the schmooze

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Note:  The Yiddish word meaning “to scatter” is “tseshitn.”
Funeral directors call the ashes of the deceased, “cremains.”

“Wildcat scattering” is the scattering of ones’ ashes widely, with great purpose and often without permission.  It’s a way for people to find their own ways to ritualize grief.  Many of these ceremonies are videotaped and posted on You Tube and other Web sites.

The Vatican announced that Catholics may be cremated but should NOT have their ashes scattered at sea, kept in urns at home, divvied up between family members, or preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. Instead, they should be placed in a sacred (“heylik”) place, such as a cemetery or church area.

These new instructions were released just in time for Halloween and “All Souls Day” on Nov. 2, when the faithful (“getray”) are supposed to pray for and remember the dead (“toyt”).

There have been many humorous (“humoristish”) jokes  and  fascinating stories about the disposal of ashes.

In 2016, an opera lover sprinkled the ashes of his mentor into the orchestra pit at the Metropolitan Opera,  This prompted the evacuation of the theater while police probed the incident.  The Met canceled the rest of the matinee performance of “Guillaume Tell” and later canceled an evening performance of “L’Italiana in Algeri.”

A distinguished pathologist, Derek Roskell, wants his ashes scattered over Tony Blair.  Joy Behar (“The View”) joked that she wanted her ashes scattered over George Clooney.  Rolling stone, Keith Richard, snorted some of his  father’s ashes.  “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” was a documentary starring Candice Bergen, Rachel Zoe, and Ashley Olson.  And at Disneyland, a woman left some of her husband’s ashes in a Donald Duck topiary.
   (Source:  “Love, Honor, Cherish and Scatter” by Jeffrey    Maslow,

In 2005, a man ran onto Lincoln Financial Field during a game and began sprinkling the ashes of his late mother, who was apparently a big Philadelphia Eagles fan.  He was arrested, fined $100, and sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

Disneyland is reportedly a favored place for “wildcat scatterers.”  The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are said to be the most popular spots for such dustings.
   (Source:, Bess Lovejoy, “Cremation Is    on the Rise, but Where to Put the Ashes?”)

F-a-s-t  f-o-r-w-a-r-d to 2016.  Tom Sullivan, a Honolulu resident, doesn’t want to be buried at sea, shoveled 6 feet underground.  Instead, he wants to be preserved on the ocean floor as a “reef ball.”  These artificial spheres of cement (“tsement”), mixed with cremated remains are laid to rest on the sea floor by teams of professional divers. They’re meant to act like a coral reef.  Hawaii Memorial Reefs is a company which hopes to sell the concept to others.  The company anticipates charging from $5,000 to $7,000.  On its website, the company advertises reef balls—priced from $2,995 to $7,495—as a “gift to the environment and generations yet to come.”   (Source:  “Rest in Reef:  Eco-Conscious Baby Boomers   Try Sleeping With the Fishes” by Alejandro Lazo, WSJ,   Oct. 28, 2016)

What does the Talmud say about ashes.  The Talmud states that it is forbidden (“awser”) to mutilate a corpse. When a dead body is buried, decomposition takes place as a natural process, whereas in cremation, the human remains are intentionally destroyed.  A comparison is made with a scroll of the Torah, a Sefer Torah.   Even when this is no longer usable, because the letters have faded, it is buried in the soil rather than destroyed directly.    (Source:

Orthodox groups don’t allow cremation.  Orthodox Rabbis frown severely on cremation.  They have been especially virulent in their opposition (“opozitsye”) to the practice.

Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, a prominent Conservative Rabbi in New York City, said, “I try not to push this button in a manipulative way, but after the Shoah, I think the thought of burning bodies is just unbearable—unbearable to me, at any rate.”

And, according to Rabbi Victor Appel, “It is a mitzvah to bury the dead with all proper respect. Jewish tradition defines the mitzvah as the burial of the body in the earth (“erd”).  Some Reform Jews have adopted the practice of cremation.  While this method of handling the dead is certainly contrary to Jewish tradition, there is no clear-cut prohibition of cremation in the halachic literature.  The Reform rabbinate seeks to encourage the traditional practice of burial in the earth whenever possible.  Some Reform rabbis do not officiate at memorial services for those who have chosen cremation.”

MARJORIE WOLFE shares the words of Stanley Victor Paskavich:  “Whether you lay cold in the ground or warm in an urn, the turmoils of life aren’t a concern.  For some this may be the perfect rhyme except for those you leave behind…”


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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