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Jews And Tattoos
HMD student chairs events that explores the topic.
Mike Burda } jewish@edu staff writer
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It's that kind of experience.
rowing up comes with a lot of
rules. Don't sit close to the TV,
your eyes will fall out; don't run
with scissors; don't make weird faces or
your face will freeze that way. Growing up
in the Jewish community many of us heard,
"If you get a tattoo, you can't be buried in
a Jewish cemetery."
But here I am, 20 some years later, and
I still have both my eyes, I haven't stabbed
myself with scissors, and I'm still a hand-
some young man. But there is still one
question I've been looking for an answer to:
"Is it true that I can't be buried in a Jewish
cemetery now that I have a few tattoos?"
No one seemed to have a definitive answer.
I've heard everything from yes to no and, of
course, "What would your mother think?"
To explore this subject, I teamed up
with Hillel of Metro Detroit to chair two
events: "Jews and Tattoos" and "Religion
and Tattoos." Held in February, we invited
Rabbi Marshal Klaven from the Institute of
Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss., to
speak in Detroit. He is an expert on Judaism
and tattoos, and has a few himself.
As this is a hot topic, we held the
first program, "Religion and Tattoos," at
Wayne State University. With help from
other religious leaders around the city, we
offered a panel discussion to the WSU cam-
pus, having representatives from different
faiths discuss their views on the subject.
This panel included Rabbi Klaven; Father
Simon Lobo of the WSU Newman Catholic
Center; Imam Mustapha "Steve" Elturk,
imam/president of the Islamic Organization
of North America; and Elder Halbert Crowell
from Greater Christ Temple/Pentecostal
Assembly of Believers in Ferndale. Although
each presented his own opinion and out-
look on tattoos, this discussion was a great
opportunity for different religious leaders to
come together and have a meaningful dis-
cussion about a very controversial topic.
Later that evening, at Great Lakes Coffee
and Bar in Midtown, we held the second
program, "Jews and Tattoos." Co-sponsored
by the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue
and led by Rabbi Klaven, this discussion
brought up the ideas, rules and history sur-
rounding tattoos in Judaism. This program
gave students and young adults a chance
to talk about their own tattoos and what
having or not having a tattoo means to
Participants were able to ask questions
not only to the rabbi, but to each other
while sharing their stories and opinions.
By the end of the evening, this hot topic
became a passionate debate about not only
tattoos, but what we, as young adults in
the Jewish community, feel is allowed and
not allowed in our lives.
Personally, I have yet to come across a
rabbi — Reform, Conservative or Orthodox
who has told me I won't be able to be
buried in a cemetery because of my ink. @
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April 11 • 2013