Respecting Tradition While Embracing Change: Jewish cremation in the 21st century
Jewish cremation is still a controversial practice. Despite the increase in popularity, the majority of the Jewish community (with the exception of Reform Judaism) still considers burial to be the only acceptable end-of-life service.
However, times are changing. In the 21st century, many practicalities mean that cremation often becomes the most viable option.
The following looks at how the Jewish cremation process can be carried out while still respecting the vital age-old traditions.
Understanding the Jewish Cremation Process
- What’s involved?
- How traditional values can be woven into the Jewish cremation process
The first thing to understand about a Jewish cremation is that there’s absolutely no reason why all the traditional elements of a funeral can’t be included. The most difficult aspect that families might encounter is if a Rabbi says they won’t officiate at the service. In some cases, a Rabbi will refuse to do this if they’ve recommended that cremation doesn’t take place.
However, there’s a slowly growing acceptance surrounding cremation. This means that even if your Rabbi won’t preside over the service itself, they may agree to do so at a pre-service.
Once we understand that the only difference between a Jewish cremation and a traditional burial is the end stage, it becomes easier for even those who don’t agree with the process to understand.
How traditional values can be woven into the Jewish cremation process
As you may or may not know, it’s traditional for end-of-life services to be carried out as soon as possible following a person’s death. This used to be as soon as the following day. However, today’s society means that this is rarely practical. Therefore, it’s more than likely that this will be delayed a little to allow family and close friends to travel to be there.
Jewish funeral traditions can be included in every aspect of cremation. From the recital of the Dayan HaEmek and assignation of a shomer/s as guardian/s of the body. The deceased will be washed, purified, and dressed in the traditional manner—a process known as Taharah.
They can then be dressed in a traditional shroud (techrichim), prayers recited, and the body placed into a simple biodegradable coffin (known as an Aron).
The service itself can easily incorporate all of the traditional elements, such as the cutting of the black ribbon, prayer recitals, psalms, and eulogy. The biggest difference will be the omission of mourners following the hearse to the grave. Instead, the coffin will be moved behind a curtain, and everyone will leave the crematorium before the actual cremation takes place.
A large majority of Jewish cemeteries will allow the burial of ashes, even if they won’t allow them to be interred. This is one of the best ways to satisfy all family and friends that traditions are still being respected, even if they don’t agree with the actual cremation process.
There’s still a long way to go before cremation becomes truly integrated into Judaism. Along the way, new traditions will likely be made to allow for an easier cremation process.
Contact the Jewish Cremation Society for all the Information You Need
At the Jewish Cremation Society, we’re the go-to provider for all the information you need surrounding this end-of-life ceremony. We’re also one of the only places you can get truly unbiased information.
In a fast-changing world, many people are keen for their last act to be one that not only embraces tradition but also has the least impact on our fragile world. From ecological considerations to cost, practicalities to honoring their loved ones, the Jewish cremation process makes sense to many.
Contact us today for a confidential conversation or visit web link to find out more.