Today, Amy Winehouse was cremated at the incredibly young age of 27. The cremation followed a Jewish funeral service. For those who are aware of Jewish customs, cremation is prohibited, as are tattoos, which Amy also had all over her body. Questions have arisen as to whether Amy's cremation was in violation of Jewish law.
Amy's funeral was overseen by a rabbi, and, reportedly, prayers were recited in both Hebrew and English. The singer's family also intends to 'sit shiva,' a Jewish tradition of mourning. Yet, Amy's body was cremated following the funeral service.
According to the Executive Vice President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Mark S. Diamond, cremation is "clearly prohibited in Jewish tradition."
The reason cremation is prohibited is that in Judaism, "Jews believe they were created in the image of God, and should return to God as intact as possibleÂ—no embalming, even, if possible."
Although Amy Winehouse's parents could have overridden her preference to be cremated, if that was, in actuality, Amy's wish, they chose not to. Her father, Mitch Winehouse, said it gave his family comfort to know that their daughter was happy when she died. It is likely that, if it was her request to be cremated, that they abided, as it would comfort them to know they were honoring her wishes.
Diamond also said that people are living now in "the modern world." He said, "An increasingly significant number of Jews are choosing cremation. It's not something I would encourage, but we live as a part of the world."
Diamond also said that the wearing of tattoos being against Jewish culture "goes back to the Bible... But that, in no way, would absolutely preclude someone from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. We live in the 21st century, and Jewish people, particularly young Jews, have a wide variety of practices and beliefs, customs and rituals, that respect a blend of traditions."
It is a relief to know that, if the final wish of Amy Winehouse was for her body to be cremated, that this was honored by her family and respected by people of Jewish culture. Diamond is absolutely right - times have changed drastically since those laws were set. It is comforting to know that Jewish tradition will not absolutely dictate upon the final wishes of a Jewish person.
The cause of Amy Winehouse's death is still unknown. While her family are awaiting the results of the toxicology reports, it must have brought them some peace to know that other Jews respected their decision to have Amy cremated.