At a meeting Tuesday in New York City, the church reaffirmed its commitment to remove Holocaust victims and other deceased Jews from its International Genealogical Index, Ernest Michel, chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said Wednesday. The index is a list of some 600 million names used by Mormons to perform ceremonies offering proxy baptisms on behalf of the dead.
Mormon church leaders requested the meeting after several Jewish organizations complained the faith had broken the 1995 agreement to keep deceased Jews - including those who died in Nazi concentration camps - from being included in the ceremonies, Michel said.
The Mormon church collects names from records worldwide to use in temple rituals, during which Mormon stand-ins are dunked in water to offer the dead voluntary entry into the Mormon religion.
After the 1995 agreement, the church removed 400,000 names of dead Jews, mostly Holocaust victims, from the database. "When the Church is made aware of documented concerns, action is taken in compliance with the agreement," said Church Elder D. Todd Christofferson.
Independent researcher Helen Radkey, who prepared a report for Michel that alleged the church had broken the 1995 agreement, said her recent research found that at least 20,000 Jews were posthumously baptized.
Radkey has been researching Jews included in the Mormon lists since 1999, when she found the famous diarist Anne Frank and her extended family listed as being baptized. She said she is doubtful the Mormons, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can keep all Jewish names out of the database. "It is totally unrealistic," she said. "Most Mormons who handle the processing, including deletions of Jewish names from the LDS database, would not know a Jewish name from the back end of a hoe."