Friday, October 5, 2012

Holocaust Homage?

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this photo earlier this week. I really had to think about doing this post, as I do not want to offend anyone at all. I’m just confused. As a Jew, I am prohibited from marking my body, with the exception of circumcision, which is considered to be a mark of faith in God. We all know, or should know, the story of Abraham and Isaac, when God commands Abraham to kill his son in order to ascertain his faith in the Lord. At the last moment, Abraham’s hand was stayed by God, and Isaac lived as a sign of God’s mercy. Of course the Islamic religion claims that it was Isaac’s brother, Ismael, who received this mercy, but that is neither here nor there as far as this post goes.

If you believe in the Old Testament, then tattooing your body is clearly prohibited by Mosaic Law as espoused in Leviticus 19:28, which prohibits "cutting oneself for the dead" and "putting writing/drawings made by incision on yourselves“. So, it seems pretty clear to me what this young man’s responsibility to his religion is comprised of when tattooing is concerned. I am also sensitive to his desire to honor his grandmother, although totally befuddled by the method in which he chose to do it, as well as her apparent adoration of him for it.
During the Second World War, at Auschwitz, Livia Rebak was branded, or tattooed, with the number 4559. This was the way the Nazi’s dehumanized their victims; turning their names into numbers in a ledger, prior to annihilating them en masse. Now her grandson, Daniel Philosof, has the same tattoo. This has me very confused.

On the one hand, it is admirable that he would emphasize with his Grandmaother, almost as if he were cutting his hair in support of her undergoing radiation, or chemotherapy. I can understand the reasoning behind it. But, to mutilate yourself, in violation of your own religion; in effect acting in concert with the people who defiled your grandmother and her beliefs; makes no sense to me at all. It’s almost like handing Hitler a Victory lap, voluntarily scarring another generation of Jews with the same mark of inferiority and shame, simply for being Jewish.
My own feelings are that he would better serve in honoring his grandmother by wearing a big Star of David; proudly proclaiming to the world that he is here in spite of the tattoo which was forced upon his grandmother.

To be sure, this was a very personal decision which both Ms. Rebak and her grandson have made, and they have that right. But I just wish he would have opted to go with the Star of David instead. For, in my mind’s eye, I can see Hitler laughing.

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