CARR 152-153


Contemporary American Reform Responsa

92. Burial of a Young Child


four-year-old-child, daughter of a Jewish father and a Gentile mother, died, and they wish her

buried in the congregational cemetery, which restricts burial to Jews. The child was named in the

synagogue, and it was the clear intent of the parents to raise this girl and all subsequent children

as Jews. Both parents had brought the little girl to some pre-school holiday activities and to

various services intended for young children. Is this child to be considered Jewish? Would a

somewhat older child not enrolled in our school be considered Jewish? (D. F., Baltimore,

MD)ANSWER: We base our decision on the resolution of the Central Conference of

American Rabbis, March, 1983, and on the responsum “Patrilineal and Matrilineal Descent”

(November 1983). The Resolution reads: “The Central Conference of American

Rabbis declares that the child of one Jewish parent is under the presumption of Jewish descent.

This presumption of the Jewish status of the offspring of any mixed marriage is to be established

through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and

people. The performance of these mitzvot serves to commit those who participate in

them, both parents and child, to Jewish life. “Depending on circumstances,

mitzvot leading toward a positive and exclusive Jewish identity will include entry into the

covenant, acquisition of a Hebrew name, Torah study, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and

Kabbalat Torah (Confirmation). For those beyond childhood claiming Jewish identity,

other public acts or declarations may be added or substituted after consultation with their

rabbi.” The Resolution indicates that acts of identification after birth are necessary to

establish the Jewishness of the individual involved. In this instance, all acts of identification

appropriate to the age have been observed, and the child has had no identification or affiliation

with any Christian observances. We, therefore, consider this youngster as Jewish, and she is to

be treated as a Jew in every way. In other words, although the cemetery has some restrictions on

the burial of non-Jews, they would not apply to this youngster, who may be buried as any other

Jew.October 1983

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.