The rabbi who sought to have Haviv Schieber's body buried in a Jewish cemetery refused yesterday to sign a judge's order for a Christian burial, a move that could stall the burial for months or years if the case is appealed.
"I will not sign any order. I will not facilitate anything that is against something I believe in," said Shmuel Kaplan, a Hasidic Jew of the Chabad House in Rockville, who presented the views of Schieber's surviving son in a court dispute over the body this week. "My belief is that a Jew has to be buried as a Jew and my opinion is I do not believe he converted from Judaism."
On Monday, Arlington Circuit Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick said there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Schieber, a 74-year-old Jewish-born, anti-Zionist activist had "embraced Christianity." He ordered that Schieber's body, held in The Arlington Hospital morgue since he died on New Year's Eve, be turned over to Dale P. Crowley Jr., a Baptist minister who befriended Schieber. Schieber was living with Crowley when he died.
In court, the judge suggested that, because of the unusual circumstances, the written order contained a waiver of the normal appeal process. Under Virginia law, the losing side in a civil case has 30 days to appeal a judge's decision.
Yesterday, when such an order was delivered to the rabbi's attorney for signature, the rabbi instructed him not to sign.
Schieber's son, Daniel Reveh, said last night in a telephone interview from his home in Tel Aviv that he would honor the court's ruling, but he has no authority to do so because Kaplan is the person legally designated to respond to the court. But he said that since the burial has now been delayed, he is considering asking the rabbi to formally appeal the decision. Appeals can take months and often years to be resolved.
"At first I wanted to bury him fast, you know. Human dignity is more important than religious dignity," said Reveh in a telephone interview. "But I cannot order them to bury him faster."