I was recently asked to officiate at the graveside internment of an elderly Jewish woman who had been married to a non-Jew for over 65 years. Living in a remote area far away from the Jewish community, her children had not been raised as Jews.
I knew I would not be able to say kaddish since the only two Jews at the cemetery were myself and the deceased.
This is unfortunately not the first time I have officiated at a service where the individual who was being buried was the last in a line of Jews for that family. It is so easy for the link in the chain of tradition to be broken, which is one of the reasons I am so obsessed with Jewish continuity and Jewish survival.
The story could end here, but it turns out that her niece had officiated at the earlier part of the service, since she is a minister. I asked the niece how it was that she was related to the deceased, and she told me it was her mother’s sister – meaning that in reality, she was also Jewish.
As we left the cemetery, I turned to her and said, “I bet you would make a wonderful rabbi. I hope you will consider coming home.” I have since received an email asking me for resources. I guess it’s never too late to come home.