Skip to comments.For Jews, tattoo yearning pits pride against faith
Posted on 07/28/2008 6:34:51 AM PDT by WilliamReading
BOCA RATON Mo Brenner is taking Jewish pride to a new and controversial level.
The 27-year-old Boca Raton tattoo artist boasts a large Star of David on his upper right arm engraved with Abram, his Hebrew name.
He'll gladly sketch Hebrew writing and Jewish stars on his clients at Boca Body Art, because what could possibly be a better way to celebrate religion than with a shrine that will last a lifetime?
"A tattoo should really mean something to you," Brenner said. "Mine represents my religion and family."
With the tattoo phenomenon continuing to explode - 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 to 40 have at least one tattoo, according to the Pew Research Center - some Jews don't want to be left out.
But it's a contradiction for a religion that most believe forbids tattoos. Perhaps even more stinging, millions of Jews were forcibly tattooed during the Holocaust.
"I was always taught that nice Jewish people didn't do that," said 40-year-old Boca resident Amy Lubetkin. "When I think of tattoos, I think of the Holocaust and how tattooing of all these Jewish people was another way to take away their identity, take away from who they were."
Bruce Ratoff, a 55-year-old Boca resident, considers himself an only moderately observant Jew, yet there are certain lines he refuses to cross.
"Tattoos are a permanent mutilation and thus a direct violation of Jewish law," Ratoff said. "The Nazis were aware of this - it was a deliberate desecration when they tattooed concentration camp inmates. Why then should we deliberately choose to desecrate ourselves? I find this trend most disturbing."
Strangely enough, this is one of the reasons that younger Jews, like 18-year-old Alexis Engelhardt of West Palm Beach, are heading to tattoo parlors.
Engelhardt's grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, so he considered having "remember" tattooed on his forearm in Hebrew.
Ultimately he decided against it because he didn't want such a visible tattoo to hurt his chances at future employment. Instead, he modified a common tattoo of surfers - nautical stars at the front of the hips - using two Jewish stars.
"My parents were kind of upset when they found out, and so was my grandma, but it isn't that big of a deal," Engelhardt said. "I think you should take religion as more of a guideline instead of just rules saying this is how you should live. I think banning tattoos is a little bit ancient, and we're kind of past that."
Tattoo artist Brenner, the great-grandson of Jews caught up in the Holocaust, is thinking about adding yellow coloring to the Star of David on his arm.
Jewish people were forced to wear yellow stars and badges in Nazi Germany.
"I want to represent what they went through," Brenner said.
It's an argument that puzzles orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Uminer of the Chabad Jewish Center of Martin and St. Lucie Counties.
"That memory is not a good memory," Uminer said. "The memory of the Holocaust, that terrible act of barbarism that happened while the whole world watched and was quiet, is not something of remembrance. We shouldn't forget, but if you want to be clear that you're Jewish, wear a yarmulke (the traditional Jewish skullcap) on your head.
"How can you care about your religion when you disobey it (by getting a tattoo)? It just doesn't work."
Anthony Fratello, the Reform rabbi of Temple Shaarei Shalom in Boynton Beach, said he has very mixed emotions about tattoos on Jewish people.
He believes that the biblical text barring tattoos is "a bit vague" and that the real stigma these days stems from the Holocaust.
He's heard of people tattooing exact replicas of the numbers that were tattooed on the forearms of their relatives in concentration camps.
"There are those who see it as a way to reconnect with people that perished in the Holocaust, and I can see both sides of the argument," Fratello said.
However, he believes there is something sacred about keeping the body unmarked.
"I think there's a great deal that we can learn from the traditional perspective to say that it's your body, and God gave it you to take care of," Fratello said.
Many Jews have been reluctant to get tattoos because of a long-standing belief that the deceased can't be buried in Jewish cemeteries if they are tattooed.
However, even Orthodox rabbis like Uminer say that's a myth.
The Star of David of the Palm Beaches cemetery in West Palm Beach has no policy regarding tattoos, and Mount Sinai Memorial Park - an Orthodox cemetery in Miami - doesn't have its employees view the body before it is buried.
Once Ann Pardes of Boca Raton learned that prohibiting tattooed Jews from being buried was "just an old wives' tale," she permitted her son to get a tattoo in remembrance of his grandmother.
"I couldn't say no," Pardes said. "I thought it was for a very good reason, and it's a beautiful tattoo in memory of my mom. I'm even considering getting one myself."
Still, don't expect all Jewish people to go against a tattoo-forbidding mantra passed on for thousands of years.
"Every place I look, every movie star, every rock star, every athlete has tattoos, so I'm not surprised at this trend," Lubetkin said. "But I'm still going to instill in my children that Jewish people don't get tattoos. When my son was as young as 4 and he'd see somebody with a tattoo, he'd say, 'Mommy, that person's not Jewish.'"
Me, I just don’t understand the whole tattoo phenomenom.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
In many ways, this is a completely bogus news article. Out of the millions of Jews in South Florida, they were able to locate one Jewish tattoo artist and not one other Jew who was tattooed.
The Palm Beach Post is just making a story out of nothing here . . I guess they think it will sell lots of newspapers as it was on the front page of the Sunday edition.
I can’t understand why Christians think being tattooed is okay, and Jews think it is unacceptable. I always cringe when I see a woman wearing a tattoo . . I guess I almost expect a Sailor to be wearing one . . or a member of a motorcycle group.
by coloring your tatto, mo? yeah, that will really give you the proper perspective of what the holocaust jews went through, you mo-ron.
“I want to represent what they went through,” Brenner said.
Then he should tatto a number on his wrist, not a star of David.
No brains, no pains.
Ping!...........Isn’t this against the “Law”?...........
Middle aged women with tattoos - not charming.
I’m just not a tattoo fan. I have a small one that I got when I was younger and dumber but a couple of hundred dollars will make it go away.
and as there is a good chance you dislike jews almost as much as you hate tattooed folks, this should be a fun one. go get 'em!
I live in Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach Post is a left-wing rag that specializes in bogus stories and liberal bias - just ask Rush!
This guy sounds like a trailer-park-loving ex-con/prostitute wannabe...
Warning! This is a high-volume ping list.
The lack of tattoos, piercings and other modifications is one of the things that attracted me to my girlfriend in the first place. She doesn’t even wear earings. Just a Claddagh ring on her finger.
Yes, Leviticus 19:28.
“A tattoo should really mean something to you,” Brenner said. “Mine represents my religion and family.”
Moe Brenner also serves Ham and Lobster to celebrate his Passover Seder. Moe is just a very deep guy.
He believes that the biblical text barring tattoos is "a bit vague"
He probably also believes that Leviticus 18:22 is also "a bit vague"
I don’t think we have any of those here.
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