The Burial of Non-Jews in a Jewish Cemetery

(YD 367:1)

Question: 
A cemetery is being established with two sections. One section will belong to the Masorti Movement while the other will belong to a secular group in which intermarried Jews will be buried together with their spouses. How should the two parts of the cemetery be separated?

Responsum: 
There is no clear talmudic source, which requires separation between Jewish and non-Jewish tombs, yet there are several good reasons for requiring a physical separation:
1) This has been the custom of our ancestors for thousands of years.
2) If one wants to cancel an ancient custom, one has to prove that it is a bad custom.
3) This ancient custom is an example of what Professor Ya'akov Katz calls "the ritual instinct" of the Jewish people. Jews knew instinctively that Jews and non-Jews should be buried separately.
4) In most countries where Jews reside, the rate of intermarriage exceeds 50%. We must maintain a physical partition between the sections in order to emphasize that intermarriages endanger our future and that we strongly oppose this phenomenon.

The two sections of the cemetery should be separated by a wall or by bushes ten tefahim (80 or 96 cm) high or, alternatively, by a path or a road or a sidewalk four amot (1.9 or 2.3 meters) wide.

Let us hope and pray that the phenomenon of intermarriage will disappear, so that in the future we will be able to build cemeteries without partitions.

Rabbi David Golinkin
In favor: Rabbi David Frankel
Rabbi Simchah Roth
Rabbi Yisrael Warman
Opposed: Rabbi Gilah Dror
Rabbi Michael Graetz
Rabbi David Lazar


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