What to Know When Choosing Cremation
It’s an intensely personal decision. Your choice of how to manage the body is one that should be discussed with the family in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. A cremation is an option for many people, for various reasons. Just as with traditional burial services, it offers the opportunity for a memorial service.
Questions around cremation are common, in particular, about how cremation relates to Jewish burial traditions.
Is cremation allowed in Jewish Tradition?
It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. Any discussion around cremation and Judaism is dangerous ground for a Jewish funeral home. For Brighton Memorial Chapel, we risk offending the observant Rochester Jewish community with which we have such close ties and supports us so much, or offending the general Rochester community which feels this type of disposition is appropriate. Based on long consultation with members of the Rochester community—followers of many faiths—we offer our perspective:
Cremation is not considered “proper” by traditional Jewish burial practices. That’s because Jewish burial traditions are based on the idea of kavod, or respect. In this context, the burial process is in accordance with kavod ha’ met, respecting, and honoring the body. Cremation can be considered disrespectful and hence, not allowed in Jewish tradition.
A Rabbi on the Denver, Colorado Chevra Kadisha, Rabbi Edward Shapiro, explains it this way. “We were not created in the hour or an hour and a 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.”
While cremation is not technically allowed or encouraged, cremation has been chosen by some of our local Jewish community members. We believe 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 Brighton Memorial Offer Cremation Services?
Yes. We feel it is important to support all the families of our Jewish community without judgment or critique of their disposition decisions.
However, we feel it is appropriate to discuss, educate, and inform our families, and strongly recommend taking the time to understand this final decision. We encourage families to use local rabbis, the internet, responsa (Jewish literature on the subject) and commentary from various movements to make an informed choice. Below are links to articles and discussion about Judaism and cremation.
What is Reform Judaism’s position on cremation?
Why Does Judaism Forbid Cremation?
Israel’s first crematorium opens for business. What would Moses say?
Cremation is the process of reducing the human body to bone fragments using high heat and flame. Cremation is not the final disposition of the remains, nor is it a type of funeral service.