Question: Can a Jew be buried in a Christian cemetery?
My wife's family has used a small, rural graveyard affiliated with the Episcopal Church for the last 150 years. I am a Jew, and my children have been raised as Jews within the Reform movement. According to Judaism, can a Jew be buried in a Christian cemetery?
Answer: Thank you for your question about Jewish burial. You write that your wife's family has used an Episcopal graveyard for 150 years and you want to know if you can be buried there according to Jewish law.
Jewish tradition does not permit the burial of Jews and non-Jews together, as in a common cemetery. However, Jewish law is concerned with the sanctity of individual graves, not the sanctity of cemeteries (which are really just a collection of individual graves, as far as Jewish law is concerned). Therefore, a Jew could be buried in a non-Jewish cemetery according to Jewish law if there was sufficient space -- one grave width -- separating the Jewish grave from those of non-Jews. In this case, the Jewish grave legally could be considered a separate cemetery, even if it contained only one grave. From the perspective of traditional Jewish law, It would be preferable to erect a hedge or some other permanent barrier between the Jewish grave and the non-Jewish graves.
Most Conservative and all Orthodox rabbis will refuse to officiate at a funeral at a non-Jewish cemetery, with a possible exception for military cemeteries.
In the Reform Movement, burial in a Jewish cemetery is strongly urged in communities that have a Jewish cemetery. However, most Reform rabbis would agree to conduct a Jewish burial service of a Jew in a non-Jewish cemetery if that is the clear wish of the deceased and the deceased's family.
I hope this is of help to you.
Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser