As we mark Veterans’ Shabbat this week as is our tradition at HHBJC, let’s all visualize the image of a military cemetery. We can see it in our mind’s eye, even if we’ve never been to Normandy or Arlington. We see a vast array of crosses, with an occasional Jewish star sprinkled in. That has always raised a fascinating question in my mind: given the emphasis we place on designated Jewish cemeteries, does Jewish law permit burial in a mixed military cemetery?
As it happens, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has a position on this question, and a joint rabbinic body connected to the Jewish Welfare Board issued a ruling on this question as well during World War II. It may have been one of the few times that Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis have signed on to a shared statement of Jewish Law!
In fact, long before there were different movements in American Judaism, the rabbis addressed mixed burial. On Shabbat morning, we will look at both ancient and modern sources so we can understand why we see those Stars of David in a sea of crucifixes in military cemeteries.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise