One of the natural extensions of increasing intermarriage in the Jewish community is the increasing number of intermarried couples who want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. But rules generally bar this practice, forcing these couples, regardless of their level of commitment to the Jewish community, to be buried elsewhere. According to the Canadian Jewish News, those rules are beginning to change. A growing number of synagogues and congregations all over Canada are buying sections of non-sectarian cemeteries in order to create space for intermarried couples.
The issue regarding where the non-Jewish partner in an intermarriage can be buried is not new. We have been blogging about it since 2005. But it’s clearly an issue that deserves more debate. The article quotes the vice president of a Jewish burial chapel in Toronto who said requests for burial of a non-Jewish spouse “happens all the time.” Unfortunately, he added, in Toronto there are “less than one percent of Jewish cemeteries with space for mixed-marriage couples.”
Rabbi Michael Dolgin of Toronto’s Temple Sinai looks at that solution of purchasing land in other cemeteries as a “bridge issue,” hoping that within five or ten years the community will be able to “come up with space for a new cemetery.” The Jewish community should be welcoming interfaith families, and that doesn’t mean only in life. Rabbi Dolgin said he wants to “provide for them what we provide all our families.”
Jewish institutions of Saskatoon, Montreal, Mississauga and Regina have all started to buy up land in non-sectarian cemeteries to accommodate interfaith families. But this still creates a separation that shouldn’t exist. Hopefully we’ll get to the point when intermarried families – especially ones that were involved in Jewish life and raised a Jewish family – will find an eternal home in the Jewish community and not be forced to rest outside our gates.
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