26 May 2010

Israeli passports fraud

The Age, the Melbourne newspaper, and my favourite newspaper in country, conducted a poll today. " Do you think relations between Australia and Israel will be permanently damaged by revelations Israel faked Australian passports?" 62% of the respondents do not think relations will be damaged. 38% think they will be damaged. What is going on?

Michelle Grattan is Age political editor and wrote the article today on the issue. She wrote, "Australians have the right to believe the passport system is secure and that the government will do everything possible to ensure that. The expulsion of an intelligence official from the Israeli embassy comes after a thorough federal police and ASIO investigation. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told Parliament there was ''no doubt'' of Israel's involvement.

The expulsion will carry consequences for the Rudd government and perhaps for Australia. Many in the local Australian Jewish community, a politically powerful lobby in the run-up to the election, will be unhappy."

England also is expelling an official. The British Foreign Office on Tuesday issued a travel advisory to citizens traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories, just hours after it decided to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged British passports used by the killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai

Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in January in what Dubai police have said they are 99 percent certain was a hit by Israel's Mossad spy agency. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied a role in the killing of Mabhouh.

Four fake French passports were allegedly used by suspected members of the hit squad.

I doubt this was the first time fake passports were used in a democratic society. I doubt this will be the last. Terror and espionage and counter-intelligence...it's the stuff NCIS and CSI and 24 and all those Bond, James Bond, movies are made. We want justice and yet we want to see the just come out ahead and deserving.

God knows what we need in the world, and justice is still one of those very missing realities. No wonder the Bible says, "Justice, justice shall you pursue" Often on the golf course, I hear guys say after a very good shot, that hits an unfortunate rock or cart path, "That's just not fair." or worse, "There's no justice." I think to myself, or say to them, "Never demand justice. Never fail to give it, but please, don't demand it for yourself." We simply have too much of a warped, mostly self-centred view that disallows real justice, as it relates to us.

No matter if you are of the 62% or the 38%, if you are a golfer or a British, French or Aussie diplomat, or if you are a terrorist or Jack Bauer, within each of us is an aching for justice.

And the only One from whom it comes is the Just One, the Tsadik of all, Y'shua, the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the World. To know justice is to know God and His Son, Y'shua.

Ask Him about justice and read a bit of Bible, today, maybe right now. See what you can learn. And, keep your passport locked up safely somewhere, ok?

23 May 2010

Are we advancing?

I did not write this, but in light of the resignation of our transport minister David Campbell over revelations of his homosexuality last week, and so many other painful disappointments, I think this is a worthy read today. Also as I read these quick-hitting axioms, I can imagine Moishe Rosen saying some of them. He didn't, but he could have.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life, but not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We've conquered outer space, but not inner space.

We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul. We've split the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure but less fun. More kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable nappies, throw-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this blog to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or just to hit delete.

22 May 2010

Farewell, my friend

Rosen and me
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
On one of our last occasions together, Moishe had some fun in sharing with the Council and then with me privately. He always had (at least some) time for me, to teach me, to chide me, to encourage me, to challenge me. Isn't that what mentors do?

Why "one of our last occasions?" On Wednesday in San Francisco, Moishe Rosen, aged 78, passed into eternity, with his family beside him, and with angels accompanying him, with Y'shua's arms open for him. He breathed his last and his earthly life was no more.

I spent the day today pondering our long relationship. I remembered the first time I read about him in the journal of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, now Chosen People, Magazine. The year was 1971. His name by which he was known at the time, Martin Meyer Rosen, was memorable. Then it wasn't long before I read about his thoughts in the Time Magazine or the Kansas City Star or some important journal. He was large, larger than (my) life, a famous Jewish Christian, who gave me a voice.

Then it was 1973, and the Liberated Wailing Wall was touring in their first travels through Lawrence, Kansas which was at that time, my home. I fancied one of the women on the team and began writing and even ringing her a time or two. That must have put her off and someone must have told Moishe. He sent word through a mutual friend in Lawrence to leave her alone. Who was this voiced person?

