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. Bob

    '"That can only happen if your body is intact," Saunders said.'
    The funny thing is that bodies are never intact. They eventually crumble to dust, and before that are progressively rotted away. Why wouldn't Orthodox Jews/Christians/Muslims understand that?

    August 1, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • jps

      That's exactly what I was thinking. I don't want my body back after it has been worm food for a couple of centuries. I'm going to be cremated. It's cheaper and takes up less space.

      August 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  2. Isaac

    Religion is a sham. RIP Amy.

    July 31, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  3. Robert


    I didn't know Amy Winehouse died!

    ...Actually I don't know what she's famous for other than being a lush in public.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  4. Sympathy

    CNN, someday your evil will be exposed.

    July 30, 2011 at 5:23 am |
  5. Sympathy

    CNN, why do you reject to post my comments everytime I try to help people from suicide or addiction? Liberals are disgusting.

    July 30, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  6. AvdBerg

    By reading the comments on this Blog it seems very obvious to us that all the foundations of the earth out of course . For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to visit our website http://www.gaychristian101.com

    July 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  7. Bribarian

    I'm guessing they were looking for the cheapest burial.

    July 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  8. Bonnie

    @Sue, the most vicious criminals think the society is unfair to them and they should get away with the massacre of fellow humans just because it's them who did the crimes. They also hate police and anyone in law-enforcement. It's criminals who hate justice. God loves you and provided you the most simple Way to be saved, the faith in Jesus. Humans are evil and there will be eternal judgment.

    July 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • GodPot

      Sue said nothing of criminal's treatment and the current justice system being unfair. She makes the valid point that most reasonable person's would not sentance someone to eternal torture no matter how bad they behaved for the few short years they were on earth. Now you could make the argument that there are people throughout history who might deserve that kind of punishment like Hitler or Pol Pot, but to make the claim that because you were born in a non-Christian country, grew up in another religion and died never having known Jesus that you should be cruelly burned alive for countless eon's? It makes no sense, and anyone saying that is their God's plan for man either worship's a very cruel God or have not thought it all the way through yet. Blind faith in anything can make you end up anywhere, even being an unknowing accomplice to a sadistic ancient deity calling for all man's suffering.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      It is because of the immense greatness of the gift of God to human race, the severity of rebellion against God's intent, His purpose and plan for human race, a and what it caused... and then WHAT IT TOOK to redeem mankind, that the penalty for rejecting God's gift of salvation is so severe ! ! ! IT MUST BE!
      But it is because of the love of sin and rebellion that's in human heart that we can't see this truth, because sin and pride blinds blinds the heart that's possesed by it!

      July 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Sue

      GodPot, thanks for that post, I grow weary of explaining tediously obvious stuff to some of these folks.

      Prism1234, it's simply hypocritical (at best) on your part to claim that on the one hand, we can't understand your god's intent, and on the other hand, claim that you comprehend how your god thinks we should act.

      My statement that your god would have to be an unfair and cruel as-shole if it existed stands and your absurd argument has no merit. Again, I say, such an unfair god can only be considered an AS-SHOLE, all the more so for apparently making it impossible to understand his intent for us.

      You can keep your as-shole of a god story. In your closet, in slience, that is.

      July 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      By reading the comments on this Blog it seems very obvious to us that people need to learn more about the gayness of Christ . The truth of Christ’s gayness is coming out more and more each day. For a better understanding of this scriptural verse we invite you to visit our website http://www.gaychristian101.com

      July 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      You'll see ! !

      No further comment needed!


      July 29, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • A Reply

      @G-pot, Sue, Avdberg, humans are all sinners. You don't feel anything about crimes against God because you are criminals. He is not like you. He brings justice upon everyone.

      July 30, 2011 at 5:13 am |
    • Sue

      So "A Reply", this god brings "justice" in the form of eternal torment for wrongs of a short mortal lifetime? Again, such a "god" can only be concluded to be an evil as-shole.

      Get past your god delusions and start helping to move humanity forward instead of wimping out behind your sky fairy stories.

      July 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  9. PRISM 1234

    It really doesn't matter whether she got buried or cremated... It's her soul that lives on, and that's what's so tragic in her case..... She died the way she lived. Wasted life, wasted chance to know her Maker and to live her life so that when she left this would, she would be with him.

