Berlin seeks law change on burials

By Toby Axelrod, July 11, 2014

Berlin's Jewish community is trying to change a longstanding state law banning burials within 48 hours after death.

Yehuda Teichtal, a Berlin rabbi and founder of the city's Chabad centre, and Bension Braun, head of the Berlin Jewish community's religious department, have lobbied government officials in recent months to allow burials to take place within the 24-hour deadline required by Jewish law.

Rabbi Teichtal said he had been working on this for the past two years and met Berlin State Secretary for Health Emine Demirbüken-Wegner this spring.

He said the delay regularly causes problems for Berlin's relatively large Jewish community, officially about 9,000-strong, but numbering 20,000 according to some estimates.

While laws differ in Germany's 16 states, most of them have a 48-hour burial wait time. Most also require burial in a coffin, which goes against Muslim law. However, accommodations reportedly are unofficially made for both Jews and Muslims.

A Berlin senate spokesperson confirmed that discussions were ongoing. She said the state law was modified in 2010 to recognise the needs of minority religions, but that in general "according to modern Christian tradition there is no need to bury quickly".

Last updated: 6:45am, July 11 2014