Ritual Baths Declared Open for all Conversions

3 March 2016

The Supreme Court has ruled that state-funded ritual baths (mikvahs) must be open for non-Orthodox conversions and for use by non-Orthodox participants. This follows an appeal by two NIF grantees, the Masorti Movement and the Israel Movement for Progressive and Reform Judaism, against a prior ruling that upheld a ban on non-Orthodox converts using the ritual baths. This victory for religious freedom represents another limit on the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over religious services.

Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote, “Once it established public mikvahs and put them at the service of the public – including for the process of conversion – the state must be evenhanded in allowing their use. The State of Israel is free to supervise the use of its mikvahs, so long as it does so in an egalitarian manner.”

The Masorti Movement’s director, Yizhar Hess, called the ruling “a clear decision that Conservative and Reform Jews are not stepchildren in the State of Israel.” And Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Movement for Progressive Judaism, said that the verdict “is another significant step on the road to full recognition of Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel.”

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