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Tattooed Jews

Evocative, disrespectful, proud, antithetic: these are just some of the words used to describe Jews with tattoos. Seth Alamar, who has 30-odd tattoos, calls most of his markings religious or “Jewish.” He has heard all the reasons why a Jew should not get tattooed — including the false myth that he would not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. But despite all the controversy surrounding ink in the Jewish faith, he did not think twice.

“The reason [I got tattoos] is not because I am not religious, it is not because I do not believe in G-d, or even because I am not a devout Jew,” Alamar said. “It is simply because it is my body and I don’t need anyone to make decisions for me.”

Alamar, who connects especially with his arm piece inscription l’dor v’dor, meaning “From Generation to Generation,” ironically hides his tattoos from his grandparents — the generations before him. While some would see the words as an honor, the older generation of Jews associates tattoos with breaking Jewish law, idolatry, improper burial procedure, and the infliction of tattoos on Jews during the Holocaust. Despite its eerie past, many Jews of the new generation are fighting back with ink, expressing themselves with connection and pride.

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