Not Chosen, Just Posin'

I just got a job with a Jewish magazine. I'm not Jewish. They think I am.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

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My sister called me last night to tell me she’s coming to visit; that she wants to come into the office and meet my co-workers. Normally I’d have no problem with it, but she’s covered in tattoos. Seeing as how tattoos are taboo in Judaism...well, the last thing I need is to be questioned about things to which I don’t have an answer. On the other hand, it seems that Jewish people tend to do what they want. If it doesn’t fit into their current sect or “belief paradigm” they can surely fit into another.

A while back I mentioned an email I had received from a reader about her Jewish roommate who was so obsessed with pigs that he even got a tattoo of one on his arm:

"I'm not Jewish, but I live with a Jewish guy who is obsessed with pigs. He has a bunch of pig knick-knacks, a pig screensaver on his computer and he just got a pig tattooed on his left forearm. He has a tattoo of a radish on his right forearm, so he was never normal to start with..."

I responded that I wanted to interview him and write an article called The New Jew: What You Can Expect Generation X to Bring to the [Seder] Table.

Due to my sister’s pending arrival and what seems to be a growing trend that I'd like to write about in a future issue, I’ve done some quick, skimming-of-the-surface type research on the subject. Here's my quick assesment of the history backing the restriction and the responses backing the art:

1) Tattoos are forbidden due to Leviticus 19:28, which states: “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”

2) Some believe that getting a tattoo disgraces the memory of the Holocaust and its survivors (Holocaust survivors still bear their concentration camp tattoos).

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3) Many Jews believe a tattoo will keep them from being buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Seemingly universal responses by "dissenters" to each argument against tattoos:

1) "I’m proud to be Jewish, so I wear Jewish symbols on me permanently"

2) "The tattoo is not a mockery of all our people have gone through. If people take it that way, that’s their prerogative."

3) "Not being buried in a Jewish cemetery? That's just a myth that won't seem to go away."


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As in any religion, there are many Jews who choose not to translate their scriptures literally. As far as tattoos go, this practice of turning a blind eye to ancient prose certainly applies. This is what I like most about Judaism. Jews do as they please and hope their religion will follow in suit. As far as I can tell, it usually does.

All of this said, I assume my sister will walk into the office to my co-workers' collective lifted eyebrows and some rolling of the eyes. Of course, the rolled eyes will come from the ladies. My sister's quite the Catholic vixen and is always game to give another girl a run for her money.

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