Mind, Body & Spirit | Religion & Jewish Life | World

Cremation of first Jewish victim of coronavirus in Argentina stirs controversy

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — The first Jewish victim of the coronavirus in Argentina was cremated by local authorities despite protests from the local Jewish community.

Ruben Bercovich, a 59-year-old businessman and father of three, died 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.

Cremation of the dead is not allowed under religious Jewish law, but Argentine authorities said its the best practice to avoid further spread of the disease.. Officials have begun a dialogue with Argentine rabbis over a possible compromise.

Rabbis and officials have already compromised on leaving open mikvahs, or Jewish ritual baths. Those who wish to use one must get a code from the government that allows them to enter the bath if they are deemed healthy enough.

Bercovich was active in Jewish institutions in the Chaco community and represented Argentina in golf at Maccabiah Games events.