Jews with tattoos are a thing. (FWIW, most rabbis say tattoos violate Jewish law, but others take a more lenient approach. And the myth that you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery with a tattoo is totally false!) But, even more of a thing? Non-Jewish celebrities with Jewish tattoos. From Regina King to Steph Curry, tattoos with Hebrew letters and other Jewish symbols seem to be all the rage right now. Shall we get into it?
Wait, actually, before we begin: We have to acknowledge that Pete Davison has a Ruth Bader Ginsburg tattoo. We don’t know what to do with this information, it doesn’t fit into any of the below categories, we just needed to tell (and show) you. (And, Davidson has Jewish family, was raised Catholic, but we’re unsure how he identifies.)
Okay, let’s begin for real:
Specifically this one quote from “Song of Songs,” which seems to be a popular choice. David and Victoria Beckham have matching Hebrew tattoos with the phrase.
Beckham isn’t actually a non-Jew: His maternal grandfather was Jewish and he considers himself part-Jewish. “My grandfather was Jewish, that was on my mother’s side. So yes, I do consider myself… I was never brought up Jewish, but like I said, my grandfather was, and every time we went to synagogue I was a part of that,” Beckham said.
In 2005, him and wife Victoria Beckham got matching Hebrew tattoos with a passage from “Song of Songs.” Both their tattoos read “ani l’dodi v’dodi li, ha’roeh bashoshanim” (“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, who browses among the lilies.”) According to Marjorie Ingall at Tablet, Victoria’s, which scrolls vertically down her back, is written and spelled correctly, whereas David’s forearm tattoo is ungrammatical “but still sweet.”
Reportedly in 2010, Victoria’s tattoo was fading so British press speculated she was getting it removed. In 2017, another reported: “Victoria Beckham reveals her tacky back tattoo has virtually disappeared.” Fun!
Guess who also has a “Song of Songs” tattoo? Christina Aguilera! On her lower back:
She also had her Jewish ex-husband Jordan Bratman’s Hebrew initials on her left arm, but subsequently got them removed following their divorce. Which brings us to trend number two….
In this category of celebrity tattoos, the Hebrew letters sometimes mean things and sometimes don’t. Fun!
Singer Naya Rivera (you may know her from Glee) has the word “love” tattooed in Hebrew on her wrist (above, left). Which yay, that means something! Mazels, Naya. It gets weirder from here… Singer Rita Ora has a collection of Hebrew letters on her wrist (above, bottom right), but no one can seem to figure out what they mean. It seems to read דוברהב, which literally is just a string of nonsensical Hebrew letters. Same with Ariana Grande’s Hebrew letter tattoo (above, top right) which we’ll get into below.
Actress Regina King also has Hebrew letters tattooed on her arm (above, center). King’s tattoo is three Hebrew letters, as Lior Zaltzman breaks down at Kveller: hey-hey-ayin. But again, those three letters don’t actually mean anything in Hebrew. King told Vulture it was in Aramaic, but it’s not really… As Zaltzman explains, “Thanks to a bit of judicious Googling, I learned that this three-letter combination refers to a Kabbalistic principle: The letter sequence on King’s arm is one of 72 three-letter combinations in the Book of Exodus that are considered to be ‘names of God.’ According to kabbalahnames.com, hey-hey-ayin stands for ‘here I stand today’ (hineni omed hayom) and ‘unconditional love.'”
Ariana Grande (top right image), like King, also has three Hebrew letters tattooed on her finger that supposedly also represent a Kabbalistic principle. According to Insider.com, it was supposed to be אלד, which signifies “guarding and protecting the evil eye and from envy.” However, here at Alma, we think it looks more like an alef-lamed-reish, אלר, which, again, means nothing. We guess it was supposed to be either alef-lamed-yod, אלי, which says “Eli” and means “my God,” or aleph-lamed-daled, the Kabbalah one. (For what it’s worth, Ariana is no stranger to tattoo translation shandas.)
And, last but not least: Harry Styles also has a Hebrew word tattoo. But his means something! He got his sister’s name, Gemma, tattooed in Hebrew.
He even spelled it correctly!
Now onto the next category…
Christian Hebrew tattoos
Justin Bieber has “Jesus” tattooed in Hebrew — Yeshua — on his left side (above, left). This kinda speaks for itself, no?
Chantal Jeffries, a DJ and model who used to date Bieber, also has a Jesus-y Hebrew tattoo on her back (above, right). According to stealherstyle.net (lol), they think the tattoo is meant to say “Jesus is God,” but it definitely does not say Jesus. At Alma, all we could decipher is that’s it’s definitely [something] is God. Possibly, “this to me is God” or “nation to me is God.” But both of those are probably wrong. Who knows??
Here’s another look at it:
If you can figure it out, let us know!! Also, this tweet made us laugh:
I got my tattoo in hebrew because of the meaning of what it says. Besides EVERYONE has arabic… Ill pass on that.
— Chantel Jeffries (@ChantelJeffries) February 23, 2012
Last in this section: Basketball player Steph Curry and his wife Ayesha have matching tattoos in Hebrew that read “Love never failed to be,” which is a quote from First Corinthians, 13:8. (Note: First Corinthians is not in the Hebrew Bible, but the New Testament, which is why they’re under the Christianity section and not the Biblical quotes one!)
As Gabe Friedman pointed out in JTA, “The sharp-shooting guard is most definitely not Jewish, and the New Testament was written in Greek – so why is the star guard’s ink in Hebrew? One clue lies in Curry’s mom, Sonya, who co-founded a Christian Montessori school with her husband, former NBA player Dell Curry. According to The Jerusalem Post, she has been studying Hebrew for four years.”
Curry also has his last name phonetically spelled out in Hebrew on his wrist (above, center).
And now for our last category…
Jewish quotes & symbolism
First up: hamsa tattoos! Note: The hamsa, also known as the “eye of Fatima,” is not exclusively a Jewish thing and is common in many cultures, but it has become a major Jewish symbol. Basketball player Kyrie Irving has a prominent hamsa tattoo on his shoulder (above, left) and model Jourdan Dunn has a hamsa tattooed on her inner arm (above, right).
And then there’s the famous Hillel saying from Pirkei Avot, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, who am I?” Singer Jordin Sparks (do you remember her from American Idol?! Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air…) has a version of this quote in Hebrew tattooed on her back. It reportedly reads, “If I am not myself then who will be me?”
She also has a song called “Tattoo,” which we’ll leave you with:
This was fun! Bye!
Image in header of Victoria Beckham by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images; of Harry Styles by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue; of Regina King by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; of Ariana Grande by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for AG; of Jourdan Dunn by Ricky Vigil M/GC Images