Photo by Ariel Jankelowitz
My Top 5 Worst Jewish Tattoos post caused a lot
more controversy than I anticipated. With the threat of a Nuclear Iran,
Holocaust denial and Lady Gaga performing in Israel, you'd think that the
American Jewish community would have more to be concerned with. Apparently not. There were a lot of thoughtful comments, however; one even suggested I provide a positive list of top tattoos among the Tribe. Einstein (a Jew.)! And so, without further ado...
The Five Best Jewish Tattoo Ideas:
5. Meaningful biblical quotes in ancient Hebrew: I have a friend of a friend who has tattooed his entire back and one full sleeve in these messages. They range from reminders on how he should live his life, humbly and aware of the needs of others, to descriptions of the better world that is to come. Wrapping himself in these words, he has turned even his corporal skin into a living, breathing Torah.
4. A Menorah: The Menorah has as much traditional Jewish perceptual connection as the Star of David, but providing two distinct advantages over the Star: First, the Menorah allows for internal embellishment, giving the tattoo artist an opportunity to create an intricate and proud piece. Second, the Menorah harkens back to Chanukah and the victory of the rugged Maccabbees over those who sought to oppress the Jews. Whereas the Jewish star tattoo seems passive in many cases, the Menorah declares an adamant, almost macho declaration of Judaism.
3. Portrait work: As shown above with my own tattoo of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, portraits of heroes can inspire daily. There are so many Jewish faces to choose -- and as most recently demonstrated by the cast of Glee, the Jewish people are a bunch of lookers. Add to that a long history of unusual costuming and we have a near Broadway range of expressive, intense Jewish faces to tattoo that could become as iconic as Che Guevara's blowing mane.
2. Judaica Art: Ranging from hand-paintings to elaborate, artistic installations, Judaica art has a long history of representing the people and culture of Jews through creative means. The soft colors and painting techniques of Eastern Europe would work well with some of the new Abstract tattoo artists out of Europe (like Noon). The Sephardic style stuff, full of sand colors and vine-like, interconnected lines, is inspiration for artists specializing in tribal and blackwork. Bonus points if you get something from Mark Chagall!
1. Propaganda posters. There is a rich visual history of early Zionist propaganda posters, like the wide selection found here on Zionistposters.com. Celebrate our return home with some powerful graphic statements of our not-so-distant past.
Bonus Suggestion: Craig Dershowitz! Yes, you heard me right. Anyone who gets my name or likeness tattooed upon themselves wins a free lifetime membership to Needles and Sins.
[Editor's note: N+S is free. A Dershowitz portrait, however, will cost you a lifetime of celibacy.]