The New York Times reports today that you shouldn’t believe
your grandmother: Tattoos are kosher :
Nearly every Jew, from those who go to synagogue only on holidays to those who dutifully follow Jewish law, has heard that adage. It has deterred many from being inked, even as tattoos have become widespread among N.B.A. players and housewives alike.
According to a 2007 poll of 1,500 people conducted by the Pew Research Center, 36 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds and 40 percent of 26- to 40-year-olds have at least one tattoo. Still, even Larry David was so haunted by the cemetery edict that he wrote an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in which he pays off a gravedigger to have his mother reburied in a Jewish cemetery despite a small tattoo on her behind.
But the edict isn’t true. The eight rabbinical scholars interviewed for this article, from institutions like the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University, said it’s an urban legend. It was most likely started because a specific cemetery had a policy against tattoos. Jewish parents and grandparents picked up on it and over time, their distaste for tattoos was presented as scriptural doctrine.