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. Peikovian

    Of interest to those who wondered if she was religious in some way. Services were probably done because of her family's sense of tradition. Makes survivors feel they did the right thing.

    July 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. dennis c

    I am 67 years old and i loved her music. She wrote all her songs and my jazz friends also liked her. To bad she had no one to help her. amy rest in peace.

    July 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Jay Simon

      Thank you for adding your compassionate comment.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • CraigSF5

      Well said, though, I don't think she was ready to accept help.

      Nice comments.

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

      Certainly a pleasant comment after all the crap responses. God forbid you heartless individuals on this thread lose a loved one and then have to be subjected to the cruelty found here and on other threads. Regardless of her personal demons (we all have them) Amy contributed to music in a special way. She could write the heck out of a song and I don't care how high she got....just wish she could of found a better way to cope. God help all those addicted and trying to numb the pain of abuse, loss, failure, disappointment etc. If you can not be compassionate about obviously caring parents who lost their child, regardless of the child's name or talent level, shame on you. RIP to Amy and peace to the survivors of this loss. Life will never be the same for those that loved her.

      July 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  3. Kerry Berger

    Frankly, who gives a hoot and a holler. This is a matter of individual or family choice. Let the Winehouse family grieve in private. Let's move on....

    July 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  4. RodBinNC

    This is SOOO important! I guess Jewish addicts are different from the rest of addicts.

    July 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  5. james

    Pretty Jewy id say...Amy doesnt care.

    July 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  6. OnTheRoad

    How many Jewish laws do you guess this young lady (Using the term 'lady' and trying not to laugh) broke?

    July 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  7. holly

    I'm at a loss. Quit insulting people. For those of you who are Jewish, no matter if you believe it or not, you are still God's chosen people to bring blessing to all the families of the earth. People who set themselves as your enemies (unless you personally wrong them- obviously none of us think any group is beyond personal responsibility) set themselves up as enemies against God. As a christian (that is Christ- follower, not sicko crusader), we are instructed about the great value of the Jewish people- by a Jew- in Romans 12 and elswhere. Our forerunners in the faith are all Israelites, and I beleive in the Jewish Messiah- Yeshua Ha' Mashiach, or in english- Jesus the Messiah. Willingly sacraficed as the perfect passover lamb after the pattern of Abraham and Issac, recieving the wrath of God for our sins in our place, and risen from the dead on the third day- the Feast of Firstfruits, because death could not hold him. He conquered sin and death! Love poured out like wine. And he will come back again to fulfill the second half of the prophecy- an earthly kingdom in Israel. FEAR NOT!

    July 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  8. M

    Well Jews also don't believe in autopsies. But she had one of those too.

    Some people will tell you you can't be buried on a Jewish cemetery if you've been autopsied.

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

    "resurrection" is not part of the Hebrew belief system. That is a Christian thing that has leaked into Judaism. Jews waiting for a Messiah are waiting for a KING from the "root of Jesse", nothing else. Messiah means "annointed one" as ALL Kings of Isreal were and Jesus tried to be.

    July 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  10. greg skorich

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

    shouldn't it be:

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

    July 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  11. McBobby

    Why does this have to turned into "Jewishness" When anyone else of any other religion is buried you rarely if EVER see an article or "opinion" on whether they are fulfilling their religious obligations for burial. Why does anyone care if Jewish rites are being adhered to, it's not news, it's not important, it's not even interesting. Why does a Jewish burial get all this attention while burials of other religions don't get analyzed and/or mentioned like this...huh?

    July 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Marcus

      Jew....schmooo. This cow wasnt any more jew than you or I. I cant imagine how she had any religion based upon her activities and behavior. I guess when we use the term "jew" we are speaking about her parents ethnic background?

      July 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Mark Jeffery

      Actually, Bin Ladin's burial got serious scrutiny. I don't think Jews get different treatment in this regard.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • McBobby

      If she'd been a Methodist or a Roman Catholic or Hindu this article would not have been written, but because it relates to Jewishness someone thought that made it dserve to be written. Bin Ladens burial was actual NEWS, it wasn't because he was an ordinary Muslim. If he had just been a down-trodden pop star his burial wouldn't have made the news, but because Amy's a Jew...