    Honestly, the fame that some acquire in this life is nothing but a curse, becaue it only dam-ns their souls But many have even gained it through making a pact with satan himself, in the first place,... Type in "They sold their soul for Rock-and -Roll" and look into it... Many things are revealed there about so called "stars" we have and had in our pop "culture"....
    They disregard the words of Jesus who said "what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but looses his own soul. For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? "
    They laugh and they mock those words while alive, just as many here on these blogs do, but those are the world they will hear throughout their eternity, while weeping and mourning tgheir loss hopelessly!

    But who listens to those words today?.... Very few do!!!

    July 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Sue

      "those are the world they will hear throughout their eternity, while weeping and mourning" -so eternal torture in hell is an appropriate punishment from your nasty god for mere substance abuse?

      You've just shown that the god that you've created is a complete as-shole; any reasonable human would consider that the punishment that your god metes out to be not just unfair, but truly barbaric.

      You can keep your horrid god fictions. Keep them to yourself, silently, that is.

      July 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Dear Sue, there is one problem you have in your understanding:
      The reality of God, who He is, His character, His ways, and His laws, do NOT depend on your, nor any man's opinion. We don't have choices in "which truth" we'll pick, and what "god" or if any we will acknowledge....

      Democracy, with it's concept of freedom of choosing is a man-made concept, and it's good, as long as it is confound to dealing in our human, social affairs, and as long it adheres to the principles of TRUTH. But Truth and reality is not subjected to our choosing...
      So when you said your mean, hateful words in response to my comment, you have only shown the reality of words of Jesus which He spoke:

      " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
      He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the LIGHT HAS COME INTO THE WORLD, AND MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT, BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS WERE EVIL. FOR EVERYONE PRACTICING EVIL HATES THE LIGHT AND DOES NOT COME TO THE LIGHT, LEST HIS DEEDS SHOULD BE EXPOSED. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

      I believe the secret to YOUR problem lies in the words that I capitalized for you!

      I made sure I included the words above, the ones that speak of God's love and the gift HE gave in His Son...
      God is the God of justice, and balance...
      Because where there is such immense sacrifice, such unfathomable love, that HE would give His own Son to come to the world to save fallen human race, there MUST BE SUCH GREAT JUDGMENT AND PENALTY TO THOSE WHO REJECT SUCH GIFT OF LOVE! ! !
      So, regardless what you or I do with this offer God gives us, it is still the only choice we have, because we all have appointment with Him pending, and what we did with His offer, determines our eternity!

      July 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Bobh222

      Everything you have uttered is an opinion unless you are so arrogant as to believe that you are right and everyone else is wrong.

      July 29, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Sue

      Prism 1234, no, it's your god that's the as-shole, no matter how much you put a capital on "his".

      The stuff about your god's dead son is a worthless argument because an omnipotent being would have no need to sacrifice anything to get a task done or accomplish a goal.

      Take your as-shole of a god and wipe it away, please. Humanity is better off without your delusion and we've heard far too much about it.

      July 29, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      .....and Sue, your hate is swallowing you up, and will overtake you like a cancer... May God have mercy on you and free you of grip satan got you in, that you may see your condition, and have a chance to recover yourself...

      You are a pitiful soul! May the LORD help you! I am not your enemy, YOU are your own worst enemy!

      July 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Sue

      No PRISM 1234, you are the pitiful one, for following a sky fairy fable that is unsupported by evidence and even contradicts itself, and further, describes a vindictive "god" that any kind being would conclude is an evil as-shole.

      Part of your problem is that you lack the courage to face the reality around you and make the most of your short life without depending on a ficti-tious bearded being in the sky to save you. You are a coward.

      July 30, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  10. Belloch

    "Jews with Tattoos"

    Sounds like a great band name.

    July 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Been there done that

      Sounds like an indie rock band.

      July 28, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  11. neptonomist sentry

    Why would God give a crap about this kind of stupid stuff? Proof that all religions are man-made hocus pocus.

    July 28, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  12. DubC

    Just curious...what happens if a jew who does not believe in cremation gets burned alive past recognition...like in a plane crash or car wreck?? From my understanding of the bible God is able to become what he needs to become to fulfill his purposes for ANYTHING. If thats the case I think he can and would restore someone who was cremated either at death or by accident...just curious??

    July 28, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • SARA

      It says they don't belive in mutilating a corpse. Obviously there are different ways to get around this if the cause of death was a fire.

