A Jewish woman in her 60s noticed my tattoo. I have a Star of David on the back on my neck with the word Chai (“life” in Hebrew) in it. I noticed her giving me an attitude and lecturing me about my tattoo.
This has happened to me before and every time I am lectured about having a tattoo, it all boils down to their false assumption that Jews cannot have tattoos.
The woman who criticized me, who came from Russian Jewish decent (I, myself am a Russian Israeli Jew) on the other hand, had a whole different spiel. Her words were, “How dare I have this tattoo?”
She also proceeded to tell me about the shooting at the Orlando LGBT night club where innocent people were killed in cold blood, just for being gay.
She told me how members of the African-American community are being shot because of their skin color.
She asked me (rhetorically), “how am I not scared to have it tattooed on me? And why would I want anyone to see that I’m Jewish?”
She continued to tell me about the shooting in Orlando and that I do not know who will see it on the street and will shoot me for being Jewish. Lastly, she told me that I better get it removed fast.
My simple response was, “if someone wants to kill me for being Jewish, let them. I would rather be dead then cover my identity.”
Not liking what I said, she went up to my mother and asked her how could she let me get a tattoo of a Jewish star. She told my mom that I am exposing my identity to the world (like that’s a bad thing). My mom responded to her by telling her that first of all this is not the Soviet Union, or the Spanish Inquisition, or even the Third Reich where we need to be scared of people finding out we are Jewish. And secondly, as an Israeli, born and raised, the Star of David stands for my life and the collective lives of all Jews.
I was happy my mom stood up for me, even though she was never thrilled about my getting a tattoo in general, like most moms would be. Thankfully, my mom understands me, loves me, and my love for Israel and Judaism.
To be proud of my Judaism is the most important factor for me as a Jewish Zionist. The unity of the Jewish people worldwide, the awareness and education about Jewish history and culture is what will attract people to want peace for our amazing nation.
Because I have this tattoo, I have had people of different faiths come up and ask me what it means. I am shocked at the amount of people who don’t know what it means, and instead of judging me, they come up to me and give me a chance to tell them, to represent my people, my country, and Zionism to the apathetic majority. This is a privilege that I do not take lightly.
I am proud to be a Jew. If someone held a gun to my head and told me to give up my religion in order to save my life, I would tell them that I would rather be dead then change my identity.
I love Israel and I love living in America and being able to tell people, advocate, and get involved with organizations to connect Jews in the Diaspora together to represent Zionism proudly to the world.