Death and Special Issues of the Body

An overview of autopsy, organ donation, and cremation in Jewish tradition and practice.

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My colleague and friend Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson points out that to voluntarily cre­mate a body after millions of Jewish bodies were cremated in the Nazi death camps is sim­ply unthinkable. Moreover, the burial site itself becomes a place of comfort for the survivors, a place that would not exist if the body is cremated.

In cases where the family decides to cremate the body in disregard of Jewish practice, the [Conservative Movement's] Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has ruled that a rabbi may officiate only at the service in the funeral home, but not at the burial of ashes, lest her/his participation be interpreted as approval (Rabbinical Assembly Proceedings, 1939, p. 156)

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Dr. Ron Wolfson

Dr. Ron Wolfson is the Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and the president of Synagogue 3000.