Observations from a Jewish Hospital Chaplain

As a chaplain, my role is not to mandate religious doctrine, force individuals into specific choices or even advocate a particular lifestyle or worldview. Rather, the focus of chaplaincy care tends to be on facilitating the ability of individuals to articulate their own goals and values, and helping them uncover, navigate, translate and resolve some of the issues with which they might be struggling. People often ask me for guidance when confronted with the choice of cremation, as there is often religious guilt or complicated family tension associated with this decision. I know many people who have chosen cremation and are very comfortable with their choice. I also do not think that it is wise to persistently fight a family member who has made a clear minded, intentional decision to be cremated.

Methods of Scattering Ashes

ash urn

Updated on 11/13/20

This article covers six different ways to scatter or bury ashes, including casting, burial in a trench, raking, scattering over water, aerial scattering and green burial.

Although there are certainly rules and laws regulating the disposition of ashes on land, water or in the air, your choices are largely left up to your own discretion. 

Cremation in the Jewish Tradition

As the popularity of cremation expands throughout the United States, many religious scholars and clerics find themselves stuck in a conundrum. Within the next few years, cremation will likely become the norm in the U.S. Even in the Jewish tradition, where cremation has been considered taboo for centuries, congregations are dealing with more faithful members who seek cremation when they die. With research and new interpretation of religious texts, many rabbis have found a middle ground to allow Jews who have been cremated to have a proper burial in a Jewish cemetery. When the family observes the proper stages of mourning and keep a kosher burial plan, many congregations will honor their loved one’s request to be cremated.

What Happens To Uncollected Ashes

cremation urn displayA death in the winter. Difficulty scheduling a memorial. Family members unprepared to accept the death of a loved one. There are many reasons that people never go to collect the ashes of their loved ones after they die and are cremated. Unlike traditional burials, cremated remains take up little space. Since ashes do not require a prompt burial, family members sometimes allow the remains to sit at the funeral home until a better time. But, as cremation trends toward the more popular method of treating the body after death, the number of uncollected urns at funeral homes increases. And, it is a problem all over the world. While most funeral homes simply hold on to the ashes, waiting for the family to come get them, some funeral directors are taking matters into their own hands.