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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. Truth

    The Bible says there is eternal justice by judgment for all who are outside of Jesus. God takes care of innocent victims. Jesus died for mankind so undeserving sinners can be saved by faith in Jesus. Saved sinners live a new, godly life. Jesus is the Savior of the world.

    July 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Free

      What if you don't want to be 'saved'?

      July 27, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • tallulah13

      I have done nothing in my life that is so horrible that a person has to be tortured to death to atone for it. If I had done something that terrible, I should be the one tortured to death, not some stranger who has done nothing wrong. You christians who celebrate murder are beyond my comprehension.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • fred

      @Free – you are free ! I cannot recall a single time God saved anyone that did not need or want saving

      July 27, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • fred

      tallulah13
      Christians should not be cheering murder. What Christ said was simple and straight so all could understand. God himself paid the full price for sin, he took the blows for us. This was HIs gift to mankind that rejected him then, now and tomorrow. It is not about you doing right or wrong it is about accepting the fact "it is finished". Jesus did everything necessary and all we need to do is ask Him into our lives.

      July 27, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Bonnie

      @Tallulah13, Don't be stupid. Gluttony and approving perversion are fatal sins.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • No One Is Safe

      @fred – if it gets you through the night, more power to you. just so long as you don't try to push your views on anyone else, what you believe in your heart is fine with me.

      @bonnie – you are the perfect example of what i hope fred does *not* become. *you* are the one who is not only condoning, but _advocating_ a "perversion". in short, shut yer piehole... nobody's interested in your sick, twisted, emotionally-and-intellectually-stunted view of the world.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Free

      fred
      Are you saying that there are people who do not need 'saving'? So much for 'original sin' and the universal mission of Christianity to save all of mankind from hell.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • fred

      Free,
      Not at all, it was in reply to "what if you dont want to be saved". Those who reject Gods help normally get what they want.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  2. coachb12

    According to Wikipedia the Jewish belief is that only the most evil go to Hell.If you are a good person who did some bad things. You go to a place similar to The Christian Pergatory and your soul will cleansed and you will go to Heaven.The most time you spend there is about a week.Amy will do some acoustic shows,get her soul cleaned and make her debut in Rock and Roll Heaven opening for Janis Joplin.

    July 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  3. Beatrice

    "Do not practice divination or sorcery. Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD." (Leviticus chapter 19) The de-christianized West gets into everything the Lord abhors.

    July 26, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Beatrice

      Even the Lard abhors me.

      July 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Susan

      Also from Leviticus 19

      19 “‘Keep my decrees.

      “‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.

      “‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.

      “‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.9

      26A “‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it."

      27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

      Are these just as important for Christians to follow today? How about Kosher dietary laws?

      July 27, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  4. Beatrice

    I'd get a tatoo too but they wouldn't do it on my saggy flabby skin.

    July 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Beatrice

      A fake again.

      July 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Beatrice

      I did a fake tatoo but no one wants to see it.

      July 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  5. Beatrice

    I'd get a tatoo but they can't do it on my saggy flabby skin.

    July 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Beatrice

      A fake

      July 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Beatrice

      So I did a fake tatoo but no one wants to see it.

      July 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  6. Beatrice

    People tatoo because of stupidity or willful rebellion against the one true Creator God.

    July 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  7. Beatrice

    Wow, she was another Jewish talent? She should have been reading Torah and Gospels instead of being depressed. How tragic she destroyed herself when there was no longer any Nazis to bury her talent alive...

    July 26, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • california girl

      Beatrice, She should have been reading Torah and Genesis instead of being depressed? Depression is a real medical problem. Have some empathy for this DEAD woman!! Yes, she was troubled, but not everyone chooses to immerse themselves in religion. Remember–it is a choice, not a mandate!

      July 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • @California Girl

      No one knows how much of depression is self-imposed and how much is really medical. Too bad she got into such substance instead of giving thanks to God. People need God. I feel depressed in thinking of all the lost talents when Nazis massacred the Jews, Germans and other Europeans.

      July 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  8. Beatrice

    Study shows the amount of tatoos and skin exposure parallels to the person's immoral lifestyles. God prohibited tatoos in the Bible. In Asia, traditionally only gangs and their victims got tatoos. Barbarians tatooed heavily. Believers in God must not tatoo. It's attraction to the evil.

    July 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  9. kcc

    I think she overdosed.

