Eugene ben Arcady, a Jewish man who is a citizen of the Republic of Moldova, died of the coronavirus while in Novosibirsk in Russia. His family and friends faced a difficult time returning his body to Moldova, and therefore decided to cremate the body. They sent an urn with his ashes to Chisinau, but cremation is a violation of Jewish law.
Eugene’s sister, who is in Israel, very much insisted that he be buried in accordance with all the Jewish laws. Nathan Sherif, Chairman of the National Business Licensing Committee of the Israeli Bar Association, was instrumental in solving this problem. On his recommendation, she turned to the Chabad Lubavitch of Chisinau — to Rabbi Mendy Axelrod.
Rabbi Mendy Axelrod accepted the request of Eugene’s sister to carry out the necessary funeral rituals, but learned that the body had been cremated. According to Jewish law, you cannot be present at the funeral of a deceased who was cremated. Additionally, it is an established law that cremated remains should not be buried in a Jewish Cemetery. Rabbi Mendy Axelrod, together with another rabbi, decided that it was possible to bury Eugene in accordance with Jewish law since, in this case, he himself did not decide that his body should be cremated; the decision belonged to his friends. A person is responsible only for his own actions if they were done voluntarily and with full awareness of the consequences. Thus, all of the above restrictions do not apply to people who were cremated against their will.
The soul of the deceased undoubtedly asks for heavenly mercy and blessing for those who have made sure that his body was honored in the proper way.
Throughout our history, the implementation of traditional Jewish funerals has been the highest priority. At a time when many non-Jewish fellow citizens regularly cremate their deceased relatives, Jews were determined in their commitment to burying their dead with dignity, honor, and in accordance with Jewish law.