Jerusalem - Religious Women Sue In Israel’s Supreme Court For Right To Choose How To Fulfill The Mitzvah Of Mikvah
Jerusalem - The ITIM Advocacy Center has petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court on behalf of a group of 13 religious women to do more to protect women’s rights at the mikvah, according to a report on Ynet (http://bit.ly/1RKcSYh). This includes allowing women to immerse in the ritual bath according to their beliefs and without coercion by mikvah attendants to adhere to local customs.
The petition against the Chief Rabbinate and the Jerusalem Religious Council alleges that the women were told how to submerge themselves and how to prepare for the immersion, regardless of the woman’s specific preferences. There has been disagreement surrounding customs of removing earrings, shaving one’s head, covering one’s hair to make the blessing, and arguments over when the mikvah is open to the public. Women were also not allowed to immerse without supervision or to select their own attendant to accompany them as a means of protecting their privacy.
One petitioner said, “When you walk into the mikvah, there are no boundaries around your body.” Yet, women describe feelings of helplessness upon going to the mikvah; an experience which forces them to choose between their dignity and privacy or the sanctity of their marriage and family. “Instead of creating a positive experience of religious or spiritual purity, they are facing humiliation, the trampling of their dignity, invasion of privacy of their personal life, and the imposition of the customs against their will, all in order to fulfill a religious duty,” the complaint read.
Rabbi Dr. Seth Farber, director of ITIM, said he is concerned about the overreaching on the part of the religious authorities in Israel and that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has not implemented changes passed last year to address these issues. “Just as the state provides synagogues, but the worshippers are permitted to worship as they choose, so too, it [the state] should provide ritual baths, but it is not in a position to determine how a woman will fulfill or keep this or that rule. Ultimately, it is their [the women’s] private interest.”
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