Winehouse burial raises Jewish questions about tattoos, cremation
July 26th, 2011
12:20 PM ET

Winehouse burial raises Jewish questions about tattoos, cremation

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

LONDON (CNN) - Your Jewish grandmother might have told you not to get a tattoo if you want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery when you die. If you ignored her, rest easy - not only progressive Jews, but Britain's Orthodox Jews now have no problem with burying Jews with tattoos.

The question came up Tuesday as the heavily tattooed Amy Winehouse was laid to rest in a traditional Jewish ceremony in London. The funeral was conducted by a rabbi and the Winehouse family will sit shiva - the Jewish custom and tradition of receiving guests in their home - starting Tuesday night, Winehouse spokesman Chris Goodman said.

Winehouse was cremated, Goodman added - a more controversial practice among Jews.

Traditionally Jews do not cremate their dead because of the belief they will be resurrected when the messiah comes, said Nikki Saunders, a spokeswoman for Britain's mainstream Orthodox movement, the United Synagogue.

"That can only happen if your body is intact," Saunders said.

More liberal Jews don't have that concern, though, explained Ben Rich of the Movement for Reform Judaism in the UK.

"Physical resurrection isn't something that progressive Jews believe in, so that isn't a concern," he said. Progressive Jews also don't accept the Orthodox belief that cremation is the mutilation of a corpse, he said, since it is done respectfully, not maliciously.

"We have therefore been happy to allow cremation for those who want it," he said, calling it "extremely common. It wouldn't be anything to raise an eyebrow about in the progressive movement."

In fact, he argued, there is Biblical precedent for cremation.

"If you go back to Biblical times, it is normal and there are references to King Saul being cremated," he said.

There is a tradition of not burying people with tattoos, said progressive Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, but he said there didn't seem to be much support for it in Jewish law, or halacha.

It seems to come from instructions in the Biblical book of Leviticus against marking one's skin, he said.

"But this part of a whole series of Canaanite cultic practices which the Israelites were not supposed to imitate," he said.

Reform Jews today would not disapprove of tattooing, he said dryly, "since we do see ourselves as in danger of impersonating Canaanite cultic practices."

–CNN's Sarah Sultoon and Olivia Feld contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Death • Judaism • United Kingdom

soundoff (539 Responses)
  1. lots2c

    She abused her body – the body that God gave her. Why should she be saved?

    She also abused my ears with her (not original) style of music. Listen to Shirley Bassey.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • morgan

      you have no soul this poor girl has just lost her life. RIP Amy xx

      July 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Sarah

      That's not your call to make.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • David Stone

      Her style was uninspired, unoriginal. Her vocal abilities very limited, her range shallow, her tone obnoxious, her musical themes pathetic (her one big hit was about being a junkie).

      July 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • lots2c

      you are right, I am not the one to make that call. But, at least I won't die a BAD Rock and Roll cliche. Please spare me on the addiction is a disease crap. She was selfish in abusing her body and those that loved her.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Cyrus

      You may not like her lifestyle, but she truly was a talented artist. Too bad you have a dull sense of music.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Steffani

      Why should God not forgive her and who are you to judge? She was a child of God and I believe she will be forgiven. As for the people who hate her, well you can't like everybody. Her style won't appeal to everyone. I thought she was very talented and very unique. RIP Amy.

      July 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jesus

      I thought she had died of mascara poisoning. She was definitely a piece of work. Not to my taste.

      July 26, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  2. DeAnna1

    I for one do NOT want to be cremated, but I understand as we live on earth the body and flesh is simply a vessel to carry around our soul, it will NOT be that way when we are resurrected, we will take on a different form with soul intact.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Jesus

      There is NO soul and NO spirit....it's been proven. Cremation just speeds up the decomposition process and doesn't take up much room. I say cremation is the way of the future.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  3. james

    TV news reports she had lung disease and knew t...all thing pointing to suicide

    July 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • David Stone

      Smoking cigarettes and crack has a bad effect on the lungs.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Jesus

      I didn't think she had any lungs. Like two strawberries on a sheet of plywood.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  4. Cinde

    Amy Winehouse had an enormous talent, how sad that she also experienced enormous pain. Let her rest in peace and let her family grieve in private. Her beautiful voice will be missed.....

