Healing Ink Gives Free Tattoos To Those Affected By The Tree Of Life Filming


PITTSBURGH JEWISH CHRONICLE – Craig Dershowitz is an ardent Zionist. He doesn’t eat pork or shellfish, runs a successful nonprofit, and plans to move to Israel in September. But for tattoos that cover his entire body except his face, palms, and the soles of his feet, he’s what your bubbe might call “the perfect Jewish boy.”

Dershowitz is the co-founder and president of Artists 4 Israel, an organization that works to prevent the spread of anti-Israel bigotry through art and aims to help communities and people affected by terrorism and hate. The association was formed in 2009 during Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, known as Operation Cast Lead, when Dershowitz was alarmed by “anti-Israel forces using forms of modern and contemporary art, especially in marginalized communities, to speak of Israel in a negative light. ,” he said.

When he met with the leaders of various groups of Jewish heritage to explain that there was an anti-Semitic problem in art forms such as hip-hop and graffiti, he said: “They made us laugh. of their offices ”.

So, Dershowitz, a Jew born in Brooklyn and based in Los Angeles, started Artists 4 Israel, bringing in graffiti artists and street artists to paint murals on bomb shelters in Israel. The project found its niche, he said, by collaborating with non-Israeli artists on humanitarian aid projects.

“It became the entry point for them to learn and defend Israel,” he said.

In 2016, Artists 4 Israel launched another, more controversial project – Healing ink, which provides free tattoos to cover the scars of survivors of terrorist attacks and IDF soldiers injured in combat. Dershowitz said tattoos help survivors recover their bodies and continue to heal physically and mentally.

On October 3-4, Artists 4 Israel will take Healing Ink to Pittsburgh, offering free tattoos to those affected by the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue building. Approximately 15 Pittsburgh residents will receive tattoos over each of the two days.

Participants do not have to be Jewish, but they must request a tattoo in advance. In addition to members of the Jewish community, Dershowitz said he has a soft spot for first responders and a passion for helping them.

Sharon J. Serbin is a long-time participant of Congregation Dor Hadash, one of three congregations attacked in the Tree of Life building. She has deep roots in the congregation, including as a teacher at her religious school, and although she did not attend services on October 27, 2018, she said the attack affected her greatly.

“I knew some of the dead and others injured,” Serbin said. “I was in this building every week, teaching my students the joy of being a Jew. It was personal. It was the house. It was an invasion and an attack on my community.

Serbin wrote in her Healing Ink app that she was surprised to find out that she is still traumatized by the massacre.

“I knew how I felt for the first year after this happened, but I thought I boxed it up and moved on,” she said. “I hadn’t done it.”

The Pittsburgh project will use local artists as well as a few “heavy hitters” in the tattoo world, Dershowitz said. All artists give of their time.

Despite his confidence in the benefits of Healing Ink, Dershowitz, 44, understood the project would have its critics. Prior to launching the initiative, representatives from Artists 4 Israel spoke to several conservative and Orthodox rabbis and the group featured conversations with various rabbis on tattoos and Jewish tradition on their Facebook page.

Under Jewish law, tattooing is “unacceptable,” said Rabbi Danny Schiff, a researcher with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Community Foundation.

The prohibition on tattoos, Schiff said, is found in Leviticus 28: “You shall not lacerate for the dead in your flesh. And the imprint of a tattoo that you won’t put on yourself. I am the Lord.

“Applying permanent marks to the flesh is prohibited and the reverse of holiness,” said Schiff.

Our bodies, he added, do not belong to us, so we have a duty to keep them whole, unblemished and intact.

Rabbi Alex Greenbaum, a conservative rabbi and spiritual leader of the Beth El Congregation of the Southern Hills, agreed with Schiff that tattoos are prohibited under the Torah – and still a “no-go” in the conservative movement – but noted that there is a misconception that a tattooed person cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

“We bury the people who eat cheeseburgers and we bury the people who have tattoos,” Greenbaum said.

We bury the people who eat cheeseburgers, and we bury the people who have tattoos

Despite the positions discussed by Schiff, Greenbaum, and other rabbis, Dershowitz came to a different conclusion. He recalled the Talmudic precept “Anyone who saves a life is considered to have saved the whole world”. In his opinion, this salvation is not strictly physical.

“We knew we were entering provocative territory, but we said, if this is a healing modality that can help, who would have the audacity to tell someone who hopped on a terrorist bomber then that he was walking into a public space that he can’t get a tattoo if it’s going to cure him? said Dershowitz.

Who would have the nerve to tell someone who hopped on a suicide bomber as they entered a public space that they can’t get a tattoo if it’s going to cure them?

“We are not there with a gun to protect people from terrorists, but we are saving them,” he said. “They come out of their homes – some of these people haven’t left their homes alone, they haven’t worn shorts, silly as it sounds, for 10 years. They cannot hold their children because of PTSD, they are afraid to let them down if they hear a loud sound. These stories are horrible. I don’t mean to sound shameless, but I’m proud that we’ve made a difference in people’s lives.

In some ways, Dershowitz sees Healing Ink as a religious calling.

“I feel like I am doing the best job that I am capable of and the organization is as close as possible to the work of God,” he said. “When we get to the Pearly Gates I think no one is going to doubt what we did and that our intentions were good.”


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