Pinky Pie

Jews with Tattoos & Me

Posted on: January 29, 2010

I am not those guys, although I do wear a "husband beater shirt." This photo and article are from the January 28, 2010, La Crosse Tribune, in advance of the Shades of Blue Tattoo Show this weekend.

Jews with tattoos & Me

I laugh therefore I am.

I laugh because if I didn’t, the world would be too serious. And cancer – seriously – would be too serious.

Therefore, this blog is about tattoos, body art that is filed with irony for me. But Just about everything these days is ironical.

Shortly after Christmas this year, I was watching one of those chef shows that I love so much, despite not cooking much. I noted to Michael’s girlfriend that I just didn’t “get tattoos.” She really likes them and would love to get a “sleeve tattoo” when she can afford it.

I told her that I didn’t like them, and I wondered how a tattoo looks on wrinkly skin of a  70 or 80 year old. I respect her decision, but secretly hope she never gets that much money. Please don’t tell her I said that.

So who would be the first to get a tattoo after that conversation? Me. Four of ‘em.

OK, these four tiny dots aren’t exactly body beautiful beauty shots. They aren’t the stuff you strut in body art shows.

They highlight the target area for radiation. But they are permanent and as an article in the La Crosse Tribune says, “Think before you ink.”

A couple years ago as I was working on two books about living with childhood cancer, I interviewed a mother who worried about the radiation tattoos on her daughter because of her faith.

Many believe that Jewish law bans tattoos and that having one prevents you from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. And then there is the harrowing image of the numbers tattooed on to the arms of Jews in Auschwitz.

Still the number of Jews with tattoos is growing, especially in the age group of 18-25.

The supposed ban goes back to Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead nor incise any marks on yourself: I am the Lord.”

According to some articles that I’ve read about Jews with tattoos (and yes that does rhyme well), that biblical reference related to Jews once cutting into their bodies during grief following the death of a loved one.

The New York Times article said many Jews still consider tattoos unJewish while some young people have added Jewish images to show the world their faith. There is even a Jews with Tattoos Calendar that was created by the Jewish Voice for Peace Seattle.

Again, some rabbis say tattoos are forbidden and others do not condemn them or those getting body art. Some suggest the young person may not want that tattoo late in life.

My tattoos are just little dots that I can’t see well in the mirror. However, the therapy team found them easily on Wednesday, lining me up perfectly. But then the machine stopped and they could not get it going again, an indication – I hope – of the failsafe systems built into the program. (See previous day’s blog.)

Hopefully, radiation oncology is back in business today with the linear accelerator working again perfectly. Still another part was needed Thursday to make it operational.

I have a plan for if I don’t get radiation today. I’ll take my tattoos and put them to good work at the Shades of Blue Tattoo Show that starts today in La Crosse.

Did I mention irony?


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