Jews, or: Tattoos

A triolet

Had I not been born a Jew ~
Prob'ly wouldn't have become one.
P'raps I'd have gotten some tattoo,[1]
Had I not been born a Jew...
Or... more than one! P'raps a few...
Though... hard to get tat ink undone...
Had I not been born a Jew ~
Prob'ly wouldn't have become one.


  1. It is against traditional Jewish religious law (halakha) to get a tattoo; I was raised in a non-religious home but knew that tattoos were verboten because my parents were very traditionally-minded.

60 thoughts on “Jews, or: Tattoos”

  1. Very cleaver piece David. I did not know this but I imagine it would be consider defiling the body which we are suppose to treat like a temple. Sending my love to you and your family. xoxoxo Joni

  2. Very funny, and yet poignant, poem. Enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing. I’m still not tattooed myself, but I figure if I ever get one it’ll be a simple yin and yang symbol on my forearm. The thin skin. I was raised Catholic and, even though I’m an atheist now, Catholics, like Jews, thrive on guilt. If it doesn’t hurt—it didn’t count. Wishing you peace.

  3. My youngest daughter was raised reform, got a couple tats, and then had the full Orthodox conversion. It’s all good! Funny though, since neither my other daughter isn’t religious, nor am I, but we are very anti-tat (for ourselves)…

  4. I’ve definitely thought about this question. If I hadn’t been born Jewish, would I feel compelled to convert? The truth is that I could envision a parallel universe in which I was born and raised in a positive, moral faith community with wonderful parents/role models that wasn’t Judaism…and I don’t know I would have felt compelled to convert in that case. I struggle to envision a circumstance where I would feel compelled to have an Orthodox conversion to Judaism had I not been born Jewish.

      1. Sure, a lot of people do.

        I can tell you that I would not be one of them. I didn’t become a BT for love (I was in a serious relationship that would have required it, and I broke off said relationship instead – no regrets), and I cannot envision a circumstance in which I’d convert for love either.

  5. I loved the poem. Tattoos are the popular thing right now. I can see people who get them might regret the choice in the future. I figured this poem is about more than the tattoo deal.

  6. I got my first tattoo at 65 and my second and last, one month later when I retired. They are extremely meaningful to me. My aunt was shocked when she saw them. When I explained what they meant, she just shrugged. I am OK with my decision. I respect you for yours.

    I do know what you mean about people hating for being Jewish. It is a difficult thing to understand.

      1. I tried to find my post that has the pictures and explanations. I was unable to. The first one is a butterfly which represents my mom. In the wings are the four initials of my grandchildren. The body of the butterfly is a purple ribbon representing my fibromyalgia. In Hebrew underneath it says past, present, future.

        The second one, that I got for my retirement, is in the shape of a dandelion. The outer spokes are different items for writing and teaching. The inner spokes are paw prints for my love of dogs, and the center has a Star of David.

          1. I knew I was retiring. I was missing my mom terribly. I was quite ill with fibro. I was starting a new phase of my life and I wanted to commemorate it all. I designed the tattoo after months of looking for what spoke to me. Then after retiring I decided I wanted to also recognize what my life had been all about. That’s when I decided on my second and last one. Both can be covered with nothing more than a short sleeved shirt. I don’t regret my decision at all.

      1. How profound are the few who know
        What to say and when to say it
        They help us to learn, lean, and grow
        How profound are the few who know
        An answer back is wise and slow
        No hurried language; they know it
        How profound are the few who know
        What to say and when to say it?

      1. Yeah, you’re completely right there. When you’re a minority, people sometimes just abuse and hurt you for the sake of it, as many are majoritarians. Like Hitler had the crazy idea of racism, and murdered Jews in millions, I don’t know why he hated them so much.

  7. Not raised Jewish, and even I know about tattoos. I don’t have one and never will. But I can see where the attraction for many to follow the trend is strong. Everyone wants to fit in… The poem is very good but it makes me feel a little sad – was that your intent?

    1. My intent was to express how I feel. The tattoo thing is one relatively unimportant example because I don’t want one. But there are plenty of reasons why being Jewish is either inconvenient or scary. It’s definitely easier to be part of a majority group and not have a sense of responsibility to keep your people in existence.

      1. I don’t have a horse in this race, because I’m neither tattooed nor Jewish. You know me though. I’m too curious for my own good. So, my question is can a Jewish person with tattoos be cremated in accord with Jewish law, or is that verboten too?
        In jest, I’ve told my family that I want to be mummified with a seat at the dinner table so I can always sit in judgment. But, if I’m being serious, they can throw my body into a charnel pit, and I will be happy. I sure as heck don’t want my family to waste resources on me after I’m gone, and I don’t want my body encased in lead under six feet of cement as the millennia pass.

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