CARR 158-160


Contemporary American Reform Responsa

96. Burial of a Teenager of Doubtful


QUESTION: A couple has recently joined a congregation. The

man is Jewish; the wife is Christian. They had two children, one sixteen and one eleven. Both

have been raised in “a vaguely religious small town atmosphere” with attendance at various

Protestant Sunday schools. Neither child has been baptized or formally entered into a Christian

church. Now, as the parents live in a large city with a Jewish community, they wished to raise

their children as Jews. Unfortunately, the older daughter was killed in an automobile accident.

May she be buried in the congregation’s cemetery? (D. M., Los Angeles,

CA)ANSWER: Most of our congregations have been lenient about the burial of an

unconverted spouse of a Jew. They have done so by considering each individual plot in the

cemetery as a separate family section, akin to the caves or small plots of land which were

originally used for burial in the land of Israel (B. B. 102a). This meant that although the entire

cemetery is considered as holy, sanctity actually lies with each section of graves. A non-Jewish

burial in one section would, therefore, not impinge on the sanctity of any other grave. It is also

clear that occasionally non-Jews have been buried in Jewish cemeteries throughout our history

beginning with the Mishnaic period (M. Git. 5.8, 61a). For both of these reasons, most Reform

Congregations have granted permission for the burial of a non-Jewish spouse or any other non-

Jewish family member. On these grounds alone, we may readily grant permission for

burial in the sad case of this young woman. The specific rules of the local cemetery should, of

course, be consulted.March 1984

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.