More Jews Opt for Cremation

Numbers Rise Despite Religious Edicts Requiring Burial

Different Choice: Jews still choose to be buried at higher rates than the general public. But cremation is increasingly popular, despite religious edicts and tradition.
thinkstock
Different Choice: Jews still choose to be buried at higher rates than the general public. But cremation is increasingly popular, despite religious edicts and tradition.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 27, 2012, issue of June 29, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Neither CANA nor any other body keeps reliable statistics on the proportion of Jews who choose cremation. Estimates are difficult to compare, as some insiders count the proportion of burials in Jewish cemeteries that are of cremated remains, while others measure the proportion of deaths that result in cremations, wherever the remains end up.

Extrapolating from the available figures, it appears that the proportions of Jews who choose cremation vary widely based on geography.

Cremation rates in and around Philadelphia appear to be particularly high, according to some funeral professionals in the city. Brett Schwartz, a funeral director at Goldstein’s Rosenberg’s Raphael Sacks, a large funeral home with two locations in the Philadelphia area, said that 14% of the deaths they handle are cremations. Joe Levine, of the city’s other major Jewish funeral home, Joseph Levine & Sons, said that roughly 10% or 11% of the funerals he handles are cremations.

“If you were to go back as little as 15 years ago, it was 3%,” Levine said.

Congregational rabbis in the city placed the proportion of cremations at which they had officiated far lower, suggesting that Jews not affiliated with congregations are choosing cremation at a higher rate. And Levine disputed the notion, put forward by Schwartz and one other area funeral professional, that cremations are more common among Jews in Philadelphia than other cities.

Another area where experts cited relatively high rates is New York State, where Richard Fishman, director of the New York Department of State’s Division of Cemeteries, estimated that 8% of burials in Jewish cemeteries are burials of ashes. In Chicago, Botbol said that 6% to 7% of the deaths handled at her funeral home are cremations.

Ten years ago, Fishman said, the proportion of burials in Jewish cemeteries in New York that were of ashes was “infinitesimal.” That’s changed. “It’s not scientific, but it’s definitely moving up,” he said.

In Toronto, which has a large Orthodox population, William Draimin of Toronto Hebrew Memorial Park said that cremation rates were very low — 10 or 20 out of some 1,500 deaths per year. And Stan Kaplan, executive director of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts, which owns 106 cemeteries throughout the state, said that less than 1% of burials in the cemeteries he overseas are burials of ashes.

One funeral director in Seattle, Ross Kling of the Rosebud Funeral Service, said that 3% to 5% of Jewish deaths in the city were cremations. But he estimated that at one particular Reform synagogue the rate was as high as 15%.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.