January 1974 I took a five-week trip to California to visit many ministries and see what I could learn. There was no virtual life at the time. During this trip I visited Southern California and then went up north to Pacifica and Berkeley and Marin County. There in San Rafael, in a nowhere village was a tucked-away ministry center called "Jews for Jesus." It was abuzz with activity. People were in different corners, writing, ringing, printing. I knew that the leader of the group was Moishe Rosen. I wanted to meet him and spend a few minutes with him, if it were possible.

He came out of his little office and asked me if I'd had lunch. "No," I quickly and hungrily answered. After a few minutes we were off to a local Chinese restaurant and he asked me of my life and of my trip and then he asked, "What can you do to help 'Jews for Jesus'?" I hadn't given that one much of a thought. I was there to learn, to find out what 'Jews for Jesus' could teach me. They were the ones making a difference after all. Moishe was the one with the voice.

But obviously one major lesson I still have to learn is that the one with the voice is the one with two ears. He listened well and quickly evaluated that I was one into whom he could pour some of his life and teaching and wisdom.

Fast forward to 1979. February. I was still involved in teaching a Bible study for the local church I started in Lawrence, called 'The Mustard Seed.' I was teaching high school mathematics at Basehor High School in Basehor, Kansas, outside Kansas City. Patty, my wife was pregnant with our firstborn. We had a comfortable life. A house we owned. Boarders/ renters whom we enjoyed. But it was a day when I wanted more, and was not content with comfort in the traditional sense. I wanted to share my faith, to evangelize, to get 'out there' again.

I rang Moishe and spent an hour talking with him about the future. Seems the Council, the leadership group of Jews for Jesus which advised Moishe every three or four months, had just met and determined not to hire anyone new, and certainly not to take on any families, as a major season for the group was about to happen. It would not be fair to anyone involved.

But here was Moishe, listening, and evaluating, and determining, and determined to make this Jewish boy come good. He told me to consider coming out and working with the organization. Maybe now was the time. Even though we would be new and we would be a family. But the risk-taker in Moishe, the courageous and faithful sector overwhelmed the advised sector.

So in May, 1979, the Council spent three hours with Patty and me. They battled themselves, the issues, the ill-advisability of it all, and offered me a position as a missionary with Jews for Jesus. We took it and in September, I started. Perhaps due to my pastoral experience or my Orthodox Jewish background or just because, Moishe, the one with the voice, appointed me to lead the Friday night services we began, first at the Odd-Fellows Hall and then wherever else it went. He gave me room to grow and room to fail, and advised and corrected and chided and sometimes even smiled.

The last month of our Jews for Jesus Avodah year (Sept 1979 to May 1980), when the entire staff was in San Francisco for retooling, retraining, and for me, positioning, training and learning, Moishe appointed me to be his adjutant for the month. As in the photo, he put his arm around me. He had me in his office each day, to assist him, to learn how he did what he did, and to mature in leadership skills and position.

That was the way it was in the 70s. The man mentored me from a distance in the 80s, while I was in New York City. We had times of serious cooperation and serious conflict and serious debate and serious fun (is that possible). And all the while he let me be his friend. I remember this time in New Orleans where I was leading a conference at which Moishe spoke. What a good night this was after the final amen. Click to see that photo photo New Orleans

We traveled a bit together in the 80s and 90s. I even was voted onto the Council now and then, so I could advise him at times. We had one good trip in Colorado where he had grown up. After all we shared the same birthplace. He and I (though 19 years apart) were born at Menorah Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. That weekend in Denver was really good. We worked well together. We went to Sydney Australia together the next year. I had visited it before, but Moishe hadn't. Now the learner became the adviser. And the roles switched, but only for a moment.

In 1996, Moishe retired as Executive Director and I felt a loss. The relationship I had with David Brickner who replaced Moishe was not the same. And yet that loss in many ways was overcome as Moishe and I would spend more time on the phone (and of late on Skype) and in person without the daily grind of ministry concerns. It was more the way it had been in the 70s. More about real life. More about what really mattered. More of a clearer voice.

