Jerusalem – Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman on Tuesday called on the Ministry of Religious Services to allow women converting to Judaism to be given the choice of not having rabbinical judges in the room when she immerses in the mikvah, or ritual bath, an act which completes her conversion.

Lipman said he was submitting the request to Deputy Minister of Religious Services Eli Eli Ben-Dahan after he spoke with a convert who was accidentally seen completely unclothed by the three rabbis when they walked into the room, before she could cover herself.

In Jewish law, a woman must immerse in a mikvah to complete her conversion and rabbinical judges, who in Orthodox Judaism are men, are supposed to be present to confirm that she did indeed immerse.

The MK said that he had looked into the issue of how female converts feel about the presence of men during their immersion, as well as the sources in Jewish law that deal with the requirements for the ritual immersion of women when converting and decided that

Lipman said that he discovered rabbinic sources which explain that the presence of men in the actual room is not an absolute requirement, and on the basis of his research issued his request to Ben-Dahan.

“The idea is to continue with the standard procedure in which the rabbis are in the room while maintaining the woman’s modesty,” said Lipman.

“However, we must give women the option of not having men in the room since there is a significant percentage of women who, on the heels of being taught the rigid laws of modesty and accepting those rules upon themselves as part of their conversion, feel very uncomfortable immersing in the presence of men.

“The conversion process, especially immersion in the mikvah, should be a spiritual high and not one filled with anxieties and discomfort,” he continued.

Lipman cited the opinions of Rabbis Shmuel Salant, Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel and Moshe Feinstein, three highly respected Orthodox rabbis from the 19th and 20th centuries, who he said ruled that it is possible to “relax” the requirement for rabbinic judges to be present when a woman immerses.

Lipman’s proposal comes in the wake of the revelations in the US in which prominent modern-Orthodox leader Rabbi Barry Freundel has been charged with several counts of misdemeanor voyeurism.

It is alleged that the rabbi hid a camera in the changing room of the mikvah belonging to the Kesher Israel synagogue in Washington DC to record female converts as they undressed, although the rabbi has pleaded not guilty to the charges.