UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies


Is There Such a Thing as a Kosher Tattoo?

25 May 2022, 4:00 pm–5:00 pm

putple square with 'sacred ink: body marking through the ages' writton on it

Sacred Ink: Body marking through the ages online lecture by Rabbi Emily Reitsma-Jurman (West London Synagogue)

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni






Casey Johnson

There is a long history in Judaism of prohibiting tattoos. Many believe the tattoo taboo is biblical, stemming from Leviticus 19:28. Legal codes and modern response similarly disapprove of the practice. However, when we take a close look at this verse, we can see that things are far less clear-cut than they appear. Yet even in the Progressive Jewish world, which has a long tradition of challenging and redefining law and practice, tattoos remain a source of disdain. In recent years, Jews across the globe have been defying this ancient rule. In this talk, we will start by examining the legal texts and then will move on to how this practice is impacting the Jewish community today. Why are some Jews choosing to embrace tattooing? Why do some respond to tattoos with disgust and anger? What role does class, gender, and politics play in the attitudes towards the topic? Can tattoos be a source of spiritual devotion, and if so, how?

Sacred Ink: Body marking through the ages programme (PDF)

The Department of Hebrew & Jewish Studies is hosting the Sacred Ink eLecture series, which focuses on body marking for ritualistic, aesthetic, and other benign purposes throughout the ages, from Ancient Egypt up to the present day. The eLectures take place each Wednesday from 27 April until 1 June 2022 from 16:00 until 17:00BST via Zoom. We are delighted to invite you to this free online event and we look forward to seeing you in one of the meetings.


About the Speaker

Rabbi Emily Reitsma-Jurman

Associate Rabbi at West London Synagogue

Rabbi Emily is Associate Rabbi with a passion for engaging with members across the community. Her primary focus is on building an inclusive and vibrant community which fosters meaningful connections amongst youth, young families, students and young adults.

Raised in Toronto, Canada, by an Israeli father and British mother, Rabbi Emily’s parents made sure that she grew up with an appreciation of her British-Israeli roots. Whilst deepening her connections with Jewish studies, Emily began regularly attending services at her local synagogue, Solel Congregation in Mississauga. Before long, she was thoroughly immersed in congregational life; working as a cantorial soloist, a religion school teacher, and tutoring Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. After three years of unforgettable experiences, she decided to devote herself fully to Judaism by becoming a Rabbi.

Emily applied to Leo Baeck College in London, but spent the first year of her studies in Israel at Hebrew Union College. Returning to London for the duration of the rabbinic programme, she became involved with several congregations, again focusing on teenage engagement.

Ordained in 2015, for the next few years Rabbi Emily honed her skills in the field of spiritual engagement for youth, young adults and families at Edgware & Hendon Reform Synagogue. Alongside working as the first ever woman minister for EHRS, a traditional synagogue of a similar size to WLS, Rabbi Emily also served Stevenage Liberal Synagogue, a wonderful and warm small community in North Hertfordshire. In 2017, Rabbi Emily became a full-time part of the team at EHRS where she remained for a further three happy years.

Rabbi Emily is passionate about making communities accessible and inclusive places for everyone. She models this in her rabbinate and knows that the very best moments of rabbinic life are the opportunities one gets for meeting lots of new and interesting people!

When not at WLS, Rabbi Emily spends her time knitting, listening to music and crafting. She lives in North London with her wife Dr. Renée Reitsma-Jurman (a long-term member of WLS), their two cats and their housemate and best friend, Rabbi Adam Frankenberg.

More about Rabbi Emily Reitsma-Jurman