Israeli/Jewish tattoo artists in LA?


Getting some ink done in Los Angeles that has Hebrew lettering in it and I would like it if the artist were Israeli or at least familiar with Hebrew letters. Anyone know any artists?Seeingstars
Hebrew, unlike kanji/hanzi, is pretty difficult to screw up badly (just make sure they don’t draw it backwards). This isn’t LA-specific, but Jews with significant cultural affiliation (i.e. most who would know Hebrew), tend not to be terribly ink-intensive (for cultural reasons tracing historically to the prohibition in Leviticus 19:28 and Mishnaic commentary thereon, and more recently to unfavorable associations between tattoos and the Holocaust), so tattoo artists with a specific competence in Hebrew might be particularly rare.
posted by jackbishop at 12:58 PM on July 19, 2013

Actually, I’m going to disagree. Leviticus 19:28 says specifically:

You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves.

And within some Jewish communities they take that to be a prohibition against memorial tattoos, but not other tattoos.

As a tattooed former rabbinical student in L.A., I wish I knew someone who was appropriate, but alas, I do not. If you find someone, please let me know.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:06 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are plenty of Jews/Israelis with tattoos, including with specifically Jewish-themed tattoos. It may not have been the case until fairly recently, but in the past 10-15 years, if not longer, it’s not nearly the taboo it once was. I’ve written about this a little; many others have written about it a lot. Google “Jews with tattoos” and you’ll find a bunch of stuff. See also the Israeli documentary “Numbered,” which got a lot of attention here recently (NY Times article, etc.) That’s controversial, words are not so much really, except in very religious or traditional communities or among older people. I have no doubt that at the very least you’ll be able to find an Israeli in LA who can confirm your design is correct before you go to the tattoo artist with it.

(Oh, and if anyone tries to tell you you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery, it’s basically not true.)

On preview: I see you know all this, but I’m going to post it anyway. Good luck finding a good artist!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:08 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

[Folks, please answer the question. The theoretical problems are well-covered at this stage. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 1:09 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I’d be more than happy to check your art for accuracy if you want to send it to me.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:10 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I believe Kevin Campbell is Jewish.

As for the supposed offensiveness/taboo factor: Tattoo Jew explores the phenomenon.
posted by scody at 1:12 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

To be clear… it’s more about the familiarity with Hebrew as a language than it is the religion or background of the artist, hence why an Israeli would prolly be best.
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 1:16 PM on July 19, 2013

Do you mean modern Israeli Hebrew, or Biblical Hebrew? They can be considered two grammatically different languages. (I recall some linguist declaring Israeli Hebrew not to be the descendent of traditional Hebrew, but “relexified Yiddish.”)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:59 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I found this guy in a yelp thread: Noah Baxter, Think Ink in Woodland Hills
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:27 PM on July 19, 2013

Harvey: No, the OP is right that Israelis will at least be familiar with the alphabet. I studied traditional Hebrew, and while it sure doesn’t help you read modern, unpointed (e.g. with no vowel signs) Hebrew, the letters are the same and a lot of the non-technical words are the same.

However, knowing modern Hebrew will help you buckets with most of the Hebrew Bible (some passages in Daniel, written in Aramaic, excluded). Israelis can easily read, copy, and say passages from the bible during service (especially as, so long as they are not reading off the Torah itself, it’s all pointed with vowel markings), but cannot easily read things in Aramaic like Kaddish–as my old shul learned once when they gave a mostly-secular Israeli a job in the service and he did perfectly, riiight up until Kaddish which became a stop-n-start tounguetwister since it is written with the same alphabet but is sufficiently distinct as to sound like gibberish.

Kevin Campbell is Jewish, as scody says. Noah Baxter appears to be working here now.

Beyond that: I suggest getting the design and spelling vetted by Hebrew-speakers ahead of time (even if you are taking it out of a bible, misprints happens), printing it up in a reasonably big size so it can be enlarged or shrunk without loss of detail, having the artist of your choice make a transfer, and verifying that the transfer isn’t mirrored (it should be backwards if you look at it in a mirror) and is the right way up. The angle of individual strokes is much less important than in other non-Latin alphabets, so as long as your tattoo artist is able to copy something with enough fidelity that the ‘tav’ doesn’t look like a ‘het’, and doesn’t try to add flourishes, you’ll be fine. So start looking for well-realized script tattoos and check out reviews of their shops.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 2:33 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh I guess if you’re going to wind up at a Non-Israeli tattoo artist, make sure to point out particularly tricky bits (and I do mean point them out and go over them with your proofer and with the tattoo artist):

The ‘three houses’: Tav (one stroke has a foot) versus het (closed, no foot) versus hey (has a gap at the top of the left-hand descender). If you’re getting ‘chai’ (life) tattooed, it’s a yod (floating apostrophe-looking thing) on the left and a het (closed ‘house’) on the right, not a tav or a hey (but at least fixing the hey is easy: all you need is a touch-up to make it into a het).

The damn vertical lines: Vav (straight line often with a bit of a lip at the top) versus dalet (straight line with a large lip pointing left) versus resh (basically a curved dalet) versus zayin (angled line with lip) versus terminal nun (at the end of a word only, looks like a vav but descends below the base line).

The circles: Samekh (a circle) versus terminal mem (only at the end of words, a square with a curved top).

Everything else is sufficiently distinct that unless they totally mangle it you’ll be fine. Unfortunately, most phrases will have a hey (part of the word ‘the’ in Hebrew) or a het somewhere, so you need to make sure you’ve got those straight. If you want to be sure, have your Hebrew-speaking friend look for those problems in particular in the rough print-out, and again, print it big so the tattoo artist can immediately see what you’re pointing at.

Getting any dots or lines above or below the main characters is optional and is mostly an aesthetic decision.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 2:57 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

My first tattoo was done by an Israeli artist. He was in New York at the time, but he’d tattooed all over the world. So no reason he couldn’t be in L.A. right now, or have plans to be at some point. His name is Yoni Zilber.

Also, I will say that I have seen a lot of bad/wrong/misguided Hebrew tattoos. You absolutely should do your due diligence on this. Just because the characters are easy to render doesn’t mean the result will be what you want.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on July 19, 2013

Thanks everybody. The tattoo is actually in Yiddish and I have a friend at the Yiddish Book Center who’s proofed it twice (even got confirmation from real life yiddish speakers) so I’m definitely doing my due diligence.

I do not want to end up here:

And yeah I’ve looked at Campbell, Baxter and Zilber too. Thanks guys!
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 3:41 PM on July 19, 2013

The tattoo is actually in Yiddish

Then I don’t see any advantage to seeking an Israeli artist. Most Israelis do not speak/read/write Yiddish at all, and I’ve seen dreadful misspellings of Yiddish words by Hebrew speakers. Yiddish is completely unrelated to Hebrew (different linguistic families, as far apart as English and Mandarin Chinese). A tattooist familiar with Yiddish would be totally cool, but barring that, yes, have your friend from the Yiddish Book Center check the spelling, and simply bring a properly spelled design to any recommeneded good tattooist, who should be able to design something beautiful with it.

If you don’t mind sharing, I am actually curious about what your Yiddish tattoo will be. I speak nearly fluent Yiddish.
posted by RRgal at 6:52 PM on July 19, 2013

I think you’re being really wise to be careful about this: badly-written Hebrew tattoos are common enough that they have their own website. Here’s another feature on them. You’ve avoided the major pitfalls by getting someone who knows Yiddish to check it, but if the artist doesn’t read Hebrew then make sure they’re not getting it back to front or upside down. Also, don’t use Hebrew vowels (nekudot) or you’ll look like a n00b.


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