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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. Loki

    the problem shouldn't be the tats, the problem should be that she committed suicide

    July 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • ol cranky

      we don't alienate people further by refusing burial on the equivalent of "consecrated ground" that some Christian denominations do

      July 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Cranky...this is a Jewish topic. But don't let that stop you from expressing your dislike for certain christian groups.

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

      Where is it written that she committed suicide? the autopsy is "inconclusive" pending toxicology. and no, being addicted to drugs and easing the pain of your addiction by getting another fix *isn't* suicide.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  2. Mike

    This is news?

    July 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      This is a comment?

      July 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  3. Gissel Greene

    Our God is a God of peace. Contention is not of him. My heart goes out to the families of the victims, I pray they will be comforted and know that death is not the end to life.

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

      Correct. According to the bible, as someone who was a persistent sinner until death, she will live eternity in HE11, so there will be an afterlife for her, just a miserable torturous one.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @David- Bible? She as Jewish. What did the Tanakh say?

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

      That is a good question. According to the Jewish scriptures, what happens when you die? Christianity created a nice story about eternal happiness and muslims talk about virgins in heaven and all that stuff. What happens in the jewish faith?

      July 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • hal

      I like the late George Carlins description of hell. Look it up on youtube.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  4. J Stevens

    I cringe when people identify the dead by their family' religion. Calling someone Jewish can refer to ethnicity, nationality, and/or religion but, in this case, it is religion, and Winehouse was anything but a true believer of her faith. If you don't attend your church/mosque/synagogue on a regular basis or read your religion's holy book almost daily, please, don't insult the faith you pretend to follow or it's true believers. Winehouse was an addict with a gift that had massive potential but her disease won out. Leave it at that.

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

      You are kidding right? Of course, she was Jewish.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • magnus

      she was a non-practicing jew.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Bruce B

      Amazing that you decide how a person born to the Jewish fate should be considered who may or may not practice that faith the way their parents may have practiced. I mean who made you the keeper of other people’s faith? I happen to be Jewish. I was raised Jewish, born Jewish, but I practice my faith as I see fit! Not as one is told by anyone. What is it that you don't get? So according to you, if you don't go to your Catholic Church like your parents did, but you feel Catholic and want to be considered Catholic, then you are not Catholic. What a moron you are.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  5. Loki

    In tomorrow's news: Winehouse death bring cartels to their knees, war on drugs has ended!

    July 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  6. TheLastWord

    It never fails to amaze me how heartless and judgmental and disrespectful people become when they hide behind a computer keyboard. The girl was an addict. She died because of it. Love her music or hate it – she's still someone's daughter...someone's friend and a child of God.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Johhny B

      "Child of God".. really.. how truly stupid..

      July 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Gissel Greene

      I coud n't agree more, we need to stop judging leave that to God and start loving people despite of who they are. We are all children of a loving Father in Heaven.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • David Stone

      With where she is now, she is more like a child of satan, since anyone believing in the bible would know she is burning in the lake of fire about now. If she isn't a sinner I don't know what one has to do to qualify.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  7. Loki

    Elton John is going to perform at her funeral....he should sing circle of life....and then stop halfway through

    July 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  8. Anti Christian Taliban

    She was a drug addict who sang some songs...she is back on the wagon forever now.....move along

    July 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • David Stone

      She was a drug addict with an awful raspy voice copying old styles of music, who had ONE hit.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Josh

      Calm down David. You sound like a man that should switch to decaf coffee. You're too stressed out...

      July 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  9. Tim

    non-story.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Yet you felt thre urge to comment on it.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  10. Loki

    We should always respect the dead, even if the person was ugly, had sailor tattoos, slurred their speech, lived with a lifelong addiction, and relied upon a fix to get through the day.....

    RIP Popeye

    July 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Brenda

      That was awesome!!!!

