Natural Organic Reduction — or, more colloquially, human composting — is not only legal in Washington State, but also happening, right now. People are choosing to have their remains rapidly converted into soil. How will Jewish leaders and communities respond to a practice that, on some level, is challenging to Jewish law, to centuries of burial practices, and, maybe, to people’s sensibilities?
In this live episode, recorded as part of the 2021 Big Bold Jewish Climate Festival, we speak with Rabbi Seth Goldstein and Rabbi Adina Lewittes, two religious leaders who’ve thought deeply about human composting, the green burial movement, and what each means for Jewish communities. We discuss how the adoption of the practice may make a real difference in reducing carbon emissions and how the practice realizes important Jewish values. We get into the details of human composting works and bust some myths about death, burial, and what’s required under Jewish law.
Note: Since we include an audience Q & A, moderated by our executive producer, Rabbi Jacob Staub, this episode is substantially longer than our typical show.
Theme song, “Ilu Finu” by Rabbi Miriam Margles. Her album This is the Day is available for purchase at CDBaby: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/miriammarglesandthehadarensemb
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- Human Composting: A Reconstructionist Rabbi’s View (Evolve essay) — Recently legalized in Washington state, human composting is a new alternative to burial and cremation. How do Reconstructionists balance tradition with innovation in this case?
- Recompose — Ecological Death Care — Website for alternative burial program discussed in this episode
- Recompose, the first human-composting funeral home in the U.S., is now open for business | The Seattle Times
- Biodegradable burial pod turns your body into a tree - CNN
- America's First Composting Funeral Home Is Finally Open | Gizmodo
- Alternative Kevurah Methods (PDF) - Rabbinical Assembly — Conservative movement responsum by Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
- Concurring Opinion on "Alternative Kevurah Methods" (PDF) - Rabbinical Assembly — First concurrence to Kalmanofsky responsum
- Concurrence to Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky’s Paper on Alternative Modes of Burial (PDF) — Second concurrence to Kalmanofsky responsum - Rabbi Elliot Dorff