Member who married out is refused call-up

A member of Newcastle's Orthodox synagogue who married a non-Jew claims he was refused a call-up on his father's yahrzeit.

David Biermann, 65, requested the call-up from the United Hebrew Congregation to mark the 13th anniversary of his father's death.

He said he was told the shul's by-laws did not allow this for someone who had married out.

"I felt extremely upset. I am particularly distressed at what I consider the callous action of the shul.

"Yes, I can pray for my father, yes, the rabbi will say a prayer for him, yes,
I can be called to make a minyan, yes, I can give money at Yom Kippur, but no, I cannot myself pay a tribute to my father at the bimah. Why not?"

It was an attitude "unfitting of a tolerant Jewish community under a wise Chief Rabbi seeking to share its faith with those of other religious beliefs".

Dr Biermann added: "Being refused an aliyah [call up] as a result of my marrying a Christian lady some 11 years ago is discrimination against me and members of my family."

He had remained a member after marriage because of his love of the Orthodox shul traditions. "I go about once a month. Earlier this year I wrote to the shul to ask why I had never been asked to open the ark or go to the bimah, even though I have been asked to make up a minyan. I didn't receive a reply."

UHC minister Rabbi Dovid Lewis said: "It's an on-going case which we are discussing with the Beth Din, which is advising us. Until it's cleared up, we do not want to comment further."

But the London Beth Din defended a rabbi's right to uphold "a longstanding practice in a number of provincial communities".

The Chief Rabbi's office said it was "a local matter" relating to a synagogue's protocol.

    Last updated: 11:01am, November 26 2010