More Jewish families opting for cremation

 

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m certainly not an expert on the subject of faith preference and burial customs because the community that I served was, I’m guessing, at least 95% Christian of those that practiced faith.

 

However, I know some of the history since as before Vatican II in 1963 cremation was banned by the Roman Catholic church, and I’ve always noticed the Jewish custom of burying the body.

 

So, it was interesting for me to come upon this article in Forward entitled “More and more Jews are choosing cremation.  These rabbi’s aren’t happy about it”.  I’ve always thought that those of Jewish faith practiced earth burial almost exclusively.  Evidently, I am a little behind the times as according to the article, Rabbi Elchonon Zohn,  . . “who is Orthodox and the founder and director of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha, or Jewish burial societies, said that based on reports from members, about half of American Jews who die are cremated. It is growing “by leaps and bounds,” he said.”

 

The article makes this statement, “What is clear across movements is that an increasing number of Jews are opting for cremation. There are no hard numbers on this. But rabbis, Jewish funeral directors and others who work closely with bereaved families are estimating numbers not far behind those for Americans in general.”

 

The article also makes this statement about cremation in the Jewish faith, “A survey of the four major Jewish movements — Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist — shows that all discourage cremation, some more strongly than others. All also indicate that there are rabbis within them who will take part in a memorial service for someone who was cremated.”

 

Funeral Director Daily take:  This is a really good article, but since I’m far from an expert on the subject, I don’t want to comment too much, but I would suggest that you read the article because I found it very informative.

 

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

In general, the article brings out some issues that, I believe, have helped make cremation so popular in the United States.  One of those compelling reasons is cost of an earth burial as compared to the cost of cremation.  One rabbi points out in the article that in his area the cost is about $10,000 for an earth burial compared to about $2,700 for a cremation.

 

This is not mentioned in the article but is a personal observation that I had while serving families in the 1980s and 1990s when cremation in my area was really growing.  I noticed that there were Christian families who had a strong inclination to earth burial but were thinking about cremation.  Those families, at that time, really struggled with their decision as it related to their faith and cremation as well as struggled with doing something (cremation) that was somewhat out of the mainstream (earth burial) for their church.

 

Those people were really sincere in their struggles.  I did notice, however, that eventually when that family made a decision to go ahead with cremation that decision seemed to “break the ice” for the rest of the extended family in the future.  In essence, they went with the cremation decision and the results of the services and/or memorial were acceptable to them.  When that happened, the first cremation in a family, we found it almost inevitable that the future deaths in the family had no reluctance to choose cremation in the future . . . and they almost always did going forward.

 

I think that is a realization that has happened and is one reason we will see cremation and other non-burial dispositions continue to grow as compared to what was known as the historical and traditional earth burial methods.  Today’s article shines a light on that fact that even religion and its traditions, going forward, may not be able to stop that trend.

 

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