      July 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  12. Will

    "By Richard Allen Greene"
    "CNN's Sarah Sultoon and Olivia Feld contributed to this report."
    Ladies and gentlemens, it took 3 (three) "staff writers" to create this bit of non-news bullmess that really only the family or a fanboy/fangirl would care about. CNN, I have a twitter...can I start posting my meaningless bullmess and ramblings along with your other hacks? In a country where people are getting layed off left and right if you can afford to pay 3 people to write about this, I'll be glad to apply.

    July 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  13. Ms Winehouse

    Guys don't say nasty things about me, i can see y'all from up here...Peace!

    July 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Erik

      Not saying she didn't go to God but it trips me out how people want to put everyone on heaven, it doesn't work like that.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  14. James

    I think it's funny how those close to her are "shocked" or "surprised" she was found dead. A druggie is found dead...where's the surprise?

    July 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  15. artbyrami

    Cremation is wrong no matter what belief system you have, cremation is a disrespect to the dead body

    July 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • yourdaddy

      do you know anything about buddhism and hinduism which make up HALF of the world's population you ignorant bieetch

      July 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • JD

      How much respect can you have for decayed and stinky flesh?

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

      Are you a mortician? When a person has died, nothing's left but dead meat. The science of preservation of that meat goes back to the Civil War. At all other times in history bodies were pretty much buried the same day they died. In cold weather they could be stored in cold parlours for wakes. Rarely they were preserved with ice. Mummification went out with the Egyptians. Learn some history, Artbyrami.

      Funerals today cost $20,000 or more, including casket, embalming and plot. These are numbers for my town for an inexpensive funeral and casket, BTW. The local funeral industry has a Florida-Georgia lobby that works hard for them in Washington. (I wrote their insurance for nearly a decade.)

      Cremation is clean and simple and does NOT consume arable land in cemeteries. It doesn't pollute groundwater as cemeteries do (with stinking rotting corpses).

      You should also look up the meaning of desecration, BTW. I do not think that word means what you think it means. [/The Princess Bride]

      July 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • biggerballz

      hahah burned!

      July 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Brenda

      my friend, huffing household chemicals does nothing but destroy brain cells. Please stop

      July 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Jay

      More respect than you are worth of, that's for sure ..

      July 26, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Bernie

      I want to be stuffed.

      July 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  16. Orange Sunshyne

    She needed to go to rehab,
    but she said ' no, no, no'.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Erik


      July 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  17. Really?

    WHO CARES?!!! Why does this matter? Why is this making news... REALLY

    July 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • JD

      Evidently you care since you read it.

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

      It's in the Belief Blog, Really. Why are you reading it if YOU don't care?

      You must be deficient in intellect if you're lost on the Internet. How sad.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  18. boka

    I'm usually attracted to jewish women. But I would never pursue relations with them though.

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

      Why not?

      July 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Chartreuxe

      No one wants to know the reasons why, please keep them to yourself where they belong.

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

      me and erik want to know

      July 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  19. tired

    its the belief blog...i don't hear any complaints about the number of christian stories posted...

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

      Now don't go making this a Christian issue, the unbelievers complain just as much about Christian posts.

      July 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  20. Hamoodi

    Really? This shi* is news? Who cares. Cover something else. Im sad that she passed but is it really a problem how Jewish her burial is. FFS.

    July 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Chartreuxe

      Are you deficient? THIS is a FAITH based news area!

      Learn to read for comprehension, Hamoodi, so you can find your location. Look up at the bar. It says 'Belief Blog.'

      July 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Leigh

      I'm with you on that. I liked Amy but, we all knew she would never live to see 30. I would rather hear more about the guy who fell down a sewer after fighting with his lady and got torn up by the snakes in there. Much more interesting. Not really news either but a "funny unless it's you" moment.

      July 26, 2011 at 2:56 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.