Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Pink Yellow Badge

Tattoo Yellow Badge
Photo is courtesy of Shloma Menachem Mendel Rosenberg who bears this tattoo on his right calf. Copyrights: Shloma Menachem Mendel Rosenberg 2007
Shloma wrote to me:

I am a Gay Orthodox Jew. I know that sounds strange, but, besides the obvious, I
keep all the commandments I possibly can. I got the tattoo to commemorate two groups of people. First, my family members who died in the camps and second, to remember something that is often forgotten, that gay men were interred in concentration camps. I have read many books on the topic, and the gay prisoners felt that they were in more danger than the Jews, so they often tried to switch to the yellow star or the red triangle, rather than the pink triangle that designated them as homosexual prisoners. If a prisoner was both Jewish AND gay, they wore a star with the yellow point up and the pink triangle on top of the yellow one, pointed down. I also felt that I was taking back the symbol from being a symbol of shame to a symbol of pride in being Jewish and Gay.

I put a great deal of thought into getting the tattoo, since it is commonly believed that tattoos are forbidden to Jews. But when I investigated the sections of the Talmud that dealt with tattoos and found that the taboo was actually based on the fact that idol worshippers would tattoo pictures of their false gods on their bodies, and Jews were forbidden to scratch into their skin any image of a false god or any memorial to a dead individual. I made the decision that my tattoo was basically a symbol of pride and did not fall into the forbidden categories. I know that most Talmudic scholars would disagree with me, but I had to do this for myself. I already had many tattoos from before I became Torah-observant, so one more didn't seem all that heretical to me. When I go to the mikveh I am often told that my tattoos are a disgrace. I usually tell the person that they are lucky that every one of their sins didn't leave evidence etched into their skin, so they should examine their own sins before criticizing me for mine...

I grew up for years thinking that only my father was Jewish, and therefore I was not. However, shortly before my mother's death (alevasholem), I found out that her maternal grandmother was from Iraq and she fled when it became too dangerous for Jews to live in Iraq... At the time I was actually seeking Orthodox conversion, but
after finding all this out the need for conversion was moot.

4 comments:

Leah said...

This is the most amazingly post-Modern thing I think I've ever seen in my life!

Flávio S. Armony said...

Impressive!

R Arellano said...

I deeply bow to your commitment to finding the truth of your life. Shalom. I am a non-jew who just had the star of David tattoed on my left rib, actually I had three of them; in homage to Viktor Frankl, whose book Man's Search for Meaning, saved my 14 year old life, Etty Hillsum, whose life and vibrant understanding transcended hatred and despair, and Eli Wiesel who stood as a testament to the need to bear witness. Shalom.

zeevveez said...

Dear Arellano,

I"ll be happy to publish photos of your star of David tattoos. Could you send them to me?