      July 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • SickOfLoki

      Loki, You have demonstrated your lack of class repeatedly through your ignorant crass posts. . Please shut up. Thank you.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Jay

      She is competing for the Miss I-am-an-a$$ crown

      July 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Angst

      Leave her alone; she is only 12.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  11. Lycidas

    Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba
    b'al'ma di v'ra khir'utei
    v'yam'likh mal'khutei b'chayeikhon uv'yomeikhon
    uv'chayei d'khol beit yis'ra'eil
    ba'agala uviz'man kariv v'im'ru:
    Amein. Y'hei sh'mei raba m'varakh l'alam ul'al'mei al'maya
    Yit'barakh v'yish'tabach v'yit'pa'ar v'yit'romam v'yit'nasei
    v'yit'hadar v'yit'aleh v'yit'halal sh'mei d'kud'sha
    B'rikh hu
    l'eila min kol bir'khata v'shirata
    toosh'b'chatah v'nechematah, da'ameeran b'al'mah, v'eemru:
    Amein
    Y'hei sh'lama raba min sh'maya
    v'chayim aleinu v'al kol yis'ra'eil v'im'ru
    Amein
    Oseh shalom bim'romav hu ya'aseh shalom
    aleinu v'al kol Yis'ra'eil v'im'ru
    Amein

    July 26, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Johhny B

      whatever......

      July 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Johhny B- "Whatever..."

      About sums up your life doesn't it?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Johhny B

      Yep, sure does.. You're a moron..

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

      Yet I knew the Kaddish and you didn't....what does that make you then? Plz child, don't continue, you are only digging a deeper hole.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Jeannine

      @ Johnny B – u r truly sad...

      July 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • hal

      Careful you are exhibiting the signs of a bigoted philosophy.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Bruce B

      Omain! May she rest in peace. Almost all are the children of G-D. All except asshls like the Norway dude who would take out buildings in Oslo and children. A true coward.; Hitler; Ben Ladin and the list goes on. This girl had sould. Yes it is a shame she died so young and had hard drug addictions. I blame society in general for that, and yes, Amy too to a lesser degree. But for those that seem to have the time to go on here and comment have at least a little respect for this artist who just couldn't deal with life on this planet too well.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • ruthrachel18

      Amen.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • ruthrachel18

      Good to know that someone is saying kaddish for her.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  12. Seenen

    Who cares?

    July 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • jessica

      you are an idiot. Hope you get the same response when you die,

      July 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  13. zoey

    @lots2c – I totally disagree! I won't debate if it was original although I think she had her own unique sound, but abused your ears? Come on now!! She was very talented.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • David Stone

      Please post links showing where any vocal coach / expert / critic sited some of her amazing vocal abilities...because as a musician I certainly saw nothing to write home about. Just a junkie who got lucky and had one hit....oddly enough a song glamorizing drug addiction, and mocking rehab / treatment. Delightful.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Guest

      Stone: So you are a "musician", huh? I have never heard of you and a Google search brings up nothing. You are a truly disgusting hateful jerk.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  14. Kathleen

    Wow. These are the times when I truly question the fundamental goodness of humanity. What is wrong with you people? A beautiful young woman has passed. 'With privilege comes great responsibility.' Who can imagine the burden associated with such talent and fame? Rest in peace, Amy. Thank you for sharing your gift while here with us. I wish you the peace that eluded you in this life. Shalom.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • zoey

      Thank you, these comments are unbelievable.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • David Stone

      Beautiful? She was a tattooed HAG with hair to match that description, had an AWFUL raspy voice, and as far as the "child of God" stuff, if you believe in those things, then you MUST believe she of all people will burn in he11, being the unapologetic sinner that she was.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Jay

      Well said. Thank you for your comment.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  15. Rabbi David

    This was a GREAT loss of a troubled person who should have lived a long life. For non Jews nobody would expect you to understand, but there is no standard of "Judgement" in play. This person came to this life was unhappy with it and went home. May her Neshama (soul) find peace on her journey. Chassidus holds that inside every Jew is a diamond waiting to shine,I am so very sorry that her light was short,but it was a BRILLANT light for the time it shown. Shalom Amy- may you travel with mazel, love and peace.....

