November 10, 2013 – Targum Shlishi has provided a seed grant for the Jerusalem-based grassroots project Tovlot B’Yerushalim—Women Taking Responsibility Over the Mikveh! An initiative of the feminist organization Avoda Shebaguf, the mikveh project’s goal is to ensure that the personal, spiritual act of immersing in the mikveh ritual bath be an experience in which women from all denominations of Judaism can find their own personal space.
Historically and currently, maintaining the mikveh is a service supplied by the State and the municipality, with all decisions regarding operations, hiring, training, and funding made by men. “There has never been a way for the women who use the mikveh to monitor, improve, or influence the service they receive. Today, women are more aware of their rights and their ability to demand better services,” says Rachel Azaria, a Jerusalem city council member and a supporter of the mikveh project.
The mikveh project launched in 2013 and to date activities have included an investigation of mikveh policies, an extensive survey to solicit information from women about what they see as problems at mikvot, a letter-writing campaign to government officials, a publicity campaign with the media and social media, holding a conference to discuss the issue, and working to form a group of activists united in this cause. Next steps include working with decision makers to advocate for women becoming part of the decision-making process for issues related to the mikveh.
“The Jewish people who left Egypt were a different people from the ones who arrived in the land of Israel. The Jewish people after the destruction of the Temple were different from before. And today, after the Holocaust and the miracle of the State of Israel, as many thinkers have discussed, we are witnessing a transition to a different Jew and a different Jewish people. However, this transition—really an evolution and rebirth of a new Jewish people—is being inhibited by the rabbinate in Israel and those like them,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “The mikveh project is inspiring as an example of a grassroots effort to address an issue that affects the lives of women from all different denominations of Judaism. Our growth as a people includes the strengthening of women’s voices. This initiative takes power away from the rabbinate and gives it to women, effectively empowering women to advocate for themselves and ultimately, to affect their quality of life for the better.”
Earlier this year, Targum Shlishi supported an ideologically similar project in Jerusalem that challenges the state rabbinate’s monopoly on kosher certification. In protest of what they claimed were corrupt practices and objectionable management techniques by the rabbinate, and in support of alternative approaches, several restaurants banded together to protest the status quo by claiming kosher credentials without certification by the rabbinate. Kashrut Yerushalmit, developed by the Yerushalmim political party in partnership with Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, calls for a community based, volunteer kosher supervision program.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.