Attorney General: Mikveh law is unconstitutional

March 20, 2016  

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has published his review of the “Mikveh Bill,” saying that it is unconstitutional and violates individuals’ freedom of religion.

The bill in question was submitted by MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) and is aimed at preventing Reform groups from using public Mikvaot (ritual baths) for their conversions which do not adhere to Jewish law. The Knesset Assembly has passed the bill in its preliminary reading.

Mandelblitt claims that there is only one proper Halakhic (Jewish) law regarding public mikvaot –  not listening to other customs that undermine what he calls the “core of the right to religious freedom.”

In another blow to the bill, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi David Lau published Sunday his opinion on the “Mikveh Bill,” making it clear that he will not sign any initiative that does not require the presence of a balanit (mikveh attendant) for women using the ritual baths.

Rabbi Lau noted that the assistance of a balanit should only occur upon demand, and every female immersing should be allowed a choice: “It is appropriate that the balanit will offer her assistance, and if the woman dipping does not wish so, it should not be further pressed.”

“When a woman is immersing for purity reasons, it is necessary for a balanit to make sure that her entire body dipped in the water. Those who feel uncomfortable having a balanit standing over her may dip in the same way conversions are done, that is, she may wear loose and opaque clothing, or cover the mikveh waters so that only her head is sticking out. This way she can maintain her privacy and modesty,” wrote Rabbi Lau.

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