Cremation in the Canadian Jewish Community

Judaic traditions related to spiritual death practices do not generally accept cremation as an option; however, there is an ongoing debate within the Canadian Jewish community with regard to this practice.

Cremation has always been considered a spiritual matter of compassion among the Jewish and Christian communities in Canada. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the Roman Catholic Church eased up on the prohibition on cremation. For the Jewish community, this topic remains taboo among conservatives for a couple of reasons.

Reform Versus Conservatism in Canada

It is important to note why the conservative Jewish faith eschews cremation and why the reform movement accepts it. The religious law, Halachah, is clear in the fact that a Jewish person who passes away in Canada or anywhere else on this Earth should be buried. Deuteronomy us also clear on this, and the Christian tradition of burying the dead is adopted from its Judaic roots.

Reform movements have taken place in both Judaic and Christian faiths. As a thoroughly organized faith, the Roman Catholic Church in Canada received edicts and opinion from the Vatican to allow all rites to the dearly departed whom are to be cremated for any reason. Given the chance, Jewish and Christian families will choose burial for their deceased loved ones; however, this may not always be feasible for various reasons. The Islamic faith also practices burial traditions.

An early 2017 broadcast by CTV News reported that cemeteries in Canada were quickly running out of burial plots, prompting families to consider cremation. North America is hardly alone in this sense; even Costa Rica, a Central American nation that is Catholic by virtue of its Constitution is foregoing its burial traditions adn allowing cremated remains to be interred.

In a 2015 article published in the weekly Canadian Jewish News, a rabbi from Toronto’s Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, a reform congregation, explained that cremation was more of an ethical than religious issue for their progressive faithful.

Dignity Before Earthly Concerns

In late 2016, Rabbi Lisa Gruschcow of Montreal’s Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom shared her story of a New York man who wanted a funeral for this dearly departed wife, who was to be cremated. At the time, Rabbi Gruschcow, who had been raised a conservative, thought about declining this request.

In the end, the young rabbi thought about the sacred Jewish tradition of dignity compassion, which are stronger than any earthly concerns. Though many Canadian Jews will still seek burial when their means allow it, they also have options such as the aforementioned Temple, which has its own cemetery to allow the interment of cremated remains, and where the dearly departed are given proper funerals in accordance to Judaic law and rabbinical teachings. Visit Aftercare Cremation & Burial Service for more information.