I recently attended a funeral at a United Synagogue cemetery. A very good friend of the 99-year-old deceased was not permitted to say a few words about his friend because he was a rabbi of the Reform Movement. Is this common practice and what’s your opinion?
You’ll appreciate that heterodox movements [defined as ‘any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position’] do not adhere to authentic, traditional Judaism, in contradistinction to Orthodoxy. As such, Orthodoxy cannot recognise any of the heterodox movements. When religious leaders of heterodox movements are given a platform, it smacks of granting legitimacy to such movements. Generally speaking, Reform leaders are not invited to participate at Orthodox events. It is for this reason that they would not be typically allowed to speak at an Orthodox funeral either. However, there is always a grey area, such as when one is attending as a friend and not in any religious capacity. I would have thought in such circumstances the “rules” would be relaxed. However, the question here is whether the friend was being asked to speak entirely as a friend. Or, on account of there being family and friends around, was he singled out more because he is a rabbi as well? Lest my words get misconstrued (and God knows some fickle readers of this column, especially hyper-sensitive ones, always misinterpret my words) this is not to suggest that we do not recognise fellow Jews. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, full stop; no labels. This is specific to the movements per se that have veered away from traditional, historical Judaism.