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Obituaries

Arlington burial wish is denied

July 04, 2007|Jocelyn Y. Stewart | Times Staff Writer

Rabbi Abraham J. Klausner, had one final wish: that his remains be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

But officials at Arlington denied that wish this week in a case that pits the edicts of faith against military policy.

Strict guidelines determine whose remains may be buried in the ground and whose ashes may be inurned in the columbarium at Arlington. Klausner qualified to have his ashes placed in the columbarium; he did not qualify for ground burial.

That left the family with a harsh choice: cremate Klausner or bury him elsewhere. "If he weren't Jewish, I'd have him cremated in a second; he deserves to be there," said Jeremy Klausner, the late rabbi's son.

But Klausner's faith prohibits cremation. It would be a travesty to cremate a rabbi who saw firsthand the horrors of the concentration camps with their crematoriums and who buried hundreds of Holocaust victims, his son said.

After learning of the dilemma, supporters including Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), a Holocaust survivor, wrote letters in a bid to persuade officials to allow burial at Arlington.

"He showed that our fighting force is a humanitarian one, and he is a true hero of the Jewish people," Lowey wrote to John C. Metzler, cemetery superintendent. "His inclusion in Arlington National Cemetery is an honor deserved."

Lantos wrote to Metzler: "Given his extraordinary contributions to the Army, his country, his faith and the memory of Holocaust survivors, I hope you will agree that he is deserving of the highest honors and praise our nation can provide to those who have served it."

In response, Metzler informed Lantos' chief of staff that no exemption would be made in the case, the congressman's spokesman said. Metzler couldn't be reached for comment.

Attempts by Lantos to secure the exemption from Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren and the office of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley also failed, the spokesman said.

The late rabbi will be buried in a private ceremony Thursday in Santa Fe, N.M., Jeremy Klausner said.

jocelyn stewart@latimes.com

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