Cremation of first Jewish victim of coronavirus in Argentina stirs controversy
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Cremation of first Jewish victim of coronavirus in Argentina stirs controversy

Local authorities deal with Ruben Bercovich’s body in contravention of mainstream Jewish law, prompting dialogue between rabbis and officials

Illustrative: A man holds an urn at a cremation funeral parlor in Rome, October 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Illustrative: A man holds an urn at a cremation funeral parlor in Rome, October 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Despite protests from a Jewish community near Buenos Aires, the first Jewish victim of the coronavirus in Argentina has been cremated by local authorities, causing controversy and sparking concern among other Jewish communities throughout the country.

Cremation of the dead is not allowed under mainstream 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 a best practice to avoid further spread of the disease.

Rabbis and officials have already compromised on leaving open mikvehs, 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.

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