    July 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • zoey

      Thank you! There have been many terrible comments here.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Kathleen

      Thank you for this, Rabbi David. These commentary threads become venues for hatred. How about we come together and just love each other?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • ruthrachel18

      Inside every human being, Jew and non-Jew, there is the potential for light to shine...

      May the soul of Amy Winehouse be elevated and may it complete its mission. If not here and now in this world...then at some future time in this world, IYH, Inshallah, G-dwilling.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  16. Rob

    they'd have a problem if they didn't bury people with tats....many holocaust survivors were tattooed by the Nazi's

    July 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Laughing

      That's actually the reason why tattooing is so taboo among lots of jews today, same with cremation.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  17. rotfogel

    The only way Earth and humanity will survive is if we do away with ALL RELIGIONS, not just he completely insane ones. Religion is the heart of evil.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Maverick

      When an athiest speaks, is it just me or does anyone else hear the trumpet sounds the Peanuts shows used for adults talking? Wha-wah-wah-wah-wa-wa-wahhhhhhhhhh.

      Hey Sparky, let me ask you a question-when you die, what will you have done to your body? Funerals are religious services. Will you be creamated, burned and spurned? Donate to science (forget examining the brain)? Or cast off into the wilderness (oops...Moses had that done). Whadda ya say, Sparky?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • racnem

      Don't worry. That is going to happen. The book of Revelation prophesies that the governments will eventually do away with all religon. That's when the true God will reveal himself and his people and put an end to all this insanity once and for all. I can't wait.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  18. Johhny B

    Who cares.. ?? She is dead... her music was awful and she was a drug addict.. she got what was coming to her.. she is cremated and done with.. move on people. I care not to hear about her, her religion or anything else.. good riddance..

    July 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Kathleen

      You want to move on, but you're reading articles about her, and then making hateful comments about her and them?

      July 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Elle G.

      Apparently you care Johhny B.. since you took the time to not only read the article but to also post your heartless comment! If you don't care to hear about her..don't read an article about her..it's that easy!! So take your own advise and move on...

      July 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • David Stone

      I agree with Johhny, and am her commenting as a protest against people like CNN trying to make her into some type of a fallen hero. She represented the WORST of humanity, was an awful example for children, and was no hero. She was a complete talentless hag with the looks to match.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Guest

      Stone: I see .. you are protesting what CNN reports. You obviously have a magnanimous social conscience. We appreciate your integrity. Now shut up.

      July 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  19. Johnny Boy

    When i die, i want to be creamated. that is, having whipped creamed filling my coffin.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • BernyAZ

      You fail at being funny.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  20. Sarah

    This article enrages me! I'm Jewish and it doesn't how Jewish someone is or if they have body modifications (btw, I have 5 tattoos, and my ears pierced) or if they want to cremated – it's not the point. She believed in her faith and that's all that should matter. Do we question the burial of born-again Christians who happen to be in jail for a grievous crime? What about child molesters or murderers?

    My point is basically this: leave the poor girl alone. She deserves peace in death.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban

      "She deserves peace in death."
      ----–
      I don't think she can read nor hear what is being said. On the plus side she is more sober now than she has been in a long time.

      July 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Volin

      " She believed in her faith and that's all that should matter. "

      This is a very true statement. I don't think it should matter that she was this or that...just that she believed and did her best to abide by what she believed. Kudos for a great comment!

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

      We can't leave her alone - she sought fame and fortune and that is the price you pay - you lose your privacy.

      She chose to abuse alcohol and drugs (and still made a living). Just goes to show where the music industry stands. She had a hit 5 years ago and was still be promoted as a great talent. take away the hair, the tattoos, the eye makeup and you had a very insecure girl who knew her best days were gone.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
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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.