In March this year I spent a fortnight in Kansas preaching and then flew back through San Francisco on my way back to Sydney. Only I had 13 hours rather than the usual two, to connect and leave. So I went into the City. I took some photos of the people and the buildings and then went to Jews for Jesus headquarters. I saw some long-time friends and some new ones. And then spent a bit of time with David. Then together he and I went to visit Moishe. Ceil was making dinner. We ate and talked and told stories and then it was time to go. The four hours had seemed like a minute when it was over. I think I talked more than I should have. But that's what Moishe got me doing so often, so he could listen and help me evaluate things.

If 'wisdom is known by her children' then will you say Moishe was a wise man? That's for me to demonstrate now, and into the future. That's what lies ahead for me.

For now, I needed to put to paper and blog some thoughts about my friend, about my mentor, about our lives intertwined and meshed. Thanks Lord for times with Moishe. Thanks for his wisdom and his risks and his love and his arms. Thanks for bringing him to Yourself. Thanks for bringing me to him.

Farewell, Moishe Rosen. Farewell, my friend.

21 May 2010


Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Kosher… Who makes things kosher?

Item One) For the first time in 13 years, some members of the Melbourne (Australia) Jewish community were not able to carry certain items or walk beyond the allowed distance a couple weeks ago on Shabbat.

The perimeter of the religious boundary is inspected each week and until now, when any damage has been found, repairs have been immediately arranged.

However, last Friday, it was discovered that roadworks had compromised the halachic status of the eruv and the matter could not be resolved prior to Shabbat.
As the problem was in Highett, it was feasible to resuscitate the old boundary along Jasper, Grange and South roads, which meant that the majority of the community in Caulfield and St Kilda East were served by the eruv.

However, congregants at Moorabbin and Carnegie shuls and Bentleigh Chabad were unable to carry outside over Shabbat because of the damage caused by the roadworks. Advice to the community was circulated via shul offices and communal email networks. According to eruv administrators Melbourne Eruv, last Shabbat’s rare incident showed the community that the all-important boundary cannot be taken for granted.

An eruv is a boundary made of a connection of wires and posts in public places and allows Orthodox Jews to carry children and belongings outside their homes during Shabbat – an action usually prohibited on the holy day. Melbourne’s eruv takes in most of the areas of Caulfield, St Kilda, Elwood, Brighton, Moorabbin, Carnegie and Bentleigh.

Item Two) While he has been a mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, for a number of years, Rabbi Meir Rabi has begun to take on the big guns of Melbourne’s Kosher Australia and Sydney’s Kashrut Authority.

According to Rabbi Rabi, his aim is to expand the kosher market to encourage more people to take up Jewish dietary laws.

“It is part of Jewish identity,” he said. “This philosophy has driven me to try to expand as much as possible.”

It was with this philosophy in mind that he approached cereal giant Sanitarium and bid for the rights to certify its products.

While many Sanitarium products were previously considered kosher, they are now under the supervision of Rabbi Rabi, who runs his own brands Kosher V’Yosher and It’s Kosher.

But this expansion has caused whispers of concern among the established kosher organisations in Australia.

One questioned the stringency of the Melbourne-based rabbi’s kosher brands. A second feared there would problems with yet another hechsher, or kosher stamp, being introduced within the community because it could cause confusion among consumers who aren’t aware of the finer points of kashrut.

The only organisation to openly discuss Rabbi Rabi’s expansion was the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV). It rehashed a statement from 2007, emphasising the need for kashrut authorities to be accountable to the community. “The RCV is concerned with maintaining the integrity of kashrut in the community and as such will not endorse a kashrut authority in which the rav hamachshir (rabbinic administrator) receives fees directly from client restaurants or food product companies,” the statement read. “The ability to make impartial decisions about the approval or otherwise of products and food outlets is of paramount importance in the role of the deciding rabbi(s).”
The RCV has previously expressed concerns about Rabbi Rabi’s production of soft or “laffa” matzah sold before Pesach.

Last month it issued a stern warning that the matzah may be consider chametz.

Rabbi Rabi shook off the criticisms though, assuring the community he was learned and saying that other rabbis could not handle his innovative approach.