    July 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • David Stone

      What enormous talent are you talking about? She had a shallow vocal range, a gravely voice, and I've never seen any vocal experts / critics point to her have anything to write home about. She is just a one hit wonder, and her hit centered around her being a junkie. You can find countless voice experts / coaches / critics commenting on the someone like Mariah Carey for her amazing melismas, her legato, whisper register, piano register, amazing timing, and her ability to deliver rapid and precise staccatos. Please post a link where any expert praises AW for things like this. Vocally, she is a nobody, sorry.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • CeciAnnaMcGray

      i dont agree on the talent part, even though i really only heard her once (today...i got curious) but i do say it is a shame that she suffered, but the last part...i hate to say it but she did it herself. if she truly wanted to stay clean, she would have. she has had many opportunities to get that way but she kept returning to the self destruction. unfortunately, you can't help those that refuse the help. but it is sad that she got to that point.

      July 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Don

      Enormous talent? Hardly..... A great publicist? Priceless!

      August 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  5. Sarah

    In all honesty, I didn't know Amy Winehouse was Jewish. When I read the article, I just thought the intention was to make sure everyone knew she was Jewish. The article is contradictory by many accounts as to what the progressive or conservative Jews do and don't do. How about this – whatever part of her ancestry was Jewish – I'm sure they didn't abuse drugs this way, but they also probably didn't they have her amazing talent. If she were here, I'm sure she would care less about what they thought.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • David Stone

      Her faith was DOPE, and I see no evidence that she ever put faith in anything else. She was a pathetic no-talent junkie as far as I can see. Why smear the Jewish faith?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • veggiedude

      How can anyone say she had no talent? She was super rich in talent. Unfortunately it was wasted on her.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Sarah

      David- I don't think her burial or life was meant to smear the Jewish faith. The only individuals who smear their faith are those that lie, cheat, steal, and kill and claim it is in the name of their faith. This is done by members of all religions – Jews, Christians, Muslims, and pretty much every religion out there. For every good follower, there are probably two that act abhorrently and point to a line in a book to justify their actions. Her parents may have buried their daughter in tradition for their own sake, and no one has the right to declare what they can or cannot do in that matter. We don't know what her true wishes were, but if she did wish to be buried in the Jewish tradition, then no one has a right to lay judgment on that. She did lead a reckless life, but it's up to god to determine what she deserves and doesn't, not the hierarchy of any organized religion.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  6. sylvan finkelstein


    July 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Brenda

      You need a new keyboard. Your CAPS LOCK is stuck.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Jesus

      Being Jewish myself, she will be buried anywhere she wants...as long as her heirs can afford the price for the right plot. It's all about the benjamins!

      July 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  7. VegasRage

    I can't believe this a story. Disgusted.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • David Stone

      I always found her disgusting as a person, as many people did. Her ridiculous hair, gross tattooing, and her obnoxious personality and voice. He tried to glamorize being a junkie, she laughed at the whole things. She isn't laughing anymore.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • VegasRage

      David I think you missed the point of my comment

      July 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  8. Susan F

    Just let the poor soul rest in peace.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • David Stone

      For anyone who believes in the soul, they surely know that where she is going there will be no peaceful rest.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Jesus

      What's all this talk about "resting". She isn't resting, she's dead.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  9. Paul

    So, if your body is cremated, you can't resuscitate because your body is gone, while instead if you body rest in the ground for close to eternity, then the germs and worms who will have eaten your body, won't be of a problem, because what? I see, resuscitation has been designed by God to be able to handle germs and worms, but not cremation ... I see.
    Well, why don't you send in a request for resuscitation procedure upgrade so that cremation can be included in the possible options? I am sure God can figure out a way to make it possible, isn't it?

    July 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • anonymous

      Please, if you are going to comment, use correct terminology..."resurrection".

      July 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Brenda

      "resuscitation" = Resurrection?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  10. Peter

    I really should stop reading the comments after I read an article because each time I read the comments, I am ashamed to be a part of the human race.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Autumn

      I feel the same way. Unfortunately, internet + anonymity = ignorant, non-tolerant, narrow-minded goobers.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • veggiedude

      I'm disgusted to be part of the human race everyday I watch what people eat. Treat your body as a temple, not as a living graveyard!