      July 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  13. 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, (10-20% of the Jewish population) 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 28, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  14. Melanie

    frankly speaking, get real, folks, what difference does it make if and when one is dead?!... NONE!

    July 28, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  15. Bonnie

    Jesus came to atone mankind's sin, not just to teach. Angels could have done the teaching, but no one else can atone human souls other than Jesus in the entire universe. Salvation requires repentance and active, exclusive faith in Jesus.

    July 28, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      Sounds like sorcery and blood magic to me. My understanding of the divine is that it is not constrained by laws of sorcery, or anything else for that matter. If the divine loves me, no one need die for the divine to overlook my flaws.

      July 28, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      "My understanding of the divine is ..."

      Friend, your understanding is WRONG! God's thoughts are NOT our thoughts, and His ways NOT our ways. That's what He says! So, if t is that way, then it is very wise for us to SEEK His thoughts and His ways...
      But it is the PRIDE that's in human heart that keeps man from coming to God and to know His thoughts and His ways.

      Oh, the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out... He has hidden them from those who are wise in their own eyes, but revealed them to the humble, and those of broken and contrite hearts...

      You see, God did not leave us without hope, because He said that if you seek Him, you will find Him , when you search for Him with YOUR WHOLE HEART

      July 28, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Stephanie

      Oh come on. There is no need for "Salvation", no need to be "Saved" or "Redeemed". Jesus was simply a prophet who brought people "up to date" (for his time) on what God meant to him. I think its about time that people accepted the bible as a book written by men to instruct and teach what they felt was their history. Many characters in the bible are just that, characters in a teaching story. God is God, but he/she is not a toe the line or else kind of God. Nothing is beyond God and the boy is simply an earthly shell. The spirit needs to shell to be with God.

      July 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Bonnie

      @Rbn-, the justice demands your blood; the reality of life on earth. @Stephanie, you are wrong. The Bible tells those who are outside of Jesus get justice and go to hell. Read the Bible instead of imagining things on your own.

      July 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Brutally Honest

      The Jewish people have been worshiping God for over 5000 years; long before Jesus walked the earth. We believe that all of us are children of God. We do not worship or bow down to any human, no matter how learned or prophetic that person is. The bible also tells us that God does not want us to not make or worship any idols. It is complete arrogance to believe that God would condem a person to eternal hell for not praying to a person or a statue of a person.

      July 30, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  16. Bonnie

    Humans who believe in the one true Creator God are the only normal humans. In order to be saved, we need to believe Jesus died on the cross for our sin and rose from the dead as it is written in the Holy Bible, the eternal Word of God.

    July 28, 2011 at 2:51 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Nice fairy tale... Are you sure you haven't been smoking whatever it was that Winehouse girl was on?

      July 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Stephanie

      Sorry, typos in earlier post :(. I meant to say "the body is a shell that is to be cast off. its a hinderance to the spirit. We don't need a shell to be with God. The bible is a book written by men who probably wrote the tales of Jesus as they had been passed down to them. The authors were certainly NOT the actual disciples they named those chapters after. You have played the game, telephone? In a group of 25-30 people what starts out as a story from person # 1 is NOT the same story by the time it gets to person #25. The Council of Nicea made the bible as it is now (somewhat). Don't tell me those politicians didn't have an agenda to get their 2 cents worth.

      July 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • jon

      Jesus was Jewish.

      July 29, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Bonnie

      Stephanie, that's why God did not entrust His Word to Americans but to the Jews. The Jews preserve the text correctly. The Dead Sea Scrolls proved it. Stephanie, you are uneducated like most of secular Americans, that's why you think the way you do.

      July 29, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  17. Muneef

    Tattoos as well not allowed for Muslims and has to be removed by laser.

    July 28, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  18. Bonnie

    Believers in one true God must not get tattoos. Cremation saves land, doesn't it?

    July 27, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  19. Norm

    I swear I was just waiting for him to say "And, ya know, Jesus had some pretty good points...."

    July 27, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  20. AGuest9

    Tired of hearing how “tragic” the death of Amy Winehouse was? Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Jesse Reed 26 , Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24 , Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23, and Sheldon Tate 27 all NAMES of Marines that gave their lives last month, for our country. No media for them? No mention of THEIR names? Honor THEM by sending this on.

    July 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Ellie

      That is an old list, and not true.

      July 27, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • B Glover

      Thank you! Hard to believe in divine plans these days.

      July 28, 2011 at 9:35 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.