Just outside of Philadelphia, my neighborhood was a mixed working class group of people. It was a dream for many of our parents to get out of the city and into the ‘burbs where there was more room to run, grass to own, and less noise. Left in the city were clear cut lines in the “sand” of who lived where. The Polish, German, Puerto Rican, Italian, wealthy and poor Jewish neighborhoods were marked by the letters on the store fronts. The language would change from one street to another informing the visitor which neighborhood they were entering.
Not that it was like entering the ‘hoods of the Bloods or the Crypts. You just knew where you were shopping and where to get the best bakery goods, pickles, and meats for your family. As a kid, I loved exploring my grandparents neighborhood (the Jewish one) where there were nice and cranky shop owners. Some loved us running in for tastes of goodies that they offered…sweet pecan rolls, elephant ears, enormous dill pickles fresh out of the barrels. Their accents were thick from Eastern Europe and their Yiddish was funny when mixed with English.
It was a different world from the ‘burbs where I lived with all the other American kids who assimilated appropriately. Most of my friends had no accents, though many spoke a foreign language at home. No one in my neighborhood spoke Yiddish or knew Hebrew. And while, this is a whole different blog/book, we didn’t ever mention Yiddish at home. Secrets are funny things. With Jews of that era as I understand it, keeping their Jewish heritage secret wasn’t all that unusual. (I wasn’t actually told I was Jewish until my mother and grandmother passed away)
So flash forwarding oh so many years, I was sitting outside of the Anthropologie in Green Hills with my rescue dog, Albie. With 10 other dog foster parents and their dogs we introduced the pooches to any interested person who came by. Albie wasn’t sure he liked this event, but I enjoyed meeting people and showing him off.
A young woman sat down on a step with me to chat with the two of us. I noticed a tattoo on her ankle and asked her about it. She smiled with pride, telling me “It’s Hebrew”. duh. I asked her the translation. I don’t recall her exact words but it was Jesus based, and she thought it opened the door to then share the gospel with me. I put up my hand and told her that I’m Jewish with a clear finality that there was no more to be said regarding the subject.
When I came home I did some research. Apparently Justin Bieber got a tattoo in Hebrew to share his Christian faith. Clearly the trend has taken off, based on all of the photos I found on line.
The above image translates ‘take the world and give me Jesus’.
And it bugs me. I’m sure this annoyance will pass and it’s just a moment in time as I dig into my heritage. Knowing that people were slaughtered for being Jewish not that long ago, I just get my panties in a twist that it seems so easy for people to get a tattoo in Hebrew…and not be Jewish. I’m well aware of the fact that lots of people get tattoo’s in foreign languages EVERY day. But I think Hebrew is different. And I think Hebrew used for Christian purposes is also very different.
No one owns a language or how it’s used. But am I the only person who finds this just a wee bit insensitive?