I am Jewish and marrying a Catholic woman who respects my religion and who requested we be married by a rabbi. I will remain Jewish, and my wife will remain Catholic. My parents are both deceased, buried in a Jewish cemetery. They purchased 2 plots many years ago planning for me and my future wife to be buried next to them (my parents). Will it be a problem to have my Catholic wife buried next to me and alongside my parents in the Jewish cemetery?
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I wish you and your partner only joy and love together. The question you are raising has its basis in halahah but truly is as varied as the communities in the United States that own cemeteries. Let’s talk halahah first and then deal with the more practical matter at hand:
Talmud Gittin cites a beraita (a text from the time of the Mishnah that was not included in the document) which says that we bury Jews and non-Jews together for the interest in peace. Rashi, in his commentary on that text, is quick to note that “we bury” does not mean we bury them together, but that we have an obligation to see to the burial of non-Jews just as we have an obligation to see to the burial of Jews within the community. In the more contemporary world, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote in a teshuvah that if a community wants to bury Jews and non-Jews together that they should also maintain a separate section for only Jews to be buried.
This seems to be the most common practice. In every community I have served the custom has been to have two sections of a cemetery; one for families where an immediate relative is not Jewish and another section for families where everyone is Jewish. There are smaller matters to consider such as whether to create a separation between the two sections or whether to purchase two separate plots. From my own experience, I think that if a community is going to purchase and maintain a cemetery, it should be as open to the dead as the community is open to the living. If we welcome interfaith couples and families in life, we should be willing to bury them together when that life has ended.
That does not mean that some restrictions should not apply. Every cemetery I have overseen had strict rules about the burial of non-Jews. Only non-religious burials were permitted (performed by the rabbi) and non religious symbolism was allowed on the monuments.
In reality, most cemeteries have policies governing the burial of non-Jewish family members. Those policies are surely as varied as the Jewish community. I would encourage to you call the cemetery and ask them. Almost half of all marriages in the Jewish community are interfaith – this is a question that cemeteries have thought about and will have an answer. Once you have the information from the cemetery, then you can consider what path you will take.
Again, congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I wish you nothing but mazal and simhah in your new life’s journey.
It will be a problem. A Jewish cemetery is precisely that, a Jewish cemetery, a place wherein Jews are interred.
If your question is of an halakhic nature, i.e., would this be allowed, the painful but honest answer is - no. Have you checked at the cemetery wherein the plots were purchased? My guess is that there are protocols for the cemetery, and if the cemetery is run along halakhic regulations, it would preclude your scenario.
However, not all cemeteries operate this way, and there are some that are run with very little adherence to halakhic norms. Those would probably allow such burial. But whether they allow or not, what you are asking for is contrary to established Jewish practice.
A marriage that brings together people of two different faiths can certainly present certain challenges to each partner in navigating relationships with his or her own faith. I hope that you are successful in doing so.
Going back at least 1000 years, many Jewish communities had the understanding that Jewish burial needed to take place in a cemetery designated for Jewish burial, separate from the burial of non-Jews. The famous 11th century commentator, Rashi (in his comments on the Talmud, Gittin 61a) is one of the first to express this view clearly, and it is found in many later texts as well, including Tur (a 14th century law code). The basis for the restriction is an idea found in the Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 47a, that the righteous may not be buried with the unrighteous. In the middle ages, the presumption was that someone who is not of the Jewish faith would not be considered “righteous” for these purposes. Areas consecrated for Jewish burial would be separated from other burial areas by a fence, a path, or other open space. That does not mean that Jews could not participate in the burial of non-Jewish dead and support of those who mourn them- this view is stated explicitly in the Talmud (Gittin 61a). It is also worth noting that the tradition includes exceptions to this tradition (for example, a case where many perish together in a common disaster).
