Anti-rabbinate Video Backfires, Taken Off Facebook

Viewers rage at NGO's video portraying a Jewish ritual bath attendant forcing a young woman to stay underwater in a scene worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.

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Haaretz
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New Family, a non-profit that promotes civil marriages in Israel, seemed to have crossed a line with a controversial video portraying a nightmare experience at a Jewish ritual purification bath.

The video, which the NGO put on its official Facebook page as part of a campaign against the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, has provoked a wave of protests over the past few days. The video, which the NGO has already deleted, continues to draw fire on New Family's Facebook wall in Hebrew.

The video clip portrays an unsympathetic woman in charge of the ritual bath, known as a mikveh, immersing a young woman in the bath and holding her head underwater with discordant music playing in the background. The woman looks like she is struggling underwater in a scene that could come out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

The message "You don't have to go through the rabbinate to be happy" then appears.

"I'm just waiting for the ritual bathhouse attendant," says the woman at the beginning of the video. "I hope the water is clean, at least. Who knows who was here before?"

The woman tells the attendant she is shy, and the attendant tells her not to be. After hesitating, the woman finally says the ritual prayer and goes into the mikveh. The woman then forces her to stay under as she struggles to breathe.

Viewers wrote complaints on the NGO Facebook page both before and after it took down the video.

"The New Family organization launched an anti-Mikveh immersion campaign, and it is no doubt the most violent, lousy, twisted, stereotypical and lowest I have seen in a long time," posted one surfer on its Facebook wall. "Great film, acting and direction. That's how you make an alternative. It's really, really awful."

Another visitor, who said she was a mikveh attendant, wrote that she did not know that she was "a murderer who immerses women." She wrote that she does not implore or threaten women to go in but does everything with grace and respect.

"Women love this mitzvah more than you seem to think," she wrote. "You chose to attack the most important mitzvah in Judaism (more important than keeping Shabbat), and to present it in the most twisted way detached from reality. The war you launched is not against the rabbinate but against God. Heaven have mercy on you."

Another surfer wrote, "The clip is scary and disgusting. No one is for secular citizens boycotting the rabbinate as I am, but this is not the way!"

New Family did not issue a statement on the video clip.