Kosher Tatts? No but ...Tatts and Jews – two things that, despite traditional prohibitions, are beginning to become more and more related. I mean the idea of Jews getting tattoos is still considered novel enough that the topic is persistently newsworthy. It has been noted that many secular Jewish parents who don’t mind if their kids keep kosher or go to synagogue, freak out at the idea of a tattoo. A lot of that has to do with the uncomfortable associations that tattoos have with the holocaust as well as the popular myth that Jews with tattoos cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

So boii alerted me to a couple of recent articles on the subject and I figured I’d share them with you. The first, titled Jews With Tattoos appeared recently in the Boston Globe. They discuss several Jews who in defiance of tradition, have adorned their bodies with tatts, like “Gabe Kapler, the muscle-bound Jewish right fielder for the Red Sox, has 11 tattoos, including a Jewish star on one leg and the words “Never Again,” in reference to the Holocaust, on the other.” Gabe’s tattoos as well as his image as a veritable gay icon (with a Prince Albert piercing where the sun don’t shine) haven’t hurt the love affair the Jewish Press has with him.

The Boston Globe article was rather conventional and ended with the standard shmaltzy quote from a pro-tattoo holocaust survivor:

“To me it just means we can make our own decisions now,” says Steven Ross, a 73-year-old tattooed Auschwitz survivor and a driving force behind the Holocaust Memorial near Faneuil Hall. “In a few more years, there won’t be any more survivors left,” he says. Then, the only Jews with tattoos will be the ones who asked for them.

The second more interesting article was one that appeared in Body Modification Ezine. In this first person account , Liz Polay-Wettengel begins with several tattoo/body modification references found in the books of Ezekiel and Isaiah, for instance:

“One shall say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ and another shall use the name of Jacob, and another shall mark his arm ‘of the Lord’ and adopt the name of Israel.”
– Isaiah 44:5

Well, I can certainly appreciate the Jewish pride exhibited by Polay-Wettengel:

Body Modification is just as much a part of my life as my faith in Judaism. I believe that my modifications beautify my body and bring joy to my life. They do not take away from my faith in God. My personal practice allows me to be who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I also appreciate the fact that Judaism, despite it’s oft stated abhorrence of tattoos and most body mods, still finds a way to be inclusive of those that feel differently. The one really sour note that I got from this article was the odd passage where in the midst of her defense of body modification, Polay-Wettengel goes off and criticizes one of the most cherished of Jewish traditions, the ritual of circumcision. I mean I am all for being cool but coolness is a relatively recent phenomenon, whereas the Jewish culture and tradition that she takes such pride in is kind of you know, ancient and timeless. But for the continuity represented by certain rituals that she takes umbrage with, she’d have nothing to take pride in. I’m just sayin’ that’s all….

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • “One shall say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ and another shall use the name of Jacob, and another shall mark his arm ‘of the Lord’ and adopt the name of Israel.”
    – Isaiah 44:5

    I think that this refers to the obligation for Jewish men to put “tefillin shel yad” on their left arm every morning, the arm closest to the heart, which should be pledged to G-d. This statement should not be used as a way of permitting tattoos.

  • Hey Skylar, don’t tell me, tell Polay-Wettengel. I just report them, I sure aint making a paskin on anything and I sure as heck am not providing ANYONE with a heter. In other words little boys and girls, do not print up this article and pass it on to Mom and Dad and say – look! Jewlicious says its ok. That’s a decision that’s between you and God. I guess.

  • I happen to be a young Jew with a tattoo, and plans to get many more.. I have found the experience to be life affirming and deeply spiritual.. I believe that the person getting a tattoo should make a sound judgment as to what he or she puts on their body.. I am not a fan of getting a tattoo just to have one.. I personally got my first one 2 years ago in rememberance of a part of my life that I do not want to forget.. To me my tattoo is not only a statement but a reminder of many good times with friends in high school, parties, and just growing up in general.. I plan to get several more tattoos in the comming years, the first of which will be religious in nature, having my given Jewish name tattooed within the star of david.. I look at this as being an affirmation of my faith and heritage rather than a sin against gods wishes.. God wants us Jewish people to live life to the fullest all while “following the word and path of his teachings”.. To me I am simply following my path on the road of life, and enjoying what God has granted me.. I hope this helps some of you! Andrew

  • i am trying to find owt how to do “those how die never live” or some thing els for my arm. plese hlep!!!

  • Now more than ever, I’m so glad to have all the “judeo-tattoos” I have – 8 total – several of which were done in Tel Aviv. I sport them proudly and welcome admirers and curious gawkers.

    Am Yisroel Chai !

  • I’m thinking of getting a star of david tattoo and am wondering if anyone knows a site with images I could look at.
    Thanks 🙂

  • I was thinking of getting the hebrew letters for “am yisrael chai” tattoo’d on my lower back. I think it would look gd 🙂 but was wondering if it would be taken ok seeing as im not jewish or israeli. im british. but would love to bare that slogan 🙂

  • I have just had my first tattoo on the inside of my right arm with my name in hebrew. It looks fantastic .I believe if you keep your faith and proud of being jewish and if the wording is relligious >I thick it doesnt matter to jewish law

  • I’m not Jewish but I’m converting and I’d love to get the star of David tattooed on my ankle with the words ‘Never Again’ underneath it. In school we just saw the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ and it opened my eyes more than they were before.

  • maria Says:
    January 6th, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    I’m not Jewish but I’m converting

    FYI, if you’re truly converting, then be aware that the Torah forbids tatooing.

    Of course, you could get the tatoo before your conversion but it will stick out like a sore thumb afterwards in religious circles. But if the Torah shuns it, why do it?!

  • I’m thinking of getting one that says “Kish Mir In Tuchas”…no need to tell you where that would go.

  • Chutzpah Says:
    January 7th, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I’m thinking of getting one that says “Kish Mir In Tuchas”…no need to tell you where that would go.

    Above your upper lip so no one will make a mistake? Go on! You know you want to! Be the first on your block!

  • my best friend is a survivor, quite elderly now. when he passes, i shall get his number tatooed on my left arm to carry forward knowledge of this horrible holocaust. i am not jewish.

  • BS”D

    >> I believe if you keep your faith
    >> and proud of being jewish and if
    >> the wording is relligious
    >> I thick it doesnt matter to jewish law

    Going against the explicit will of Hashem is not a trivial matter. There is a specific precept against making tattoos. There is no precept abot being proud. So which Jewish law and which faith are you talking about?

  • As it turns out, all these years later, we did circumcise our son. We did the research, spoke to a rabbi and made the decision that was best for our beliefs and our family. That’s all I ever asked for, was for people to make their own personal decisions based on all the avenues available.

    And now, all these years later, I am even more tattooed and even more devoted to my Judaism.

    • Great meeting you at the GA Liz! Imagine… after all these years!! I am so glad you chose circumcision! Smegma sucks.

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