Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl has called on the Government to respect religious traditions on cremation and burial.
She said: “In this critical health emergency, it is important that we do everything we can to save lives. This means rigorously enforcing the social distancing measures put forward by the Government.
“Sadly, however, we know that there will be deaths as a result of this virus. Every death is a tragedy and we are aware that two members of the Jewish community sadly lost their lives over the weekend, adding to the total tally which stands at some 233 fatalities in the UK. Our hearts go out to all victims and families grieving. It is incumbent on all of us to redouble our efforts to prevent the further spread of the disease and further deaths.
“For those that do succumb to this pandemic, it is important that they know that they will be lain to rest in accordance with their wishes. For the overwhelming majority of UK Jews this means that the deceased must be buried and not cremated. This also applies to a number of other faith communities including Muslims and some Christians. We urge the Government to provide exemptions to proposed legislation to mandate local authorities to take account of the religious beliefs when releasing bodies, and not defaulting to cremation, which will only add to the sorrow of grieving families and go against fundamental freedoms of religion and belief. We are grateful to Naz Shah and other MPs backing an amendment in this direction.
“It should be noted that such an exemption would not affect mortuary capacity, as Jews and Muslims seek to bury their loved ones – and so remove their bodies from the mortuary – as soon as possible.”