Human Composting: What is a Jewish View of Natural Organic Reduction?

Earlier this year I was honored to be a part of the Big Bold Jewish Climate fest, speaking about Jewish views of human composting, along with another rabbi, Adina Lewittes. Our presentation was also part of a live podcast recording through Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations, a project of Reconstructing Judaism.

Now that Washington State as legalized Natural Organic Reduction, I was invited to think about what might be a Jewish response by a member of Temple Beth Hatfiloh. That thinking turned into an essay, Human Composting: A Reconstructionist Rabbi’s Response, and then the podcast episode. You can listen here:

Episode 23: Hidden Jews in the 21st Century Evolve

To many, the Spanish Inquisition calls to mind one of countless historical examples of the persecution of the Jews. Or maybe it conjures Mel Brooks’ macabre, comedic roost in “History of the World, Part I.” Yet, for hundreds of thousands of people, the Inquisition represents a historical drama that continues to shape their lives. In the past few decades, a growing number of the descendants of Jews who had been forced to flee, convert, or hide Jewish practices during the Inquisition have been seeking to reconnect with their Jewish roots. At times, they have been embraced, other times shunned, and, too often, encountered Jewish experiences that didn’t authentically reflect their Sephardic roots. We talk about all this with Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, a scholar of Spanish Jewry and former congregational leader. Rabbi Berner's latest book is Listening to the Heart of Genesis: A Contemplative Path (Wipf and Stock), a fresh, contemporary approach to the stories and themes of Genesis that includes the practice of Kri'at Hakodesh, Sacred Reading. For her research into the medieval Spanish Jewish community, see her book, On the Western Shores: The Jews of Barcelona During the Reign of Jaume I, el Conqueridor 1213-1276. To broaden the discussion, we also speak with Rabbi Barbara Aiello, who grew up stateside steeped in her Italian Jewish heritage. Nearly 20 years ago, Rabbi Aiello returned to her ancestral homeland of Calabria, Italy to help rebuild Jewish life. She founded Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sul, the first openly functioning synagogue in Calabria in nearly 500 years. Theme song, “Ilu Finu” by Rabbi Miriam Margles. Her album This is the Day is available for purchase at CDBaby: Visit our home on the web — Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversions: Subscribe by Email at Read these show notes on the web at This podcast is produced by Reconstructing Judaism. Visit us at ( Special Guests: Rabbi Barbara Aiello and Rabbi Leila Gal Berner.
  1. Episode 23: Hidden Jews in the 21st Century
  2. Episode 22: Hope as an Ethical Imperative
  3. Episode 21: Fighting Antisemitism and Racism in Minneapolis
  4. Episode 20: America's First Bat Mitzvah
  5. Episode 19: Environmental Justice and Race

One thought on “Human Composting: What is a Jewish View of Natural Organic Reduction?

  1. Marc Brenman

    Can we experiment with Ted Cruz? Asking for a friend. I mean, the Hebrew Bible includes human sacrifice in many places. Is it time to reinstate an ancient tradition?


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