Tuesday, May 17, 2011


My last post was about Jews and cheeseburgers. This one is about Jews and tattoos. If it seems like Jews doing things they're not really supposed to do is a new theme of mine... well, sort of, but not really. At all.

Why? Because cheeseburgers don't prove anything, except a disregard for kashrut or maybe waist size or, far worse, a lack of the culinary creativity needed to make them taste good without any udder ingredients. Stigadish.*

This is entirely different from Jews who wear a חי where people can see it - not on a necklace, but on their skin. That magen David necklace can come off when you're wandering a hostile eastern European country. My kippah can make appearances only if and when I want it to.

It takes guts to give up the option of religious anonymity. Sure, you can keep your sleeves rolled down, but you're marked, voluntarily, for life. I'm not talking about the rebels who get yeshiva logos tattooed on their arms to spite the establishment, or the generation of Israeli girls with butterflies on their shoulder blades. I'm talking about the Jews who are confident enough in their identity not to hide it -- the 'tough' Jews we admire, maybe with a tinge of jealousy, even while we're not so sure we approve of the way they show it.

Because in the end, I think these tattooed Jews represent the pride that we so desperately need to have in our own culture, our own people. They want you to know who they are, and they couldn't care less whether you like it or not. It's active, in-your-face Judaism in a much more permanent and public way than going to synagogue or keeping kosher.

Personally, I already have one permanent mark identifying me as a Jew, and I'm content to stick with it. But I can finally answer the question my grandmother asks when people do to their bodies anything she wouldn't do to hers: Why would they do that?!

I still can't explain pierced tongues to her. But permanent, inked-in Judaism? I get that. And I like it.

* "Stigadish" is Hebrew for exactly what it sounds like.

1 comment:

  1. Re - your permanent mark.

    There are enough people doing the same thing for other or similar reasons these days that it alone won't necessarily identify you as a Jew (prima facie, so to speak... obviously your reasons for that are uniquely Jewish).

    As for Zionist/Jewish tattoos - I have mixed feelings. I admire one's courage in placing a permanent marker identifying oneself with the Jewish nation and Israel, but at the same time, I have a very strong negative reactions to tattoos as such, so I prefer to admire such things from a safe distance. :)


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