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Conservative Judaism/Jewish Funeral For a Scientologist


I am very confused as to why Scientologist David Gaiman was allowed to have a Jewish funeral and memorial service. Given that he was quite a prominent Scientologist as well, wouldn't he have been considered a kofer and thus unable to have a levaya?

Dear Nicole,

Thank you for writing.

In general, it is a principle that a Jew, even if he sins, remains a Jew and is treated accordingly, Talmud Bavli Sandhedrin 44a.

Jacob Katz has written that the interpretation of this statement has changed over time (Halakhah ve-Kabbalah, pp. 255-269) .

Originally the statement was referring to the "People Israel," and not an individual.  During the Middle Ages  the phrase took on the halakhic=Jewish legal meaning of, “Even though a Jew may sin, even convert from Judaism, they are still a Jew,”  following Abraham Berliner, attributing the change in meaning to Rashi (11th century) and the context of conversions, both to and from Judaism.

Thus, I can understand a Jewish community respecting even a convert from Judaism with a Jewish funeral and burial.

However, today there are Rabbis who do respect an adult decision to convert out of Judaism even as we respect the decision of someone not born a Jew to formally convert to Judaism from another faith. There are some who would deny the Jew the choice to convert out of Judaism.

Best wishes

Rabbi Dov

Conservative Judaism

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Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner


Write to me with questions about Jewish customs and law, history, philosophy and tradition for answers from a Conservative perspective or conversion. I am a graduate of The Jewish Theological Seminary and a member of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Having served in congregational pulpits since 1970, I now am President of the Foundation For Family Education, Inc. a non-profit educational endeavor. I established it to create new formats of hands-on programs and provide free educational downloads at In addition to general informational questions I welcome your questions about programs for social action, outreach to dual-faith families, inter-faith clergy projects, healing services, education for conversion, adult education for the congregation and the community. If you have questions about Informal and Formal Education I am ready to share my extensive experience with Youth Activities, Camping and Religious School/Hebrew High School on a congregational, community and national/international level.


I have served on the National Youth Commission for more than 25 years and serve on the Boards of the Conservative Zionist movement MERCAZ and the World Council of Synagogues. I have always dual-families and taught candidates for conversion with a great sense of fulfillment. I am very proud of 25 years on the Jewish camping staff of Camps Ramah. My greatest source of pride is my family! Ask me about them, please!:-)

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