Dear Rabbi,

My 98-year-old mother is a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp who was separated from her mother by Dr. Mengele. We honored my murdered grandmother by naming our daughter after her. In turn, my now teenage daughter would like to honor my mother by getting a tattoo of her Auschwitz number.

My daughter and I are quite divided on this issue. Can you please help?

Never Forget

Symbols are important, but instead of perpetuating an ugly symbol, why not transform that ugliness into something beautiful? This is how Judaism has survived until today: After each tragedy, we manage to channel our grief into something productive and positive.

And indeed, children need to get the message that Judaism is alive and well—that it is a life of joy, not oy. Museums and memorials are also important, but children must be excited about the future of Judaism; they should feel a sense of purpose and pride as Jews.

We want our children to live lives to make the six million souls proud, and to ensure that the torch will continue on to the next generation.

The Tattoo

So perhaps encourage your daughter to think about the following: How would a tattoo impact a positive change in the world? Certainly it would give the person who has it a sense of solidarity with those who were in the camps. However, it doesn't truly do anything positive, or do anything to elevate the souls of the six million who perished in the Holocaust. In fact, tattoos are forbidden in Judaism. If you had asked someone who was forced to get that tattoo in the camps if they'd want a Jew 70 years later to get one as well...what do you think would be the reply?

See Why Does Judaism Forbid Tattoos? and our section dedicated to the Holocaust.