Jewish Burial for Young Conservative Convert Marred in Madrid


Published December 15, 2009.
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A 13-year-old boy was buried in a special section in Madrid’s Jewish cemetery because he had a Conservative conversion.

Gai Ben-David died last weekend after suffering for years from brain cancer. He was buried Sunday in a section of Madrid’s Jewish cemetery set off by a row of trees and reserved for those whose Jewishness is in question.

Israel’s chief Sephardi rabbi, Shlomo Amar, ruled that since Gai had a non-Jewish mother and was converted by a Conservative rabbi that he should not be buried in the main cemetery. Amar had been asked to rule on the issue by Rabbi Moshe Ben-Dahan, the chief Orthodox rabbi of Madrid.

Gai, of Bogota, Colombia, celebrated his bar mitzvah last June at Congregation Ahavath Shalom in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the worldwide association of Conservative and Masorti rabbis, said in a statement that “We are dismayed that this exemplary Jewish boy … was not permitted a burial in the main section of Madrid’s Jewish cemetery, as Rabbi Amar erroneously declared his halachic conversion to be insufficient to bury him where he belongs.

“In Gai’s memory, we remind ourselves that the Jewish People are one people bound together by common history and practice. We therefore not only take great offense at Rabbi Amar’s incorrect and inhumane interpretation of Jewish law, we also abhor this misuse of power that has increased the suffering of a Jewish family grieving the loss of a child.”

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