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Rabbi in Nepal halts cremation of Jewish woman

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SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A rabbi in Nepal averted the cremation of a 32-year-old Australian woman who died in a road accident.

Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz told JTA by phone from Katmandu on Wednesday that he had just recovered the body of the former student of Beth Rivkah College in Melbourne, Australia.

Lifshitz, a Chabad emissary in Nepal, said he was flown by helicopter from Katmandu to the scene of the bus accident near Chitwan and had managed to retrieve her body.

“In Nepal, they usually cremate the bodies,” he said. “Two months ago a Jewish guy was killed in a river and the Nepalese cremated him.”

Cremation is against Jewish law, which mandates burial immediately after death.

The Nepali authorities were performing an autopsy, Lifshitz said. He said the body would be returned to Australia the following day and that he had spoken with the victim’s parents.

She was believed to be traveling in a small bus on Monday when the accident occurred. It is unclear how many others died in the crash.

Lifshitz, who is originally from Bnei Brak in Israel, said the bus went over the edge of the road and plunged into a river below. He said she had wanted to fly to Luka to trek to the base camp of Mount Everest, but a cyclone had hit the area earlier in the week and made it impossible to travel there.

Lifshitz said the family of the Jewish man who was cremated had donated a Torah scroll to the Chabad house he runs in Katmandu. His Chabad house hosts what is believed to be the largest Passover seder in the world, attracting more than 1,500 guests, mainly Israeli backpackers.

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