Court: No need to sign waiver for immersion without attendant

Court accepts advocacy group's demand that Jerusalem Religious Council not ask women to sign a waiver before immersing without an attendant.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Mikveh
Mikveh
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The Jerusalem Municipal Court ruled on Tuesday that the Jerusalem Religious Council violated a court order allowing women to use mikvahs (ritual baths) without an attendant.

The Council was requiring women to sign “waivers” including personal information after Israel's Supreme Court ruled that women are allowed to immerse in the mikvah without an attendant in the room. The court rejected the Council's claim that the harm to the women was “negligible,” accepting instead the claim presented by the “ITIM Jewish Advocacy” organization that the waiver was intended to intimidate women.

Jewish law mandates that during a woman's ritual immersion, another Jewish woman, aged at least twelve years and one day, must be present to ensure that the immersion fulfills the halakhic requirements. While Jewish law does provide solutions for a woman immersing without anyone in the room, they are not fail-safe and are considered a last resort. For centuries, perhaps millenia, women have had an attendant present while immerising in the ritual bath, but in the past few years, feminist groups have claimed that this constitutes an invasion of privacy and should be a matter of choice.

The Jerusalem Religious Council's form asked women to waive any legal claims on the mikvah and accept legal responsibility for damages that might ensue from immersion. Women were also asked to sign the form with their full name, their identification card number and the date on which they entered the mikvah.

During the discussion, held Tuesday at the Jerusalem District Court, Judge Oded Shaham clarified to the representatives of the Religious Council that the rationale behind the new procedure was “far from being convincing” and legally “creates many difficulties.”

In response, the Council immediately agreed to cease requiring women to sign the waiver.

Earlier, in July last year, in a letter sent by the Religious Affairs Ministry to the Religious Council, officials from the ministry strongly criticized the procedure. “We think that the intention of this document is to deter women from immersing without the presence of a Balanit (woman trained to supervise ritual immersion, ed.), and in this manner to overcome and foil our ministry’s instruction to enable immersing without the presence of a Balanit to any woman who wishes to do so (…) beyond the above (…) this harms the women’s right to personal privacy (…) we further wish to clarify that from an examination conducted in the Justice Ministry, it arises that the document and the demand to sign it are illegal.


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