Jewish burial of cremated?


Q: My synagogue is struggling with allowing cremated remains in the cemetery. We actually have two plots of land: 1)Traditional : Only Jewish individuals can be buried there, no cremated remains and, 2) Family: Where Jewish & non-Jewish mixed couples can be buried, etc.. The question has been raised as to whether we should allow cremated remains in the "Family" section. It seems from what I've read, it is clear that cremation is certainly not viewed as "kosher", yet is it forbidden?

A: Yes, Jewish law forbids cremation. But the question is whether or not it should impact a person's right to a Jewish cemetery. What follows is from my non-Orthodox perspective.

1. What makes the cemetery consecrated ground? There is the view that the entire cemetery is not sacred, but only the ground in which people are buried, so that the remain buried on one plot will not influence the sanctity of another.

2. Why do the cremated remains have any impact? If the cremains desecrated the grounds just because the body was burned, fire victims and victim of Auschwitz could not be buried in Jewish cemeteries. That being so, the objection is that the person CHOSE to be cremated, and therefore violated the Halachah.

3. Are you prepared to refuse burial to anyone who chose a non-Halachic burial? Are you then prepared to refuse burial to anyone in a metal casket? When the family won't sit shiva for 7 days? And what about all the people who lived non-Halachic lives? See the problem?

Copyright (c) 1998 by Rabbi Michael M. Remson. All Rights Reserved.