To Tattoo? Or not to tattoo?

I try not to mix my work and personal blogging, but I recently wrote a post for work that seems to be resonating with a much wider audience than I originally anticipated. For this reason, I am cross-posting the beginning here, with a link to the full article at the end. I encourage you to share your responses to this piece where it is originally posted, or here if you feel more comfortable.

The Loaded Tattoo

Today on Truth, Praise & Help, Renee Ghert-Zand expressed her displeasure at two Israeli men who decided to honor their Holocaust survivor matriarch with a tattoo of her Auschwitz number on their forearms. She, like many Jews, has trouble with tattoos and finds Holocaust remembrance tattoos particularly offensive. While I am also a little uncomfortable with the idea of remembering a survivor by their Nazi-given number, I am not opposed to the idea of remembrance tattoos–even ones on the forearm. As a grandchild of survivors who has seriously thought about getting a remembrance tattoo, I would like to offer a different point of view.

I have always wanted a tattoo, but I never saw the point of butterflies or shooting stars; I wanted something meaningful. And since this tattoo would be permanent, it would have to represent a part of my identity that would never change. The only thing that ever “felt right” was my Jewish identity, which to a large extent is based on being the grandchild of Holocaust survivors. While I would not get my grandparents’ numbers tattooed on my arm like the Israeli men profiled (I would not want to remember them by the number the Nazis gave them) I have considered getting the Hebrew word for “Remember” or perhaps “Love” tattooed on my forearm.

I was not the first person to have this idea. Holocaust remembrance tattoos are not new, but they are always controversial in the Jewish community, especially since tattoos are somewhat taboo according to Jewish law. At the same time, tattoos are experiencing a revival among young Jews, and are perhaps becoming integrated into our generational identity and culture. But could or should I go under the needle myself?


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