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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. Delance1000

    R.I.P.!!

    July 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  2. Stevelb1

    I feel not having a tattoo now a days is making a statement more than having one.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • David Stone

      I STRONGLY agree with that. Having a tattoo is so cliche by now, and if you want people to notice you, make them notice you for THE PERSON YOU ARE, not some childish ink stain you INTENTIONALLY put in your skin.

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

      Whenever I'm asked, "Why don't you have any ink", I tell them, "Sorry. I have commitment issues".

      July 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • JD

      Tattoos is sooooo ghetto.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      What about tattoos done for personal reasons that aren't seen in public?
      Not everybody gets ink for attention.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  3. Name*Angela Tureaud

    Let go. Let god.!!!

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

      You need to capitalize that g

      July 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • SecularTruther

      Let god go!!!

      July 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Erik

      SecularTruther I hope you don't stay sold out to Satan your whole life and go to hell.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @erik
      I hope you don't stay blinded to common sense and critical thinking your whole life and waste it in fear of divine retribution that isn't coming.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  4. Murray Braun

    I do not know her recordings, but her recent duo with Tony Bennett really impressed him. The article as 2 posts point out did not deal with the suicide issue. The cremation and Jewish burial were not the departed's choice but were condoned and arranged by her immediate family. That said, non-observant Jews are not refused traditional funerals. Amy "Weinhaus" was born a Jew and has the right to be buried like a Jew, because that is what her family wanted. Since being born a Jew makes you one of the eternally hated, it is not surprising to find some of the comments here antisemitic. That's a problem.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • magnus

      I dont know what you mean. i don't hate Jews – quite the opposite. The problem is you going around acting like a victim. That's the problem.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Thomas

      Its not "acting", you prove that point.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Chartreuxe

      We don't know if she suicided or not...the inquest is still out on that point.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Leigh

      I stand with Israel and Jews in general. This hubbub about the "jewishness" of the funeral is kind of a blasphamy and useless fodder. If want to go out like Timothy Leary and be released into orbit to burn up upon reentry, does that make me less Christian? And here I am going along with it by wasting my precious time commenting. HEHE! I tend to get sucked into these things before I know it. Oh well, peace and happiness I wish to all. Have a good day.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Not Impressed

    A no talent sorry alcoholic druggie who ended up getting what she deserved – she probably planned it thinking she would get into the 27 club – she was not worthy and could not haul the trash of even the worst one of that group. Good Riddance to Amy Winehouse.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • David Stone

      Yes, good riddance to this worthless piece of human excrement.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Debbie

      You are pathetic beyond belief. She was a tortured soul with an immense talent.

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

      creep..

      July 26, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Guest

      Stone: ironic, your description fits you well. What is with your hatefulness? You stink...

      July 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Guest

      What do you creeps do for kicks besides posting your twisted hate? Beat up homeless people, skin cats, torture small animals? But I forgot, Stone is a "musician". Plays the one-eyed banjo.

      July 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  6. Lanfear

    I don't see what difference it makes how she is buried. She's DEAD! Her soul has left her body, hopefully re-incarnated into something useful. The rest is history. I don't understand why people make such a fuss over funeral arrangements.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • NOVANative

      Now, I don't get all hung up about funeral arrangements myself, but you really need to keep in mind that most of the planet's population don't agree with your belief that anyone is reincarnated, thus their hang-ups. Neither Jews, Christians, nor Muslims believe in reincarnation, just to name about 3.5 billion, at least. So please, have some compassion for people in their grief. To some, it matters.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Lanfear

      Why does it matter what I believe? You completely missed my point. She's dead, what happens to her body will have no effect on her soul. In other words, she doesn't care. Why should the living? I get it – the world is full of religious nuts who think it matters. I'm just stating that I am not one of those and I cannot understand those who are. I don't need to justify my compassion on a message board. Obviously the body shouldn't be thrown in a ditch and forgotten. But to make a big deal as if it matters in the grand scheme of things... well I just don't think it does.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Vauser

      Actually, Nova, Jews (orthodox at least) believe in the concept of gilgul (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgul) which is reincarantion. If you do not fulfill your purpose in life or committed something which needs fixing, you are often sent back down to do so.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  7. dorkylove

    Why do people always find away to find something negative to say about her, give a effin' rest. She sang better than a lot of these "singers" we have today hint hint britney spears cant effin' sing yet we all looked away when she went psycho! STFU!

    July 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Leigh

      Wow! dorkylove. I'm diggin that tag. Isn't all love kinda dorky in nature? That's been my experience and I can't complain. Yeah, It's amazing how folks can just jump on something an over analyze it to death. I was a fan, knew she was going to combust before 30, but hey it's over, let it go and just consider it an example of what NOT to do. I feel for those close to her, it had to be tough watching her disintegrate. Still love that tag, dorkylove. too cool. Have a wonderful day Sir or Madame dorkylove. 🙂

      July 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  8. Littlevet

    Sodom and Gomorrah.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Chris

    Its insane that people dont just leave religion all together....I mean honesty look at this as an example. People realize certain things are crazy and let them go, but if you have to keep revising it...then why follow any of it to begin with?

