February 20, 2019

Tattooed Jews

Someone commented on a tattoo of mine at Target. We got to talking about tats and I shared that I actually have seven. She told me she wished she could have one, but since she’s Jewish, she couldn’t. I told her I was Jewish and loved mine. Although she tried to cover her judgment, she was clearly questioning my faith for having tattoos. It was rather entertaining.

I LOVE my tattoos. They are small, tasteful, and meaningful to me. They commemorate important moments in my life and are in English, Hebrew, Kanji, and some drawings. I got one when I got married, when I got divorced, when I got my green card, when my son was born, when my father died, when my son had his Bar Mitzvah, and when I got cancer. They matter to me.

My dad was not a fan of tattoos. He thought they were for sailors and whores. Bless him. He would not be too happy with all my ink, or that all four of his children have tattoos. In fact, the day my father passed away I went with my brother and sisters and we all got tattoos to honor him. He would have loved it and hated it, but mostly loved it. My dad was hilarious.

There is no black and white answer on Jews and tattoos. To suggest Jews with tattoos cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery would mean tattooed survivors of Nazi concentration camps could not be laid to rest there, which is ridiculous. In the ancient world Egyptians, would tattoo gods on their bodies. When Jews left Egypt and worshiped one God, our not having tattoos set us apart from everyone else.

Some religions differentiate the body and soul. Jewish tradition doesn’t really separate the two. Jewish spirituality invites the good in both. The body is sacred and should not be marred unnecessarily. We devote our body to sacred service. A tattoo doesn’t serve this purpose and is simply unnecessary, but one would be hard pressed to convince me it is a sin and somehow reflects badly on me as a Jew.

I am Jewish and I have tattoos. They don’t make me a bad Jew. I think they actually makes me a sexy Jew. I love mine and as for adding more, should I be blessed with grandchildren I will put their names on my body. Tattoos are an art form and I admire ink when I see it on others. I’m lucky to have great quality work even though all of mine were done by different artists.

To the lovely girl who admired my beautiful tattoo, do what makes you comfortable. Do not however judge those who have made a different choice for themselves. I am a tatted super Jew and there is no shame in my ink, even though you tried to throw some on me. Live and let live. My ink shouldn’t mean anything to anyone but me and if I may just give you a friendly reminder, our God does not judge. He loves and accepts. Lighten up, get a tat, and keep the faith.