“They have a view that they don’t like the innovation,” Rabbi Rabi said. “I respect that, but halachically we have interesting and challenging discussions.”

As well as Sanitarium products, he added he had recently certified a range of Floridia brand cheeses and would be adding more food stuffs soon.

Item Three) Kosher food is now on the menu at Monash University’s Clayton Campus for the first time in 20 years, following the efforts of Chabad Campus’ Rabbi Daniel Rabin.

Following a pledge of assistance from local businesspeople, Rabbi Rabin began investigating options, coming to an agreement with a convenience store owner to stock a range of kosher snacks and sandwiches for kosher students.

“I have been receiving emails from students saying thanks they forgot their lunch today but were still able to buy something. People are happy to have snacks,” Rabbi Rabin told The AJN. “The beautiful thing is that the store owner is Muslim. I think it’s really nice,”

While still in the early stages, Rabbi Rabin is also investigating the option of hot food, such as pies and soups, being sold during the winter months.

He said he has spoken to a number of rabbis and while they have confirmed that his plans are halachically permissible, he is taking extra precautions to ensure every detail is taken into account.

“It’s going to take time but it’s very exciting,” he said.

Meanwhile, at Deakin University, local students wrote letters to Israeli soldiers of the same age for Yom Hazikaron.

The initiative brought together the Australians who are studying hard – and partying hard – at university, at the same time that their peers in Israel don khaki uniforms to defend the Jewish State.

After a short ceremony, the students penned personal notes, which will be sent to an Israeli defence base.

The event was organised by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students Deakin president Danielle Shmerling and Rabbi Rabin, the campus chaplain.

Campus Chabad will next month join with Hagshama for a Lag b’Omer evening at an indoor archery centre. The May 1 event will be complete with music and a barbecue.

Item Four) Now this week the Australian Jewish News reports that the government and the Kosher Authority are talking about a centralized single agency to approve kashrut nationwide.

All this makes me think, what is kosher? And who has the authority to declare things as such? And when we talk about Y’shua, we often use the phrase, “Jesus made me kosher!” (For more on that read online at http://www.jewsforjesus.org.au/jesus.html )

And if kosher really means ‘fit for use’ and Y’shua wants to do that to me, I want it! And you should also. Fit for use by God in private devotion, and fit for use by the Almighty in relation to others.

Look, we can work all day to repair another eruv, but at the end of the day, did God say no carrying or can you carry? Why build a ‘home’ that isn’t really our home as if we can confuse Him or legalize Him into submission to our whim. If we are not supposed to walk beyond a certain distance without eating and drinking, then let’s comply. Don’t set up a wider ‘home’ to fool Him or to pretend that what we have is really not what we have. Either your home is your home, or it isn’t.

I remember wondering about my Shabbos goy (the Gentile who assisted me with illegal activities in my uni days ..like turning on / off the lights in my room), but the Bible clearly says that not only am I disallowed from work, but so too are my family and the servants whom I might employ and the stranger who is within my gates. So if it’s wrong for me, then all the invention I employ is not going to change what God said, you know?

Some thoughts for you this Shabbat. Hope it’s a good, and kosher one for you and yours. Shabbat shalom.

15 May 2010

Jessica Watson returns to Oz

Goodonya Jessica!

Today Australian Jessica Watson from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland joined Ferdinand Magellan in triumph and three days before her 17th birthday. She completed her journey around the world this afternoon into Sydney Harbour as tens of thousands of cheering people celebrated her return. She left October 18, 2009, 210 days ago. And travelled the entire Southern Sea route, traversing into the Northern Hemisphere a bit (but not enough for a world record).

Here she is leaving back in October.

Jessica was greeted by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who hailed her as "Australia's newest hero". "You do our nation proud," he said.
"You are a hero for young Australians ... and young Australian women."
But Jessica said she had to disagree with Mr Rudd as "I don't consider myself a hero".
"I'm an ordinary girl who had a dream.
"You just have to have a dream and set your mind to it."

