A Baptist minister and his wife filed suit in Arlington Circuit Court yesterday, seeking a Christian burial for a political activist who was born a Jew.
At the same time, a Rockville rabbi who has offered to perform a Jewish burial for Haviv Schieber said he had received a sworn statement from Schieber's son, who lives in Israel, that he and other family members want his father's remains laid to rest in a Jewish cemetery. A court hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.
Schieber's body is under refrigeration at the Arlington Hospital morgue. He died of liver cancer on New Year's Eve at age 74. At the time, he was living in the Arlington home of the Rev. Dale P. Crowley Jr. and his wife, the couple who filed suit yesterday.
Schieber, who was born in Poland, fought to establish the State of Israel. In 1959, he came to the United States, where he took up anti-Zionist political work critical of Israeli policy. His associates included Crowley, a self-described right-wing Baptist minister who conducts a weekly radio show on Israel.
Schieber founded and ran the Holy Land State Committee, dedicated to the idea that Jews, Moslems and Christians should hold equal power in Israel. Now, members of those groups are fighting over how and where to bury him.
Crowley and another Arlington Baptist minister have said that in recent years Schieber attended Baptist services and had become a Christian. The lawsuit says he had asked for a Christian burial.
Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan of the Chabad House in Rockville said Schieber's family believes he lived and died a Jew, a view supported by some Moslem political activists with whom Schieber had worked.
"It is our request that my deceased father be buried as a Jew in a Jewish cemetery," Schieber's son, Daniel Reveh, said in the affidavit Kaplan said he received yesterday from Tel Aviv.
"The family has expressed its wishes, and it's really outrageous for anyone to go against the wishes of the family," Kaplan added.
Richard C. Shadyac, an attorney for the Crowleys, said family members in Israel may not have known that Schieber had become a Christian. Schieber "told his pastor he was looking forward to being with Jesus" after he died, said Shadyac. "That's not the wishes of a Jew."