James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Environmentalism and the Jewish way in death.

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Today’s Iowa City Press-Citizen has a very interesting piece on environmentally sensitive approaches to burial.  The article notes:

The Green Burial Council is a nonprofit North American organization that works to promote environmentally sustainable death care. A green burial, the group says, is one that does not involve embalming with hazardous chemicals, or the use of metal caskets or concrete burial vaults.

Via Green to the Grave – Iowa City Press-Citizen

Jews will, of course recognize these practices as being normal.  For religious reasons, we do not embalm or use metal caskets.  Certainly, the burials performed at Iowa City’s Agudas Achim Cemetery are performed in this manner.

Impressively, the local reporter picked up on this fact.  Iowa City is Jewishly a very small place and the lack of exposure here to Jews creates a great deal of ordinary ignorance about Jewish practices.  People mean well, but they often just don’t know about Jews and Judaism.

In a few very helpful grafs, the Press-Citizen tells us:

Although the labeling of such practices as green is a modern trend, Jewish burials traditionally have met those criteria.

Rabbi Jeff Portman of Agudas Achim Congregation in Iowa City said nearly all funerals within the faith require a quick burial in a wooden coffin using no embalming fluid.

“I guess the Jewish tradition is about the closest you can get” to green, Portman said.

Reporting like this is a great contribution to local Iowa media.  It introduces what are often seen as strange Jewish practices in a way that is approachable and even praiseworthy.  Josh O’Leary deserves thanks for his excellent reporting in this piece.

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Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 8:57 am

Posted in judaism

Tagged with , , ,

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