|Reflections on the Jewish World – by Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times, Saturday, October 25, 2014
[Note from Rabbi Andy Vogel: I was very moved by this New York Times article from this past Saturday, which refers to the recent Orthodox mikveh scandal, and which emphasizes the benefits of the "community" Mayyim Hayyim mikveh in Newton, MA, and its different approach. I encourage you to read it.]
New York Times, Oct. 25, 2014, Newton, Mass. – Let’s think about the immediate reactions that different Jews had to the Oct. 14 arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel, the spiritual leader of congregation Kesher Israel in Washington, who has been accused of using a secret camera to spy on women immersing in a mikvah, the Jewish ritual bath. Jews throughout modern Orthodoxy, the branch of Judaism in which Rabbi Freundel is so prominent, were horrified, and ashamed, that one of theirs could be accused of an act so perverted. Secular, Reform and Conservative Jews rolled their eyes. The mikvah is principally used by Orthodox women, who, after not touching their husbands while menstruating, must immerse in a mikvah before resuming sexual relations – a rule that strikes liberal Jews as sexist and anachronistic. While feeling compassion, these Jews may have also thought, “Why are 21st-century women still going to the mikvah?”
Orthodox women who had immersed at the Georgetown mikvah that Rabbi Freundel supervises felt violated and angry. Carrie Bornstein, the executive director of Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters, a community mikvah here outside of Boston, described one such woman, who happened to visit her mikvah on the night the news broke.
“She had been a regular user at the Kesher Israel mikvah,” Ms. Bornstein wrote in The Times of Israel, “and our mikvah guide recounted that when she arrived she looked ashen and could hardly speak about what happened.” (Allegedly happened, that is.)
And me? Amazingly, I had never seen a mikvah – and this in an age when mikvah use is spreading: to the non-Orthodox, to children and the elderly, and to more men. In fact, Rabbi Freundel’s arrest brought attention to the kind of mikvah – for the Orthodox, controlled by a man – that activists have been working to make a thing of the past.
So I came to meet Ms. Bornstein, whose Mayyim Hayyim, which opened in 2004 is the best-known of the “community mikvahs,” which… (continue reading by clicking here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/25/us/in-a-scandal-new-attention-to-mikvahs.html?_r=0)
- by Mark Oppenheimer, “On Religion,” New York Times, October 25, 2014