Can a Jew who has a tattoo be buried in a Jewish cemetery?
Yes, they may be buried in the Jewish cemetery.
There is a prevalent myth out there that people with tattoos may not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. This is absolutely untrue. Although people with tattoos are in violation of a serious prohibition in the Torah, that does not preclude their right to being buried in a Jewish cemetery. It is possible that this myth has developed due to the fact that tattooing has an association with idolatry. Alternatively, there are some Jewish burial societies who may insist on certain standards of who may be buried in their cemeteries. Halacha dictates that the righteous may not be buried near the wicked. Every burial society has the right to determine what standards they wish to uphold for the people in their cemetery. It is possible that somewhere in the world at some time or other a burial society insisted on having only untattooed people buried there. There’s no way to prove whether this ever happened.
[This myth has become so strong that some misinformed people, unfortunately, choose a cremation because they have tattooed themselves. This is a typical demonstration of the principle that one negative action typically brings about another negative behavior. In reality, there’s no reason for them to be concerned about not being buried in a Jewish cemetery. On the contrary, if they are cremated, there’s a strong chance that their ashes will not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Indeed, as a deterrent measure, many burial societies have adopted the rule that the ashes of those who chose to be cremated should not be buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery. (Melamed L’hoil 2:114). Furthermore, the traditional laws of mourning are usually not observed for someone who has chosen to cremate themselves (see Minchas Elazar 2:34). Even if a Jewish burial society would decide to allow their ashes in the cemetery, they will still lack the privilege of their body being buried in a Jewish cemetery. It should be noted that halachically it is preferable to be buried in a non-Jewish cemetery than being cremated. (Chelkas Yaakov 2:4). Cremation is a severe transgression, as it’s a violation of the Biblical mitzvah to bury the dead and it causes untold pain the to soul. One who has chosen to cremate themselves might lose their chance in the upcoming resurrection of the dead because the cremation demonstrates a rejection of this principle. (Minchas Elazar ibid.)
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As such, the bottom line is as follows:
May one tattoo themselves? -Absolutely not.
If one has tattooed themselves may they be buried in a Jewish cemetery? –Most certainly.
In theory, if there would be a burial society which would insist on not burying tattooed bodies should one rather be cremated? Absolutely not.