Cremation Services

Cremation Services

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?

The Jewish View of Cremation


Israel’s first crematorium opens for business. What would Moses say?


What is Cremation?

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.

Is a casket needed for Cremation?
No, a casket is not required, most states require an alternative container constructed of wood or cardboard, however, in some states no container is required.
Is embalming required prior to cremation?
No.  In fact it is against the law for a funeral home to tell you otherwise.
Can the body be viewed without embalming?
Yes, most crematories allow immediate family members to briefly view the deceased prior to cremation.
Can the family witness the cremation?
Yes they can; some cremation providers will allow family members to be present when the body is placed in the cremation chamber.  Some religious groups even include this as part of their funeral custom.
Can an urn be brought into temple?
Most of our local reform temples will not allow for the urn to be present during the memorial service.  But there are rabbis locally who will officate a memorial service held at the funeral home or the graveside. 
What can be done with the cremated remains?
While laws vary state by state, for the most part remains can be buried in a cemetery lot or a cremation garden, interred in a columbarium, kept at home or scattered.
How can I be sure I receive the correct remains?
All reputable cremation providers have developed rigorous sets of operating policies and procedures in order to maximize the level of service and minimize the potential for human error.  Since it is illegal to perform more than one cremation at a time, and the vast majority of crematories can only cremate one body at a time, it is next to impossible to receive the incorrect remains. We at Brighton Memorial Chapel, Inc. are very confident in the local crematories that we use. We drive to the crematory, see the condition of the building and almost always watch the person placed inthe retort before we leave. 
How long does the actual cremation take?
It all depends on the weight of the individual.  For an average sized adult, cremation can take two to three hours at a normal operating temperature of between 1,000 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
What do the cremated remains look like?
Cremated remains resemble coarse sand and are whitish to light grey in color.  The remains of an average sized adult usually weighs between 7 and 8 pounds.
Are all the cremated remains returned?
With the exception of minute and microscopic particles, which are impossible to remove from the cremation chamber and processing machine, all of the cremated remains are given back to the family.
Do I need an urn?
An urn is not required by law.  However, an urn may be desired if there is to be a memorial service or if the remains are to be interred in a cemetery.  If an urn is not purchased or provided by the family, the cremated remains will be returned in a temporary plastic container.