Is cremation allowed in Jewish Tradition?
A simple enough question, and I am sure you were hoping for the black and white answer. Unfortunately, it is a very complicated answer. In fact, any discussion around cremation and Judaism is dangerous ground for a Jewish funeral home. It truly is a no-win situation for us to provide any discussion, for fear of either offending the observant community who supports us so much or offending the general community that feels this type of disposition is appropriate. However, I feel it is important to address this very timely topic as broadly as I can.
The bottom line: It is not what observant Jews consider proper, kavod – respect of the body. Since our Jewish burial process is based on kavod ha’ met – respect/honor of the body, cremation can be considered disrespectful and hence, not allowed in Jewish tradition. The Rabbi of our local Chevra Kaddisha, Rabbi Edward Shapiro, explains it this way. “We were not created in the hour or hour and half it takes to cremate a body, but rather it is a natural process of creation that took nine months. That is what is proper and natural.”
The post-script is: While cremation is not technically “allowed” or “encouraged,” it is understood that cremation is chosen by some of our Denver Jewish community members and those families should be served with the same compassion and sincerity by the Jewish funeral home and their Jewish clergy. There are Rabbis and Cantors of various movements in our tradition that will officiate at memorial services and celebrations of life where cremation is chosen.
Does Feldman Mortuary cremate?
Yes. We feel it is important to support all the families of our Denver Jewish community void of judgment or critique of their disposition decisions.
However, I feel it is appropriate to discuss, educate and inform our families. Hence, it is our strong recommendation that one does in fact take the necessary time to understand this final decision. We encourage families to use local Rabbis, the Internet, and Responsa and Commentary from the various movements to gather the necessary information to make what I feel is vital part of the modernity of our Tradition: an informed choice.
Below are links to articles and discussion about Judaism and cremation.