Ferdinand Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the Earth, although Magellan himself did not complete the entire voyage, being killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines. (Magellan had, however, traveled eastwards to the Malay Peninsula on an earlier voyage, so he became one of the first explorers to cross all of the meridians of the globe.) Of the 237 men who set out on five ships, only 18 completed the circumnavigation and managed to return to Spain in 1522, led by the Basque navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano, who took over command of the expedition after Magellan's death. Seventeen other men arrived later in Spain: twelve men captured by the Portuguese in Cape Verde some weeks earlier and between 1525 and 1527, and five survivors of the Trinidad.

Map of her reentry into Sydney harbour on the Ella:

Having a dream and living it, isn't that what life is all about? I don't know young Jessica Watson, but she has this elementary principle down very well. The humble succeed and the proud fall.

There was discussion about the world record, which was never a concern to young Jessica. She will not claim the official world record for becoming the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.

She did not cover the distance required to meet strict criteria set by the official sailing record body in relation to circumnavigation of the globe, according to the Sail World website.

But Watson’s manager Andrew Fraser today lashed out at the criticism of the Queensland schoolgirl, saying she was never attempting to obtain a world record.

What are your dreams? What might prevent your accomplishing them? Whether you are a 16th century Portuguese or a 21st century schoolgirl, whether you are a sailor or even the thoughts of open seas make you seasick, you can have a dream and God can help you realize it.

Remember Jessica and stay humble. Work hard and keep your dream in focus. And maybe you will do well. Get a good team together to help you. Allow yourself the encouragement of your parents, and keep your dream in your focus, no matter what.

You may not get a crowd of thousands to watch you make it happen, but the praise of God is worth it all.

10 May 2010

Albert Mohler on Franklin Graham

This commentary from Southern Baptist Albert Mohler caught my eye. It's powerful. It's clear as. It's worth noting. And it's a worry as Mohler points out. Mohler wrote this on 6 May last week.

Who will be tested next?

Marking the National Day Of Prayer, evangelist Franklin Graham led in prayer this morning at the Pentagon. Not inside the Pentagon, mind you, but outside, where he led a handful of other Christians in silent prayer.

The recent controversy about Franklin Graham is a sign of things to come. The prominent evangelist, son of Billy Graham, is known for his plain-spoken Christian testimony. He is also an internationally known figure as founder and head of Samaritan’s Purse, a highly respected Christian relief agency. He had been scheduled to speak at the Pentagon today for an official National Day of Prayer event. But, just two weeks ago, he was disinvited by Pentagon officials after complaints were made about his statements concerning Islam.

In the words of the official Pentagon spokesperson, Franklin Graham’s statements about Islam were “not appropriate.” Oddly enough, most in the media seem to have forgotten that the Pentagon faced a similar controversy over Franklin Graham and the very same comments in 2003, when he was invited to speak at an official Pentagon Good Friday service. At that time, the Pentagon stalwartly refused to disinvite Graham. Indeed, the official Pentagon spokesperson said at that time: “While I, personally, would not agree with some of Rev. Graham’s comments and observations, I would defend his right to have his religious views as part of the freedom we have as Americans.”

Someone’s mind clearly changed between 2003 and 2010 — and that someone wasn’t Franklin Graham. News reports about the disinvitation this year indicate that the Army acted after criticism came from activist Mikey Weinstein, who opposes virtually all Christian influence in the armed forces.

Graham, who also serves as this year’s honorary chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, complained that his disinvitation represents intolerance toward biblical Christianity and a violation of his religious liberty.

What did Franklin Graham say that caused such a controversy? In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Graham said that Islam is “wicked, violent and not of the same God.” In his book, The Name, Graham said that Christianity and Islam are locked in “a classic struggle that will end with the second coming of Christ.”

In interview after interview, Franklin Graham has repeated his message that salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone, that the gospel of Christ is the only message that offers salvation, and that any belief system that leads persons away from that gospel is false and empty. He has also pressed his case when asked about Islam, arguing that Islam is prone to violence and mistreats women — arguments he says are validated by hs experience with relief efforts led by Samaritan’s Purse.

