The Jerusalem religious council is continuing to require women who seek to use a mikveh (ritual bath) unattended to sign a waiver, raising the prospect of a violation of their privacy.
The requirement runs counter to the position of the legal adviser to the Religious Services Ministry, Israel Patt, who told a session of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women that women seeking to use a ritual bath without being accompanied by an attendant must not be required to sign of a legal release, and in the process disclose their identities. It is customary for attendants to accompany women at the ritual baths.
The waiver form used at Jerusalem mikvehs declares that the woman releases the attendant and the Jerusalem religious council from liability in the event that she sustains injury in the ritual bath. Jerusalem appears to be the only city in Israel where such a waiver is required, and Patt told the Knesset committee that the requirement clearly had not been approved by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and ran counter to the policy that mivkehs respect the women’s modesty.
The women are required to give their name, ID card number and date of signature. The information is kept in a database, raising concern on the part of opponents to the practice that the women’s privacy would be violated if the information were ever disclosed.
The office of the legal adviser to the Jerusalem religious council, Dror Axelrod, sent a letter on the issue to Itim, an organization that in 2015 filed a class action suit over the requirement at Jerusalem mikvehs. Itim advocates on behalf of Jews encountering problems with the Orthodox religious establishment. Axelrod’s letter stated that there is nothing improper about requiring the signing of a waiver.
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