Argentina's first Jewish coronavirus death is cremated, sparks controversy

Cremation of the dead is not allowed under religious Jewish law.

Old part of the Jewish cemetery of La Tablada, in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/DARIO ALPERN)
Old part of the Jewish cemetery of La Tablada, in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/DARIO ALPERN)
Despite protests from a Jewish community in northeastern Argentina, the first Jewish victim of the coronavirus in Argentina was cremated by local authorities, causing controversy and sparking concern among other Jewish communities throughout the country.
Cremation of the dead is not allowed under religious Jewish law.
Ruben Bercovich, a 59-year-old businessman and father of three, passed away on Thursday in Resistencia, the capital of the northern Chaco province. Bercovich, owner of the BercoMat construction materials company, had returned to Argentina on March 9 after a trip to the United States.
His death and subsequent cremation has started a dialogue between Argentine rabbis and officials over a possible compromise to uphold Jewish law. Authorities said the cremation was the best practice to avoid further spread of the disease.
Rabbis and officials have already compromised on leaving open mikvahs, or Jewish ritual baths. Those who wish to use one correspond with the government and get a code to enter once they are deemed healthy enough.
Bercovich was active in Jewish institutions in the Chaco community and represented Argentina in golf in global Maccabiah Games events.