Today is May 26, 2017 -
by Rabbi Steven Abraham
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
28th Shevat 5774
Dear Beth El Congregant,
Three months ago, I wrote to you about a process that began on Kol Nidrei, when I discussed the steps our synagogue had taken regarding the permissibility of certain ritual practices by non-Jewish family members. Specifically, I spoke about the need for a process so our congregation could decide whether or not to allow non-Jewish family members to be buried at Beth El Cemetery.
This process began well before we at Beth El Synagogue took the question under consideration. The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Conservative Movement took up this question of Jewish Law and, under certain circumstances, decided to permit the burial of non-Jewish spouses. When the CJLS issues a decision, every congregational rabbi must then study the decision to determine whether he or she agrees with its conclusions, and if so, how the policy gets implemented in his/her synagogue. After much study and deep reflection, I believed this was a topic that needed to be discussed within the walls of our synagogue.
Our process took another step at their January 28th board meeting, when the Board of Trustees overwhelmingly approved a change to our synagogue by-laws, allowing non-Jewish spouses and their dependent children to be buried at Beth El Cemetery. In order to maintain our promise to those already buried at Beth El Cemetery, this new policy will apply to a specific section in the Beth El Cemetery expansion. In that section, interfaith couples will be permitted to be buried, in addition to any of our members who choose to be buried there as well.
Our congregation is stronger today than it was three months ago. We should be proud of the study and respectful dialogue that took place while we discussed and debated this issue. In addition, I’d like to thank the Board of Trustees, Board President Lloyd Roitstein, plus Hazzan Krausman and the rest of our Beth El staff for their support during this important conversation.
In the end, as with any decision, there may be those who feel validated and those who feel as though they were not heard. However, now is the time for all of us to come together as a congregation, regardless of our feelings, to work to make Beth El Synagogue a Kehilah Kedosha (a holy congregation).
B’vracha (with blessings),
Rabbi Steven Abraham