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Is Cremation Allowed by Jewish Law?

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A protest against the action of Chief Rabbi Dr. L. Levy in officiating at a cremation in Bruenn, which was adopted by the orthodox Jews of the town has led the local Jewish Community to ask the Rabbinical Board for a ruling on the question whether a Rabbi may officiate at a cremation.

After consideration of the question, the Rabbinical Board has issued the following statement:

Where the body is to be cremated, the Jewish rites of washing the body, shrouding it and reciting the Jewish prayers are still necessary. The ceremony must take place in the Jewish cemetery or in exceptional cases in the home of the dead person. The urn containing the ashes may be buried in the Jewish cemetery, in a special vault provided for urns. Jewish officials must not officiate in the crematorium, nor may they deposit the urn, but they may recite the Kaddish.

In 1929 there was a law suit between the Prague Jewish Community and the family of Oscar Egerer, an actor, whose ashes the Jewish Community refused burial in the family vault because he had been cremated. The Government overruled the Community, declaring that no religious community has the right to refuse honourable burial to any of its members.

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