Bintel Brief: Rabbi Irwin Kula Addresses a Reader's Burial Bind

Rabbi Kula

Dear Rabbi Kula,

My grandfather, to whom I have always been very close, has put me in an impossible situation.

He was born Jewish but was never at all religious. His wife, my grandmother, is a devout Catholic. They raised their children as Catholics.

Now, totally out of the blue, he has confided in me that he wants to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. He insists that I not tell the rest of the family about his request until he passes away, and then he wants me to make sure that he receives a Jewish burial.

Needless to say, this would cause tremendous pain for my family and would come as a complete shock. It would be heartbreaking for my grandfather to be buried apart from my grandmother. I’m also certain that my uncle — who is a very religious Catholic— would be devastated.

It’s clear that my grandfather doesn’t want to make his request known while he’s alive. He chose me to do it because I’m close to him and because I’m not religious.

I don’t want to disappoint my grandfather. But I also don’t want to cause upheaval in my family. I’m reluctant to put myself in the middle of what is certain to be a familial nightmare. What should I do?


Rabbi Irwin Kula replies:

Rabbi Irwin Kula is president of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. He is the author, most recently, of “Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life” (Hyperion, 2006) and was featured in the public television special “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings,” which was based on his book.

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Bintel Brief: Rabbi Irwin Kula Addresses a Reader's Burial Bind

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