      July 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • pam

      I'm with you Peter. Reading the comment after an article is often like tuning into "The Jerry Springer Show."
      It's like people get "Reading Rage" or something.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • chrissy

      Peter I agree. All I can do is shake my head as I read. I dont know whose in a worst position Amy or these ppl posting.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • David Stone

      Yeah, the truth hurts. You would prefer to see people make excuses for this junkie who in her own way served to glamorize drug addiction by laughing at the idea of having enough respect for herself or her family to get treatment (rehab). Good riddance to her. She belongs to lucifer now.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  11. maens

    What do they mean "sit Shiva" isn't Shiva a Hindu God? just confused looking for answers

    July 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Shulie Agar

      Shiva is what you do when it's cold outside. Sit n shiva just means you sit down to do it.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Catherine

      The two words have nothing in common. A Jewish shiva is a span of days where the relatives remain in the home and guests come to visit with them. Traditionally, a rabbi oversees prayers at certain points. The body is not present. (Traditionally, the body should be buried within a very short amount of time, without preservation)

      July 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Rabbi Mohammed

      different Shiva – only same word. To stay at home and mourn (and not play or snort coke)

      July 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Jeremy

      They are pronounced differently.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • cxd207

      In Judaism, shiva is the week-long period of grief and mourning for the seven first-degree relatives: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and spouse. As most regular activity is interrupted, the process of following the shiva ritual is referred to as "sitting" shiva. Shiva is a part of the customs for bereavement in Judaism.
      Shiva is also the name of a god in Hinduism.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Tom

      Shiva is indeed a Hindu deity, but "sitting shiva" is the Jewish practice of mourning the dead (which has nothing to do with, and predated, Hinduism.) The immediate family traditionally sits on boxes in their home, cover mirrors, and perform some other rituals. In modern practice the family receives guests at their home, who generally bring food. It's kind of like a wake, except it's done over several nights and not in one day (and it's not an occasion for heavy drinking).

      July 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Shulie Agar

      Shiva me timbers!

      July 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Violet

      Shiva is the Hebrew word for the number seven. The period of mourning at home after a death lasts a week, hence it's called "sitting shiva". I'm very surprised that so few of your readers know this simple fact.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Guest

      "Shiva" is Hebrew for "7". According to Jewish Law, the immediate family of a deceased person will sit at home for 7 days and recieve guests, who bring condolences and food, and prayers and services are also held at the home. Today, many less-religious Jews sit shiva for shorter periods of time, perhaps a couple of days, or sometimes part of one day.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Ruth

      Sheva is seven in Hebrew. Sitting Shiva means to sit in mourning for seven days.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • aGWARslave

      Shiva is an Esper.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Jesus

      What happens after 7 days of mourning? It's the equivalent of mardi gras as the heirs divide up her estate.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • CeciAnnaMcGray

      and you must bury the body before shabbat or very soon because of the no embalming thing

      July 26, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  12. Raymondo

    Her religion was drugs, not Judaism. If Amy Winehouse is resurrected and I'm not, because she's Jewish, that is one ridiculous god. Will Bernie Madoff be resurrected too? Only if he doesn't have a tattoo? Religion is such a joke.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Guest

      Well suffice it to say that if only people as nasty and judgmental as you are resurrected, I'll be happy to remain dead. Have some respect for a fellow human being.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Judaism doesn't exactly have the concept of resurrection in it as Christianity does. There have been certain sects of Judaism that doesn't believe in a resurrection of any kind.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • David Stone

      Agreed. She was a junkie plain and simple, and now people want to make her into something special, which she wasn't.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  13. patNY

    well, whether she likes it or not...she's in rehab now!

    July 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jesus

      No, read the article...she is DEAD!

      July 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  14. Serena

    The body is not going to be resurrected in this form. Imagine how someone run over by a truck would look in that body?
    Will kids look the same age as their parents, of course not. We will be given a new body that does not have all these limitations.
    Current body is a garment to house the soul in this temporary life.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  15. LINDA

    "Amy Winehouse was laid to rest in a traditional Jewish ceremony in London." then it says she was cremated. This is completely contrary to traditional Judaism where a family would NEVER cremate. Even most modern, reform, mainstream Jews that are not religious, would NEVER CREMATE!!

    July 26, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Spike5

      Apparently you can only read headlines and not entire articles. It was discussed at length with a rabbi's comments included.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Scott

      I'm Jewish and I'm down with creamation...

      July 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • DeAnna1

      Saul was cremated!

