My life from the moment I awake each day until I go to sleep at night, is in large measure defined by Jewish values and practices. I love being a Jew; I love Judaism. As such, in keeping with Jewish tradition, I have never, ever considered piercing any part of my body or getting a tattoo.
As a Jewish religious educator and youth worker, I have, as recently as a few hours ago, taught that Judaism believes that the human body is sacred and as such, we have no right violate it in any manner. While I can’t give you the exact number, I have gently encouraged numerous Jewish teens who had, or were considering getting a tattoo or ear pierced to consider Jewish teachings that each of us is a designated care-taker of sacred body God selected to house our soul. Denigrate or elevate your soul as you will, but your body is a gift you must lovingly care for, not violate.
Then, just a few moments ago, I saw this picture and accompanying explanation. The tattoo that French Olympic swimmer Fabin Gilot’s has on his arm is one that I, a son and grandson of Holocaust survivors, who bears the names of two relatives exterminated in the Shoah, would consider wearing with my pride.
The IOC’s refusal to permit a minute’s silence for victims of the Munich terror attack 40 years ago has already provoked a protest from the Italian team, who staged a minute’s solidarity silence outside the Israeli team’s quarters.
Now a French swimmer has found another method of commemoration. Fabien Gilot, a member of the gold medal-winning 4 x 100 team raised his arm in triumph to reveal a tattoo in Hebrew reading: אני כלום בלעדיהם – in English: I am nothing without them.
It is a tribute to his grandmother’s Jewish husband, Max Goldschmidt, an Auschwitz survivor and a huge influence on his life.