In a shul where it is customary to give an aliyah for yartzeit, is it proper to judge someone and deny them an aliyah because the gabai/rabbi decided that person is not
‘religious enough’?

Answer:

It is within the rights of a rabbi or gabbai (where he has the authority) to deny an aliyah on religious grounds. A rabbi might think that this is required in order to make a statement concerning the individual in question – for instance, for somebody in denying an aliyah to somebody married to a non-Jew, so that others will understand that this is crossing a red line.

As a general rule it is recommended to be “inclusive” rather than “exclusive” and to give aliyos even to those who might be religiously “lesser” than we would like. However, there are certain “red lines” that can justify the denial.

Please see also below.

Best wishes.

Sources:

The Chacham Zvi (38) writes with great force that somebody who desecrates the Shabbos publicly, “who is considered as a non-Jew” (his words), may not be given an aliyah, “for how is it possible that he will ascend to read from the Torah in public, for there is no greater chilul Hashem and extinguishing of religion than this, and anybody who is present and does not object will be ensnared in his sin.”

Yet, this was true for his day, and not necessarily for ours. Today, permitting those who violate Shabbos to receive an aliyah is not (in general) a chilul Hashem and an “extinguishing of religion,” but quite the contrary: By allowing such people to receive an aliyah, we often keep them in the fold, and allow the a chance to repent their ways.

It is certainly with this in mind that Rav Moshe Feinstein (3:12) writes that with the exception of actual kofrim, those who are known to be avaryanim, but do so for reasons of parnassah and so on, can be given aliyos. Note, however, that it Vol. 4 no. 91, sec. 8, the Iggros Moshe writes that those who violate the Shabbos publicly should not be given an aliyah.

Orchos Rabbeinu (p. 122) writes, in the name of the Steipler, that one can give an aliyah to somebody who violates Shabbos, because if he comes to shul he demonstrates that he still have a connection and a feeling for religion, and it is therefore permitted to call him up.

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