CCAR RESPONSA

Gentile Names on Yahrzeit List

5755.7

She'elah

May the names of deceased parents of a gentile who is married to a Jewish member of the congregation be included in the Temple's yahrzeit list? If not, may such names which already are included on the list be removed? (Rabbi Douglas Kohn, Hoffman Estates, Illinois)

Teshuvah

The question has been discussed by R. Solomon B. Freehof1. In his responsum, he dealt with the question whether gentile visitors to a service should rise for the Kaddish, and whether there was anything in Jewish tradition contrary to their doing so.

He answered : While the mitzvah to honor father and mother is not one of the seven Noahide commandments, excluding anyone from this act of reverence would needlessly raise inimical feelings on the part of the family. We would therefore caution you to avoid such a likelihood mipnei darchei shalom for the sake of peace.

To be sure, R. Freehof's responsum dealt with a passing phase, in that the gentiles participating were only visitors to the synagogue, and the only question that might be asked is whether by including the names of the gentile partner's parents we give further sanction to mixed marriage.

We do not believe that including the names of the gentile spouse's parents will constitute an act of such approval. The couple are de facto members of your congregation, and if the gentile partner wishes to worship in your synagogue s/he is obviously invited and even encouraged to do so. Part of such worship is paying reverence to deceased relatives, and since the Kaddish contains no proprietary formulation and can be said by anyone without assuming Jewish identity, calling names for whom Kaddish will be said appears as a proper act of filial piety. Al achat kama v'chama, the name(s) should not be removed from the list.

Notes

  1. Modern Reform Responsa (1971), # 10, p.p. 62-69.

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.