In a recent conversation with Jon Meacham and Lisa Miller of Newsweek, Franklin Graham made these points clearly. In the most important statement of that interview, Graham said this: “I am who I am. I don’t believe that you can get to heaven through being a Buddhist or Hindu. I think Muhammad only leads to the grave. Now, that’s what I believe, and I don’t apologize for my faith. And if it’s divisive, I’m sorry.”

Clearly, for Christians the most important issue here is the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faced with mounting criticism from secularist and Islamic organizations, the Department of the Army and the Pentagon faced a hard public test — and they failed that test miserably. They caved into activist pressure and withdrew the invitation.

Even on its face, this was not a smart move. An estimated 80 percent of those enlisted in the U.S. armed forces identify as Christians. Put bluntly, citizens with conservative Christian commitments are far more likely to support and enlist in the armed forces than liberal secularists — and recruiters know that fact very well.

Where would you rather serve as an Army recruiter — Cambridge, Massachusetts or College Station, Texas? The Army sent a clear message by disinviting Franklin Graham, and that message will be both heard and remembered.

Adding insult to injury, the spokesman for the Pentagon made a direct reference to Franklin Graham’s statements about Islam, calling them “not appropriate.” What is clearly “not appropriate” is for a Pentagon spokesperson to render a theological judgment about the statements of Franklin Graham.

When the controversy about Franklin Graham’s statements hit the first round of public controversy, I was asked to appear on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor to discuss the controversy. I did, pointing out that what Franklin Graham said about the exclusivity of the gospel is nothing other than classic Christianity.

Evangelical Christians in the United States had better see a big challenge staring us in the face. Franklin Graham was disinvited by the Pentagon for making statements that are required by faithfulness to the gospel of Christ. As reports make clear, it is not just his statements about Islam being prone to violence that cause offense, it is his statements that Islam is wicked because it does not lead to salvation in Christ that cause the greatest offense.

The Pentagon failed its test, but many more tests will follow. Faithful witness to Christ requires an honest statement about what any false system of belief represents — an form of idolatry and false teaching that leads to eternal damnation. There may be more and less offensive ways of saying that, but there is no way to remove the basic offense to the current cultural mind.

In reality, every evangelical preacher and every individual Christian will face this question — and probably sooner rather than later.

Franklin Graham will not be the last to be tested. Who will be tested next?


Purify me with... mikva water?

My friend, Rick Lobs, uploaded this blog on his page:

And I loved it, so thought I would appropriate it. (In DC I learned that language. Before that it was "I would steal it.")

Jerusalem's mikva'ot, Jewish ritual baths, will soon see the installation of a novel program that will allow the recycling of used mikveh water, which will ultimately save the city hundreds of thousands of shekels every year.

Where else but Jerusalem is it possible to become ritually pure while supporting water recycling at the same time? If a pilot project to recycle gray water used in mikva'ot (ritual baths) succeeds, holy-minded Jerusalemites will soon be able to simultaneously dunk, conserve on natural resources and save money, across the city.

Traditional Jewish communal life revolves around the mikveh, a deep ritual bath fed at least partly by naturally flowing water, utilized at various times by adult community members. Jews establishing a new community are required by Jewish law to build a mikveh even before a synagogue, and Jewish archaeological sites worldwide are often identified as such by the presence of mikva'ot.

The mikveh is not used for purposes of hygiene, but rather to remove tumah, a state of ritual impurity acquired through the expulsion of certain bodily fluids, contact with the dead or other, more esoteric ways. In practice, this applies chiefly to married women, who are required to immerse themselves in a mikveh monthly to remove the tumah associated with their menstrual period, and additionally before weddings and after childbirth. Men also immerse themselves in the mikveh before marriage, before Yom Kippur in many communities, and in certain stricter, or more purity-minded Orthodox sects, before every Shabbat or even every day. Immersion in a mikveh also serves as the culmination of the process of conversion to Judaism. Recent years have even seen some Jewish feminist thinkers embrace the mikveh as a unique symbol of Jewish womanhood, leading non-Orthodox Jewish women to immerse in the mikveh as an expression of identity and spirituality.