Cemetery Refuses to Allow Burial of Jewish-born Christian Minister

Forty years after Malvern Jacobs spurned his Jewish roots by adopting a belief in Jesus as the Messiah, a hearse carrying the body of the 71-year-old Christian minister and a procession of 400 of his mourners were barred from entering a Toronto-area Jewish cemetery.

After waiting two hours outside the locked gates of Pardes Shalom, a large cemetery several miles north of Toronto, Jacobs’ son told the procession to return to the funeral parlor.

“This should not happen to anyone,” Les Jacobs said. “This is a violation of the freedom of rights. My father was born a Jew, he lived as a Jew and he will die as a Jew.”

Both major rabbinical associations in Toronto — the Orthodox Va’ad Harabonim and the Toronto Board of Rabbis, which represents the Conservative and Reform movements — agreed with the decision to bar Jacobs’ body from the cemetery.

Born to Jewish parents, Jacobs had been ordained a Christian minister. He devoted much time and energy to proselytizing and converting Jews to Christianity.

He was a dean of the Jewish studies program at the Canada Christian College, a pastor of the Japanese Gospel Church, a secretary of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Canada, and a former secretary of the Toronto branch of the Hebrew- Christian Alliance of America. He was also a deacon of the Anglican Church of Canada.

“Someone who has publicly eschewed the tenets of Judaism and has made it his life’s work to proselytize Jews to Christianity has placed himself outside of the Jewish community, and has thereby forfeited the right to be buried in a Jewish cemetery,” said Keith Landy, chairman of the Ontario region of the Canadian Jewish Congress and spokesman for the two rabbinical associations.

“It’s regrettable that this incident occurred,” he said. “As far as we’re concerned, Dr. Jacobs was a Christian and should have sought burial in a Christian cemetery.”

The younger Jacobs, who has also been active in proselytizing Jews to Christianity, said he will pursue the matter in the courts.

“I want my father to have the right, as a human being and as a Canadian and a proud Jew, to be buried in the right manner,” he said.

“There’s been no violation of any law,” Landy said. “The cemetery associations have bylaws indicating who can and who can’t be buried there.”

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