Jewish Burial Plots

Letter from a reader in Florida:

We went to one of the local Jewish cemeteries yesterday to look at purchasing some plots.  (We have two of them locally. This is the nicer one and has been sold out for years — a buying opportunity has come up so we figured, why not go look.)  Since my Judaism is questioned so often, I asked if I needed to give them proof of my conversion. The funeral director explained that I would have if this had been back in the 1940′s, but that now it’s not an issue. He went on to explain that they would even bury gentile spouses!  And we are not just talking about an interfaith section – just generally!  WHAT?!  Really?  Is this a strange thing that they do in Florida?  Do you think they do it in New York?  Other places?  Isn’t there some sort of prohibition against this?  I feel like a Jewish burial snob but I wonder what others would think.

Please weigh in in the comments!

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7 Comments

  1. MrsMelissaSG says:

    What an interesting topic! I happen to be connected to a few Jewish funeral home owners (who inherently tied to the local Jewish cemeteries), so did some outreach. Here is the first response I got back:

    “In Denver, 3 out of the 4 Jewish cemeteries are quite strict with regards to conversion. Rose Hill, Golden Hill and Mt. Nebo would request some sort of documentation if possible. If that would not be possible, they would take the family’s word but usually with some supporting evidence like synagogue membership and participation.

    These 3 cemeteries will NOT bury a non-Jewish spouse. However, Emanuel Cemetery will, but only with a Rabbi conducting the interment portion of the service. For example, we have served Interfaith families where the service as a church, but when we got to the cemetery, only a Rabbi was allowed to speak/officiate.

    I can imagine many cities are being faced with this but I am not aware of any specifics for other cities. It is a reality of our society that cemeteries may wish to consider Interfaith sections.”

  2. Conservative Apikoris says:

    When we bought our plots in Maryland, nobody asked us for any documentation regarding our Jewishness. On the other hand, both of my grandmothers are buried in this particular cemetery, so I guess there’s no need for further documentation.

  3. Susan says:

    As a member of my synagogues, chevra kadisha, as well as someone who’s been studying the subject of dying, taharah, burial, etc., I can tell you there is, like in other parts of Judaism, a wide variety of practices in this area. Some Jewish cemeteries will only bury Jewish people, others will bury anyone, and there are a whole range of practices in between. This is true of inbdependent Jewish cemeteries as well as those connected with a synagogue.

    Personally, I don’t see why it would matter. We hang out with non-Jews in life, why not in death, too?

  4. Z! says:

    It is exactly these practices that makes it okay for Jews and non-Jews to “live together”. Making communal burials acceptable only reinforces the new cultural acceptance of interfaith marriages/partnerships which has lead to the deterioration of Jewish family values. Not everyone might like my POV, but, there is way too much political correctness out there.

    • Susan says:

      Interfaith marriages don’t lead to a deterioration of Jewish family values. Jews with strong family values marry people with strong family values, no matter what religion they happen to follow (if any).

      Many interfaith couples are successfully raising Jewish kids.

      It’s better to embrace these families and give them a place where they can raise Jewish kids, than to ostrasize them, losing them to Judaism, as well as their kids and all future generations flowing from them.

    • RubyV says:

      Hi. Former interfaith, non jewish spouse here, now jewish. I converted after several years of marriage (my child was converted much earlier). I was the active member of my conservative synagogue. I taught my child how to make brachot. Hebrew. Enrolled her in Jewish pre school. In other words, I did all the work of raising a jewish child, and converted when I was ready. I can contrast that with many of my in laws (who were MO and are no longer) who are in married, and no where near as observant as we are. But you will still be convinced that I’m what leads to a deterioration of Jewish family values. Not all of those unengaged, unafilliated, unobservant inmarried folks.

      Incidentally, this is true of the majority of interfaith families. The issue isn’t interfaith marriage. The issue is keeping Jews engaged.

  5. Susan says:

    Well said, RubyV.

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