Thursday, March 17, 2011

Convert Questions: Can a Convert Keep His or Her Piercings?

Tattoos are discussed here.

Piercings can be an issue for two primary reasons: 1) keeping your body intact and in its natural form and 2) because piercings used to indicate that a person (particularly a male) was a slave.

In general today, piercings don't appear to be an issue for conversion candidates except for social reasons. Ear piercings, even multiple ones, probably won't be brought up. If you're a "young" woman (under 30 or so), nose piercings generally won't be an issue. A belly button ring likely won't be an issue because if you're dressing tzniusly, no one should know it's there. I even had/have an unusual ear piercings (tragus), and in my old community, no one thought anything of it. Of course, know your community, and there are communities with standards considerably stricter.

However, other facial piercings or tongue piercings will likely bring a reaction from a beit din. They will warn you that orthodox society doesn't look favorably on them and it could hamper your integration into the community.

There is also a practical consideration: the mikvah. Can you remove any piercing in order to go to the mikvah? In my case, I had a skin piercing that had to be removed once I knew I would be heading to the mikvah for my conservative conversion. The nape of my neck was pierced (very pretty and feminine, if you ask me!). Skin piercings require going back to a piercer to reinsert them, so I felt that it was easier for everyone if I let the piercing grow up. I miss it a little, but it's been worth it. The fact that (Gd willing) one day I'll be a regular mikvah user was certainly a consideration to me.

But remember, when in doubt, ask. However, be prepared that you may get an answer you don't like and/or don't personally agree with.


  1. very interesting... up until a couple of years ago my husband and I had several piercings.. when we became more religious we took them out eventually. Above all other reasons, it's just hard to integrate into any community when everyone you talk to is so off put by your appearance. Secondarily, I find them immodest. That's totally personal though - but I feel immodest with lots of piercings, regardless of halakhah or minhag.

    well as far as tattoos... I'm interested in that post! Because well, you can't really change that one. what's done is done... but I foten wonder about covering up a tattoo which would denote another religion - how exactly is that one handled? done before mikveh? etc... just curious.

  2. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    Wow. Multiple piercings and tattos. You have succeeded in making me feel old.

  3. I never said anything about me having tattoos. ...Though I do, lol

  4. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    Tattoos bespeak a faith in the perpetual consistency of the flesh that eludes me. You could get a lovely butterfly that age transforms into a prune. Or you could change your mind, or convert to Orthodox Judaism.

    I agree with my wise brother; unless you have joined the Marine Corps (in which case, you have to an extent already chosen your social group), a tattoo is somewhat imprudent.

  5. And I was once imprudent years ago :) Thankfully, I chose something with meaning and I still enjoy them almost a decade later. Well, really, it's all one tattoo comprised of several parts.