Officials in the federal state of Berlin have said that they are searching for a solution to a dispute with the capital’s Jewish community over a law that mandated a delay of at least 48 hours between death and burial.
Jewish law mandates a quick burial – within a day – and Halanat Ha-met (Suspension the burial of the dead) is considering to be a sign of disrespect to the departed.
According to a spokesman for the group, co-director of the local Chabad hassidic community Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel had been lobbying for an amendment to the local ordinance that would “allow burial within 24 hours, as required under the Jewish religious law, once a doctor’s approval for a natural cause of death is obtained.”
The rabbi and other local leaders have met with the State of Berlin Ministry of Health to discuss the matter, the spokesman said.
The rabbi said in a statement that “in the conversations we held with the Berlin Ministry of Health and with Parliament legislatures we found willingness to take our requests into account. In fact, in light of this current law, every case of death, including natural death, becomes automatically a struggle of the Jewish authorities for the release of the cadaver.”
“In all of our attempts to address the authorities, we always emphasize that the current situation violates the freedom of religion of the Jews and that amending the law will be the wise and just thing to do,” he said.
In an email to The Jerusalem Post a spokeswoman said that the ministry was “aware of the issue brought up by Rabbi Teichtal and we are working on it.”
The New York-based Anti-Defamation League came out in support of the Berlin community’s position, telling the Post that it was “supportive of efforts to provide a limited exemption from this law based on a claim that the delay for purposes of determining whether to conduct an autopsy is contrary to the religious belief of the decedent, unless the authorities can establish that there is a compelling necessity for an autopsy in a criminal investigation or imminent threat to public health.”
“We urge the German legislative and Health Ministry officials to adopt the limited exemption,” the ADL said.