The Jewish community of Bucharest, Romania, received a rabbinical exception to bury those who have died as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Shabbat to help bypass Romanian government orders on Friday that such victims must be buried on the day of their death or cremated to stop further spread of the disease.

Both cremation and burials on Shabbat are not allowed under religious Jewish law.

Rabbi Yaakov Rojah from the ZAKA Israeli emergency-response group found a source for an exception, supported by an incident that happened many years ago in Jerusalem that would allow a non-Jew to bury a Jewish person’s body on Shabbat, reported The Yeshiva World.

He then turned to Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, the former chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem and president of the Rabbinical Council of ZAKA, who ruled on Friday that the Bucharest Jewish community is permitted to have a Christian bury a Jewish coronavirus victim who dies on Shabbat in order to prevent the body from being cremated.

“We’re receiving dozens of appeals from Jewish communities around the world to prevent the cremation of bodies in the wake of government directives,” said ZAKA head Yehudah Meshi-Zahav. “We will make every effort to preserve Kavod HaMeis [‘the honor of the dead’] like we constantly battle to do. We daven every day and hope that the pandemic ends, and we can assist in happy events only.”

Support Jewish Journalism
with 2020 Vision

One of the most intriguing stories of the sudden Coronavirus crisis is the role of the internet. With individuals forced into home quarantine, most are turning further online for information, education and social interaction.

JNS's influence and readership are growing exponentially, and our positioning sets us apart. Most Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas. JNS is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

During this crisis, JNS continues working overtime. We are being relied upon to tell the story of this crisis as it affects Israel and the global Jewish community, and explain the extraordinary political developments taking place in parallel.

Our ability to thrive in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters. Monthly donations in particular go a long way in helping us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make during these challenging times. We thank you for your ongoing support and wish you blessings for good health and peace of mind.