      July 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • lulu

      I work in a large progressive city in a funeral home, we do cremations and I've seen a big increase of Jewish cremations. By Reform and Conservative. I have a good friend who works at the Jewish Funeral home and he's also seen an increase in this but not by Orthodox. I'm also studying Reform Judaism to convert and asked my Rabbi, he said the same as the article, it's not necessarily everyone's choice but it's not as frowned upon as it use to be. Funerals cost a lot and I'm not saying that the Winehouse family couldn't afford a traditional burial, but I've had cased of Jewish families that simply cannot afford it so cremation is the only option.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban

      I am not Jewish but I am down with Jewish girls.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Don

      not true

      August 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  16. patNY

    Even more reasons to reject this nonsense that the bible is the literal word of God...it's the literal word of some ancient babylonian types dictating to concurred people how to live their lives. Please! That book has been the cause of more strife, war and evil than any good.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Do you feel more popular saying that?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Mike

      The way I see it, if you belong to a religion because you believe its principles, then you need to follow it. If the religion says don't get tattoos and you do, then you don't belong to it. If the religion says 1+1=5, and you believe that 1+1=2, then, likewise, you don't belong to it. It she was Jewish, then should have followed the principles of Judaism. If Jews are no longer sure what these principles are, then it really doesn't matter what the bible says.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  17. patNY

    At least she's been sober now for a couple of days.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Penny

      Black humor, for sure. As a recovering alcoholic, my heart aches for the loss of "one of my own." However her sobriety came, I'd rather be sober in life and not as a result of death...

      July 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Shulie Agar

      Good one Panty!

      July 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Brenda

      "Good one panty!" Eh? That's patNY. o_0

      July 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  18. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    If there was a stricture against burial of Jews with Tattoos, then how could they possibly reconcile the burials of the survivors of the Camps. Many I have met still had their identification numbers tattooed on their arms, not in a matter of pride, but to teach others about Ha Shoah.

    July 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • DeAnna1

      I don't think the Jews HAD a CHOICE whether they wanted to be tatooed or not...come on think about what you wrote.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Raymondo

      Don't you remember the addendum to the Bible that God voiced in 1951? It made concentration camp tattoos okay. I'm not making light of the Holocaust. I'm making light of the Bible.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • sparknut

      Or, for that matter, what about those who were cremated by the NAZIs? Shouldn't they be resurrected?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • AJ

      People of the Holocust were tattooed but not BY CHOICE that is the difference

      July 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Malka Esther

      When a Jew has tattoos and needs to buried they remove the skin where the tatoo is

      July 27, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  19. Reality

    The following puts to rest most if not all of orthodox Judaism:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    "Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument."

    "The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    July 26, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • AvdBerg


      For a better understanding of the early history of mankind (Adam & Eve, Moses, Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, etc.) we invite you to read the articles ‘Creation’ and ‘Who is God and who is Satan?’ on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

      All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).

      July 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "The Bible is true in all things"
      "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches."
      – Matthew 13:31–32

      Mustard seeds are not the smallest of all seeds.
      They do not become mighty trees.
      Birds do not nest in them.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • mark

      THis is not a proof. It is one persons thought. I am not sure what you are putting to rest!

      July 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      @Doc Vestibule
      The natural man like yourself is spiritually blind and cannot understand the Bible as it is spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).
      The word Tree is often referred to as a person. On top of every page of our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca you will note the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The mustard seed refers to the group of Believers, as we right now are the smallest in number (Matthew 7:14) but when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom, His Church will be the only and the biggest (tree). We have told you before, the Bible is not a story book as it is spiritually discerned. In order for you to be able to understand the Bible our message remains the same: Ye must repent and turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan (whose spirit you are of) unto God (Acts 26:18).

      July 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Reality


      This is not one person's thought. Read the comments again about the New Torah for Modern Minds i.e. the new Torah for 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis.

      It is available on amazon.com:

      From amazon.com

      "Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary (Hardcover) $58.00

      ~ David L. Lieber (Editor), Jules Harlow (Editor), United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (Corporate Author), The Rabbinical Assembly (Corporate Author)
      4.7 out of 5 stars (15 customer reviews)

      "The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) is the primary organization of synagogues practicing Conservative Judaism in North America. It closely works with the Rabbinical Assembly, the international body of Conservative rabbis, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.[1]"

      July 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Interpret the bible literally when it suits.
      Rationalize convoluted methaphorical interpretations when faced with logical impossibilities.
      Wow! That book really DOES have all the answers.
      Then again, so does Curious George if teh right kind of double-think is applied.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • ....

      AvdBerg you are such a troll your site is garbage along with the cult you are trying to promote.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  20. RightTurnClyde

    Well since she was buried in her faith (as mortal we accept God's will) she was received by God (Yahweh, G_d) and He decides all; not us. We pray that he receives her into the eternal family, His loving daughter and eternal servant who lived and dies in His will. They will be done Almighty Father. (you will see her again when YOU get there.. )

    July 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.