By Patrick Aleph
Viking has tattoos and plans on getting more, including the Ten Commandments ripping from his flesh on his back. A former carnival side show performer, he has plenty of piercings, wears a studded leather jacket and a Dead Kennedys tee shirt reading, “Nazi Punks F*** Off”.
And in every way possible, he is a good Orthodox Jew.
His father was a rabbi: the chief rabbi of Birmingham, England. Every Friday, Viking has an open door Shabbat dinner in his home. His family is Orthodox, and Viking would like to stay that way.
But not if his local Chabad house has anything to do with it.
Last Purim, Viking tried to attend a Megillah reading at Chabad. He was denied entry, as he uses a wheelchair and there was no ramp. In reality, a guest of the house was bothered by Viking’s outward appearance, and he was not allowed in for someone else’s prejudice. He could have gone in and prayed, but his manner of dress disturbed someone. At that moment, Viking was denied his Judaism.
After this was reported, an uproar swarmed the internet, but ultimately it did not do any good. According to Viking, the Chabad representatives came to his home to apologize, but did not invite him to come back. This was damage control and nothing more.
Viking is used to controversy. He lives in an Orthodox community, and has had people “not [cross] the road to be away from [him]”. Ultimately, Viking says, this is related to the “physical trappings of Judaism”. He asked rhetorically, why its OK for someone in his Orthodox community to be addicted to porn, but not have tattoos and piercings? “It’s a sin against G-d, not against man”, Viking replies about his tattoos, “so why should I have to pay for that on Earth?”
Viking related his desire to pray in community with the Hanukkah celebration. “We light the menorah. Each candle is individual, but it brings one light together. So it’s like the individual people in the Jewish nation. We are all supposed to glow together. G-d gave each of us the commandment we are supposed to pray; who gave someone the permission to choose who can pray? The orthodox are trying to keep people from their own shuls [and] for every one that comes back, ten go away. That [makes the] light dim.”
According to Viking, there is a problem with the “superficial” aspects of Judaism: “who can look more religious than whom.”
But there is a time and a place for everyone in the Jewish world, including people like Viking. About the Holocaust, Viking states it’s the “wild boys” like those in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising who keep the Jewish people alive. Viking speculated dreamily about how someone in Warsaw proclaimed, on “get a bunch of the wildest boys you can and let them take care of it.” He snapped to reality and said, “we [the wild Jews] are the people who save the Jewish people when the trouble comes.”
But then he gave me a sort of Talmudic Koan: “When push comes to shove, if you push us too far, will we come back?”
I hope so. But according to Viking, it will take nothing less than “a miracle”.
To join Viking in his struggle to open Orthodoxy in England, friend him on Facebook.