That’s right, we don’t want to ruffle any feathers or cause offense to anybody, so this will be a gentle and serious post.
Ynet is reporting that Israel’s Masorti (Conservative) and Progressive Judaism (Reform) movements are petitioning Israel’s High Court of Justice against the National Authority of Religious Affairs to gain entry into tax-payer funded mikvahs into which their entry is being denied.
These non-Orthodox movements often use mikvahs for the same reasons Orthodox Jews use mikvahs: ritual purity, and conversions.
The primary uses of mikvah today are delineated in Jewish Law and date back to the dawn of Jewish history. They cover many elements of Jewish life. Mikvah is an integral part of conversion to Judaism…The mikvah concept is also the focal point of the taharah, the purification rite of a Jew before the person is laid to rest and the soul ascends on high. The manual pouring of water in a highly specific manner over the entire body of the deceased serves this purpose.
Mikvah is also used by men on various occasions; with the exception of conversion, they are all customary. The most widely practiced are immersion by a groom on his wedding day and by every man before Yom Kippur….But the most important and general usage of mikvah is for purification by the menstruant woman.
For the menstruant woman, immersion in a mikvah is part of a larger framework best known as Taharat Hamishpachah (Family Purity). As with every area of Jewish practice, Family Purity involves a set of detailed laws; namely, the “when,” “what,” and “how” of observance…Family purity is a system predicated on the woman’s monthly cycle. From the onset of menstruation and for seven days after its end, until the woman immerses in the mikvah, husband and wife may not engage in sexual relations.
Clearly, mikvahs represent an important and perhaps crucial element of Jewish life.
It seems that the Government of Israel which operates the National Authority of Religious Affairs is practicing religious discrimination against Israeli citizens who are Jewish.
I will repeat that in a kind and gentle non-ascerbic tone that doesn’t mock anybody so that this will resonate clearly. In a Jewish state called Israel created by the Jewish people in their historic homeland to be a home but also a haven from all those places in the world where Jews have experienced discrimination, a government ministry called National Authority of Religious Affairs is preventing Jews from entering tax-payer funded buildings housing a crucial element of Jewish religious practice.
Is this discrimination accidental or random? That would at least explain part of the problem. No, it appears that this discrimination is mandated at the Ministerial level of the Israeli government.
The minister in charge of the Religious Affairs, MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) said in response to the petition: “Conversions of reform and conservative organizations are virtual conversions, and they deserve to immerse in a virtual immersion. This is a vexing petition. The only immersion the reform are aware of is Baptism. So they can continue to walk on water and leave the people of Israel alone.”
I don’t want to be contentious and have others accuse me of bias against Orthodox Jews so I’ll have Mr. Cohen of Shas, a Minister in the Government, tell us again what he thinks of Jews who are not Orthodox:
The only immersion the reform are aware of is Baptism.
So they can continue to walk on water and leave the people of Israel alone.
Remember a couple of weeks ago when I suggested that it was discriminatory to make non-Orthodox Jews who wanted communal prayer at the Kotel – the Western Wall – pay for the opportunity and relegate them to a distant corner of the wall? I suspect I miss that day now because that form of discrimination seemed enlightened compared to this story.
(Photo source is The Mikvah Project)