According to one of the few, remaining, universally respected sources of information on contemporary Jewish life, The New York Times, it turns out that it is okay for Jews to have tattoos. Since it is in the New York Times, it must be okay. I trust their movie reviews, why not their promulgation of religious rulings?
Well, maybe not okay. In any case, there’s nothing about having a tattoo that prevents you from being buried in a Jewish cemetery–the reason cited by many a parent and grandparent, the more dramatic of whom would go on to describe how they would wail at the side of your non-Jewish grave, and “how could you do this to them?” As if the location of the grave and not your premature presence in said grave would be the true tragedy.
In any case, it turns out that getting a tattoo is prohibited in Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” But that commandment, coming as it does on the heels of a similar law that charges, “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard,” might fall under the category of mitzvot commonly ignored by the great mass of non-orthodox Jews and those who do not take their personal grooming tips from the Torah. But, like we mentioned earlier, until they start refusing to bury those whose last meal included a bacon-cheeseburger, you will be able to rest in peace in the Jewish cemetery of your choice.
But what does this really mean for you? More importantly, what does it mean for the 16th Street J? Well, for starters I think a Jewish Body Art Cluster is in due-order at EntryPointDC/Gesher City (have you signed up for a Shabbat cluster?). Also, we may be making some “cosmetic” changes to the Gift Shop. Stay tuned.