    July 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  10. Barry

    Does any of this actually matter? For some part of Amy's life, she was tormented by demons. I hope friends and loved ones tried to help. Its all too late to worry about what is right or wrong. Your telling me, that 6 million innocent souls burnt in ovens for nothing more than who they were will be deprived of anything after their tortuous murder. Hogwash! Better to ask if resurrection really is all what its made up to be in this world that is not worth a dam.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  11. roMomma

    No one has any place to question how her parents decide to grieve. Whether she was tattooed or not, cremated or buried it does not affect the pain her family feels or the person she was inside. How narrow minded and cruel some people can be and frankly its just a piece that takes up space.
    May she rest in peace and her parents feel the prayers and positive thoughts that Amy's millions of fans are sending.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Jim

      Yours is very simplistic outlook.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  12. Carrie Ann

    Rest in Peace Amy, and thank you for your art and for being a kindred sarcastic spirit who took the p*ss out of idiots...kind of like the ones leaving nasty comments about you...the ones who are ignorant to the disease you had and the pain it causes innocent people around you. Maybe you can greet their loved ones when god forbid they follow your path to an early grave. I love you.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  13. ittybitty

    May God Bless you Amy. You were a human being with a real sould and a heart that broke just like everyone else. No amount of money and fame could take that away from you. you were human with inner demons an insecurities and heart break like the rest of us. If moneyand fame was the answer you and hundreds and thousands before you would still be with us. Rest in peace now.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  14. mart

    Hashem has Amy's music on his ipod.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  15. Fletch

    Who cares.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  16. Wendy

    NEWSFLASH – Jews in camps did not CHOOSE to tattoo themselves nor did they chose to be put in ovens and cremated.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Trey

      Succinct and correct...word.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • ittybitty

      Grow up and leave this site please. your a very nasty sad human being.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Anthony

      Because Hitler tattooed and burnt Jews, so much more we should stick to the rules and rituals of Jewish burial.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  17. Caroline

    Jews tattooed in concentration camps are exempt because it wasn't their choice.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  18. betteru

    So if she were non-Jewish, would this article even exist? Jews can be truly annoying.

    July 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • sheppard

      No where near as annoying as your post...

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

      goyim can be truly annoying too, i.e. the mass murderer in Norway.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • bill

      Antisemite

      July 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • McBobby

      I agree with your statement, except for the second sentence, that was unnecessary, but yes if she wasn't Jewish, this article would not have been written.

      July 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • california girl

      The fact that she WAS JEWISH is why this subject was explored. You are too pea-brained and anti-semitic to realize that, though!! Have some respect!!

      July 26, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • california girl

      Stupid anti-semites like you are annoying.

      July 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  19. fred

    Atheists and agnostics I need some help. Are there any preferred ways of burial for those who have refused to acknowledge God or deny God? What does one say if they attend the funeral. Has anyone ever attended one?

    July 26, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • what

      Atheist believe they are 'Immortal' it becomes a moot issue...

      July 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • osborn

      What are you talking about? Why should funerals be only about religion? How about just remembering the person who died, celebrate their life and gather together with others for support in your time of grief. I guess if you can't bring yourself to face mortality you can pretend that there is an after life. What an archaic idea it is to believe that how your body is buried would have any effect on anything. I say cremate my useless corpse, cemeteries are a waste of real estate!

      July 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • fred

      What,
      Well most on this site seem logical but many get ticked at Christians. One of my atheist friends just let me know I best not lay some guilt trip on his kids or he'll be coming back from the grave to get me.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Jaded

      As an Atheist and speaking only for myself, I don't care how my body will be handled when i'm dead. If i'm cremated, buried, shot out of a cannon or dumped in the sewer, it does not alter in any way the fact that my consciousness (my soul for you religous types) not longer exists. For my family, it some type of method brings them some comfort, then they can do whatever it is.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • fred

      Osborn,
      Seemed that Jewish and Christian funerals the comfort is in “joe is in a better place now, or joe is with God etc.”. This event would have a note for me of finality for the person. So, I would of course keep my faith out of it unless privately someone asks. I just did not want to offend anyone on such occasion. But, I do agree on keeping a corpse around is a waste of real estate.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • fred

      Osborn,
      It is more than pretending if a member of the family remains. The family may respect your wishes but unless they are all agnostic / atheist there will be some very anxious times.

      July 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • wej

      What about others should I turn to dust? My family may be overrun by well intended Jews and Christians so I best prepare them. They know where I stand (or lay) but no sense letting them face the excuses or listening to 10 top reasons why I may not be burning right now.

      July 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  20. Byrd

    This is probably the most disgusting headline I've ever read. How damned Jewish do you think Amy was? At least she's now free of BS like this. Rest in Peace, Amy.

    July 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • GHF

      I was just going to post something similar. Who gives a damn how Jewish her burial is, with the exception of her family. Can't the sniping stop for a little while and can't the media focus on her talented song writing and vocals for now?

      July 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Moshe

      She may not have been religious, but she was as Jewish as any other Jew – according to Judaism.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Jim

      BS ? Is this what you call it?
      This "BS" keeps people from killing each other on a gran scale every day of our existence. If someone can get away with killing you Byrd, and not getting caught, be glad there is something other than police to stop it.

      July 26, 2011 at 6:57 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.