Can a person who died by suicide be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

Answered by
Rabbi Mark Washofsky, Ph.D.

Yes, a person who died by suicide may be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

The ancient prohibition against doing so is based upon the conception of suicide as the conscious and willful taking of one’s life. Over time, however, Jewish tradition has come to view suicide as the result of mental and emotional desperation and, virtually by definition, an irrational, non-willful act. Jewish law puts an extraordinarily strict construction upon the definition of “suicide”; therefore, even if all evidence points to suicide and even if that evidence satisfies the investigative authorities as to the cause of death, our custom is to bury these individuals, to engage in mourning rituals for them, and to eulogize them appropriately.