Israel’s mikvahs open to non-Orthodox conversions, official says

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israel’s state-sponsored mikvahs will be open for use for Conservative and Reform conversions following an announcement by Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben Dahan.

Wednesday’s announcement, said Ben Dahan’s spokesperson, merely clarifies existing policy rather than changing it. She said that some mikvahs, or ritual baths, had blocked Conservative and Reform Jews from entering,  but that because the mikvahs are public spaces, any Jew is allowed to use them for any purpose.

“It’s a public space, so it’s open to any Jew regardless of the movement,” she said. “This is an issue of equality.”

The spokesperson emphasized that the  announcement did not amount to recognition of non-Orthodox conversion. Ben Dahan is a member of the Modern Orthodox Jewish Home Party, which is opposed to state recognition of non-Orthodox Jewish movements.

The chairman of Jewish Home, Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett, unveiled reforms of Israel’s religious services earlier this week aimed at streamlining the state’s religious institutions.  The reforms shrink the number of Israeli regional religious councils, allow couples to be married by any Orthodox rabbi in the state, and change the criteria by which religious council heads are chosen, including adding more women to the process.