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Jewish Cemetery, Burial and Mourning Customs

Tattoos Allowed or Taboo?

Is it true Tattoo'd personthat if I have a tattoo I cannot be buried in an orthodox cemetery? I’m not referring to Holocaust markings.

Answer: The Torah forbids us from tattooing our bodies. Nonetheless, one who has had tattoos can still be buried in a Jewish cemetery. The source of this prohibition is Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

That said, every Jewish burial society has the right to enact its own criteria for who may and may not be buried in their plot. This stems from people’s desire (or right?) to be buried in proximity to others of their choosing. So while technically there is nothing in Jewish law which prohibits a tattooed person from being interred in a Jewish cemetery, certain burial societies — not the majority of them or even close — will not bury among their own a person who willingly tattooed him/herself, as it is a permanent exhibition of violation of Jewish Law.

This practice by certain burial societies led to the common misconception that this ban was an inherent part of Jewish law.

Chani Benjaminson,