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Mikveh and workers' rights

Reading last Friday’s Forward, I was struck by the juxtaposition of two articles about the Conservative movement Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Law and Standards.

One article described the Committee’s vote to approve three opinions on the laws of “family purity,” which require women to immerse in a mikveh (ritual bath) each month after menstruation and before resuming sexual relations. This is the first time the Conservative movement has stated an official position on this traditional practice, and it is likely in response to the rising interest in non-traditional uses of the mikveh to mark moments of transition and healing.

What this response seems to overlook, however, is that mikveh has become popular among women as a way of reclaiming a traditional practice for new, contemporary uses. But “reclaiming” is a very different phenomenon from accepting a movement’s mandate – one is individual and grassroots (springing from Jewish feminist innovations) and one is top-down and decidedly not about individual choice and meaning-making.

The other article detailed the Committee’s failure to pass an opinion, authored by Rabbi Jill Jacobs, requiring that Jewish business owners pay their workers a living wage and hire union employees.

Huh? Shouldn’t this one be a moral and halakhic (given the detailed biblical and rabbinic laws about workers’ rights) no-brainer? And shouldn’t the rulings about laws that involve intimate practices be the more difficult ones to pass? What does this juxtaposition of issues say about the direction the Conservative movement is heading in?

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3 Comments

I was amazed to go and read the article about which you write. I'm off to write about it in my own blog. Check it out at http://spirit-creations.blogsp....

See this iem as well:

How Did the Jewish Press Cover the Living Wage Teshuvah? by Mik Moore Ì¢‰âÂå¢ September 22nd, 2006 SOURCE: http://jspot.org/?p=578

Last week, our very own Rabbi Jill Jacobs wrote a brief note updating jspot readers about the latest progress of her groundbreaking living wage teshuvah, which was voted on by the Conservative movementÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s law committee (the abstentions won, with three voting for, seven against, ten abstaining, and five absent).

Today, both the Forward and The Jewish Week (New York) weighed in with articles about the teshuvah.

For those of you who donÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t follow the Jewish press, the Forward and The Jewish Week are among a small handful of respected Jewish newspapers. Both are run by smart editors committed to quality journalism, employ skilled reporters, and publish well-researched investigative pieces that often air the Jewish communityÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s dirty laundry. The Forward is generally considered a liberal paper (its organizational legacy is in the labor movement) while The Jewish Week is more centrist (it organizational legacy is UJA-Federation of NY).

So, guess which quote is from which paperÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s article: Continue reading ÌâåÈ http://jspot.org/?p=578#more-5...

What the opinions say is that the conversative movement is still adrift, now a sort of "modern orthodox lite" with an emphasis on the mis-spelled, innocuous, entirely irrelevant "lite".

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How to cite this page

Rosenbaum, Judith. "Mikveh and workers' rights." 29 September 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 26, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/mikveh>.

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