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Jewish and Tattooed: Prohibited Ink

Jewish and Tattooed: Prohibited Ink

Stories3 min Read

Being a Jew with tattoos comes with its own specialized set of contradictions

I got my first tattoo my second year living away from home. I’d always wanted tattoos as a kid, loved the look of art permanently inscribed on people, and knew it was just a matter of when. My first tattoo was very carefully crafted. I designed a starfish in basic black ink, and photocopied the image several times over so I could look at it everywhere, in case I wanted to change my mind. I asked around to dear friends, and found a female tattoo artist I respected and admired, and who did justice putting my own art on my body. It was a thoughtful process and a decision that ripped open some floodgates that only the internet makes possible — a friend documented my fresh, new body art and posted it to Facebook.

Starfish (photo by Katie Vidan of the author) #Jewish #Tattooed #Jewwithtattoos #torah

A few days after getting my tattoo, I got a long, nasty call from my mother: “Why would you desecrate your body like that?!” She was furious. We got into a heated debate over the phone while I paced back and forth in front of my local coffee shop.

Nautilus on the shoulder (photo by Katie Vidan of the author) #Jewish #Tattooed #Jewwithtattoos #torah

“You can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery!” My mother railed.

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