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Today on Tablet

Tattoos and Jewish pride

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Today on Tablet, Jonathan Papernick writes about his decision to have his sons’ names tattooed on his arm. The reactions of his family members, especially his father, ultimately trouble him.

After I got the tattoo, I found out that I was wrong, my own mind failing me once again; prisoners were, in fact, numbered by the Nazis on the underside of their forearms as well as the outside, the indelible numbers a silent testament to a terrible legacy. But still, I figured letters are letters and numbers are numbers, each with entirely different intentions. And I chose my right forearm and not some other, more private part of my body, in part because it’s the one I greet people with, make a fist with, gesture with as I speak; I wanted people to see my boys’ names, and I wanted them to see proud, bold, Hebrew letters announcing that I am Jewish and not ashamed. I had gone through years of self-loathing and denial as a teenager, and I felt this somehow helped even the score.

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Today on Tablet

Tattoos and Jewish pride

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