands that individuals – women or men – submit themselves to this kind of inspection. mikvehs around the world – in most cases – respect the privacy and rights of women. Ironically, only in Israel are individuals subject to violations of basic rights.”

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