Modern Jews might have a different understanding of the relative righteousness of our non-Jewish neighbors than our ancestors did of theirs. Nevertheless, the practice of sanctifying a cemetery as consecrated ground for Jewish burial still carries great weight in many communities, presenting a challenge for a generation of Jews that may have strong emotional and practical reasons to be buried with non-Jewish loved ones.
The Conservative movment has explored this topic, most recently in a paper which was approved by its committee on Jewish Law and Standards in 2010. http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/public/halakhah/teshuvot/20052010/Burial%20of%20Non-Jewish%20Spouse-Feb%202%2C%202010.pdf
The paper concludes that Jews who wish to be buried with non-Jews may do so without violation of Jewish law, but that the community must stand by commitments made to those who may have purchased graves with the understanding that they were in a specifically Jewish section. It suggests that non-Jews may not be buried in sections already designated for Jewish burial, but that going forward, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries might create sections designated for mixed burial, separated from those consecrated specifically for Jewish burial. As it turns out, I abstained from this paper, but agree with its overall conclusions.
Of course, from a realistic perspective, the question is not what is theoretically permitted or forbidden by a given rabbi, but what will happen with the particular plots your family has purchased.
Some Jewish cemeteries, and even sections within cemeteries, do in fact have bylaws that restrict who may be buried in that particular section, and how the burial is to take place. So, for example a cemetery section associated with a particular synagogue may require that those buried there must be of the Jewish faith and even must retain an affiliation with a particular organization. Some may even require a particular type of casket/preparation for the deceased, or restrict who may officiate.
In order to truly answer your question, you would need to make contact with representatives of them cemetery in question, to determine whether they have such bylaws or restrictions.
I hope that you and your wife-to-be are blessed with long life and do not have to face this question for many years to come.
First, let me wish you happiness in your forthcoming marriage.
Whether your non-Jewish spouse can be buried in the Jewish cemetery with you is a question on two counts.
First, practically. It all depends on the rules of the cemetery and the organization that operates that cemetery. If the cemetery rules are that only Jewish persons can be buried within the bounds of the cemetery, then that is binding on those holding deeds to plots within the cemetery. The plots were purchased subject to that restriction, and it was agreed that the restrictions would be followed.
This is often the case for cemeteries associated with traditional, or observant, communities, and most often that would include any community that was (and probably any that still is) identified as Orthodox or Conservative. Some Reform communities established their cemeteries with rules that permit burial of non-Jewish spouses within the cemetery bounds. Other places, cemeteries were established as communal institutions, not associated with a particular denomination, and there it would simply depend on the rules that were adopted. Some cemeteries have areas that are set aside specifically for burial of Jewish and non-Jewish spouses, though these are not in the bounds of the strictly Jewish burial areas.
In short, as a practical matter, you will have to contact the cemetery and see what their rules and policies are to know if this will be permissible.
Second, as a matter of Halachah (Jewish law). This is more of a hot button issue because it depends on the application of Jewish tradition and law. Some will argue that it is permissible (as the Reform movement), while others will strongly counter that view (Orthodox and Haredi movements). For those that object, burial of a non-Jew in a Jewish cemetery may be seen as taking a consecrated place (the marked and consecrated burial plot in a Jewish cemetery) and using it for an unconsecrated purpose (burial of a person whose status is not such that this is the proper use of the plot).
I am responding here as a representative of the Reform movement. As such, the position that I would present to you is expressed in two CCAR Responsa, written over many years, and elaborated by Solomon B. Freehof, K. Kohler, Jacob Z. Lauderbach, G. Deutsch, Jacob Mann, and Julius Rappoport, and last updated in 1980. The links to the text of these two documents are http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=98&year=arr and http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=99&year=arr.
The bottom line is that based on the idea that the entirety of the cemetery is not consecrated ground, though each individual grave is (upon use), the Reform movement has held that there is no obstacle to a non-Jew being buried in a Jewish cemetery and next to a spouse or relative, though there is a ruling that the monument must not contain any non-Jewish symbols, and the rites at burial must be neutral or Jewish.
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