    July 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  10. aGWARslave

    Will they be serving wine? I hope it's fermented enough, she hasn't been dead that long.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  11. Joshua Ludd

    Yeah, if you want to talk about religious law, I don't think tattoos and cremation are quite the ones that would be a big deal in the life and death of Amy Winehouse.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  12. enricorosan

    I don't understand why people are making such mean comments about this woman ??? she was well loved by so many for her music and her eccentric and charming stage presence. To say that she was an untalented junkie and it is a good thing that she died is unfounded and absolutely outrageous and downright evil. Please have a heart and think before you make such mean spirited comments.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban

      Actually she was a talented junkie.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • San

      When someone in your family or someone dear to your heart is drowning themselves in addiction and you are devastated watching them destroy themselves, you will eat your words.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • David Stone

      San, no, I will make sure there is an intervention. Her own mother said she saw in their last meeting that she was near the end, yet did nothing. Wonderful family support.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Lanfear

      David Stone,
      What COULD her mother have done? You just cannot help someone who won't help themselves. I haven't paid much attention to any of this, but I have no doubt that her parents did everything in their power to avoid her death. Heaven forbid you should ever have a child or even a relative with a substance abuse problem. It's easy to be an armchair expert when you are ignorant to the realities of substance abuse, isn't it?

      July 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • ac

      david stone – you have no clue what you're talking about. if an intervention is all it took, then so many wouldn't suffer from the disease of addiction. until you are faced with a family member suffering you will never know.

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

      @ David S.
      personal preferences aside, you are joking about Amy not receiving any critical acclaim, right? over the course of her career she garnered 58 nominations and 23 awards, including multiple MTV and MTV Europe nods, a Mercury Prize and five Grammy wins. really not too bad for only having released a couple albums.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  13. Alexandra

    If Jews with tattoos can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery, what about all the Jews who were tattooed with numbers by Nazis during the Holocaust? Do they get a proper burial because they didn't choose to get them?

    July 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • katmoondaddy

      The religious law banning the burial of tattooed Jews has since been abolished in the wake of the tattooed holocaust survivors, however. Jews with tattoos may be buried in most Jewish graveyards, though some still request laser surgery.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Alexandra

      Thanks

      July 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • miriam

      There is no Jewish Law forbidding the burial of a tattooed body. Tattoos are forbidden but a body with tattoos can be buried in a Jewish cemetery. There have been customs to bury criminals or those who openly or seriously violate laws to be buried in a separate section of a cemetery and for some tattoos may be included as a violation but that does not effect the burial ceremony.
      Holocaust tattoos are considered differently to other tattoos for obvious reasons.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • NSL

      As the Rabbi in the article mentioned the "ban" came from Leviticus, and the main reason to forgo tattoos is that our bodies are divine gifts not to be abused by us. Moreover, since God is ever evolving, and therefore humans too, a tattoo which is fixed runs counter to the Jewish message of growth and embracing change. It is believed that branding people like cattle, as the Nazis did to Jews in WWII, serves to dehumanize and diminish us.

      To your question, the Jewish victims of the holocaust had their tattoos forcibly administered, so there is no question they wouldn't stop them from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. Moreover, certain tattoos, such as those used for medical procedures today are okay as well.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  14. lots2c

    First: Her style of music is not original, but rather very retro.

    Second: Her career is a very bad rock cliche. Same goes for her father, a cab driver who is also a jazz musician, please.

    Her life story will make for a very boring movie.

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

      You're just so world-weary from having seen it ALL at your tender age, now aren't you?

      July 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Chris

      As opposed to your life?

      July 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • David Stone

      Obnoxious junkie dies after a brief 15 minutes of fame as a one hit wonder....what a riveting story that would make.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  15. Amy

    The poor thing. Rest in peace, dear Amy. Nothing can hurt you now.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • San

      David Stone, that was plain evil.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • David Stone

      San, if one believes in concepts like "resting in peace", and in the concept of the soul, or an afterlife, of a God, then they KNOW that people who lived her selfish, awful, sinful lifestyle will spend eternity in He11. That isn't a pleasant thought, but it is what all religions believe.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Debbie

      David Stone: I have read several of your comments on this article. You are a piece of garbage. Why so much hatred toward Amy? Did you know her? Did she hurt you? Save your hatred for those who deserve it, like politicians who are about to bankrupt you.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Jay

      Debbie, I agree. This guy is a real piece of work. Twisted with hate; ignorant clueless creep.

      July 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  16. hilljul

    I'm not Jewish, but I thought the religion mandated the deceased are to be buried within 24 hours of death? Guess it doesn't matter if you're cremated...

    July 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Lee

      The 24 hour burial is if cause of death is not questioned. When an autopsy is required, the 24 hour period is obviously not respected.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • miriam

      Autopsies are not generally permitted under Jewish law however if the law of the country requires such a procedure for investigative purposes then a Jew is required to obey the law of the country. The Jewish law is that the deceased be buried as quickly as possible, being watched continually before burial, however there is no specific time period.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  17. Gissel Greene

    Let God and his only begotten son judge Amy winehouse, it is to them that judgement belongs not any of us. May his love and mercy find her and may her soul rest in peace.

    July 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Jeannine

      HELLO: she was Jewish!!!

      July 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • San

      Yes, she was Jewish. Jesus was Jewish, too, and even more famous. So let him judge.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jeannine

      Sam, don't foist you views on others please.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • David Stone

      According to the holy book her people believe in, she is burning in he11, so I don't think the "rest in peace" thing really fits.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Johhny B

      Shut up with this crazy non-sesne. you're an idiot !!!

      July 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  18. Bks

    Such a sad tragic life. and people are cruel.

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

      I agree... it always shocks me how mean spirited people are in tragedies like this.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  19. Name*Donna

    wow. if you were not a fan of hers why did you read the article? im am amazed at people and what they will say nowadays. of course they are behind a computer right now so that might explain it. what tough guys. you should be ashamed. i wish her peace for eternity

    July 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  20. Aussiema

    Come on CNN let the poor girl rest in peace. Quit dissecting every little itty bitty darn thing. Makes me sick sometimes to see the junk you're coming up with. LET IT GO!!!

    July 26, 2011 at 1:52 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.