Amare Stoudemire, a professional basketball player and practicing Jew, has a Star of David tattoo. In an article at ProBasketballTalk, Kurt Helin calls this tattoo "ironic." But he links to a well-researched article that does not clearly define whether or not Star of David tattoos or tattoos in general are in fact banned in Judaism.

What is the current perception of tattoos in Judaism and does that perception change based on the content of the tattoo?

Is Amare's tattoo indeed ironic?

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    See also: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7480/…
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 23:24
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    SamTheBrand, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for bringing your question here! I look forward to seeing you around.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 23:25
  • I would like to say ive had a fondness of the jewish society and culture I recently found out I am part jewish for me that answer comes full circle because ive always felt on a personal level I some how belonged with the jewish culture I simply adore the fact I am jewish on the other hand ive never practiced the faith not by my own fault but because I was cheated and not aware of my ethnicity and that now saddens me but i did go and get a star of david tattoo befor realizing that i may have insulted the very thing i was so very proud of being now that i have this tattoo id like to say i am so
    – user2600
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 7:54

2 Answers 2


The Bible prohibits tattoos. (Leviticus 19:28). I'm sure the athlete you describe means well, but it's still prohibited if he is in fact Jewish. He was likely mistaken or unaware. (Alternatively, a non-Jew could choose to express solidarity with the Jewish people by obtaining a Jewish star tattoo, if it floats his boat; that really doesn't do anything one way or the other. The tattoo prohibition is only for Jews.)

There is some discussion whether only symbols, words, and the like are prohibited; or even things like permanent makeup or artificial dark spots used in reconstructive surgery; but the Jewish star is a symbol and thus definitely prohibited.

The Talmud actually does one better -- what if I tattoo upon myself: "I am for G-d"? Or "I belong to G-d"? Still prohibited.

As Rabbi S.R. Hirsch explained (in his Bible commentary, Frankfurt, mid-1800s), the only permanent mark we inflict on our bodies is circumcision for men, as required by the Torah. For us to permanently mark ourselves with any other image implies an allegiance to something other than G-d. Okay, so why not tattoo yourself with "I follow G-d"? Because that implies it was a personal choice up for you to make!

  • But is it ironic?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 20:26
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    That is not actually the discussion of the Talmud. The Mishnah clarifies that it only applies to idolatrous tattoos. The Gemara then asks whether only idolatrous tattoos or whether a Jewish religious sentiment would also be prohibited. It's not until the Rishonim that there is a discussion of a rabbinic prohibition of tattoos in general. Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 11:55
  • Additionally, it is a Machlokes rishonim on what is considered a d'rabanan issur (rabbinic prohibition) and what is d'oraisa (torah prohibition). The argument is whether only writing a name of Hashem is assur and images of idolatry or if even a tattoo of anything else. The Rambam speaks about this in sefer madoh, Hilchos akum, and it is the 49th mitzvah in Hilchos akum.
    – Neiro_yair
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 17:58
  • Re. rav Hirsh... Nowadays there are methods of removing tattoos. The Brit though is irreversible. Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 13:38
  • @ElShteiger Late to the party, but foreskin reconstruction is possible nowadays.
    – ezra
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 23:01

I think the conclusion of that article sums it up very well. Indeed, in halachic Judaism, tattooing is forbidden, see Shalom's answer. (I can't say for Reform or Conservative, though I imagine they'd be more lenient.) However, tattooed people are not shunned or treated differently.

Personally, I find a tattoo of the Star of David ironic. Generally, if a person gets a tattoo of the Star of David, it's to show pride in their Jewishness. It's ironic then, that they chose (unknowingly) a method that is forbidden by G-d.

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    I don't know any Reform or Conservative rabbis who permit tattoos. (And yeah, commentless downvotes are frustrating because you don't know what to improve. My sympathies.) Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 13:02

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