Shut Up

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Jew by Any Other Name...

This article in J - the magazine formerly known as the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California - caught our eye:

"When Michael Becomes Moshe: Sometimes, Hebrew Names Fit Better"

Says the article:

Some tried on their new name while living in Israel because it made them feel less like an American tourist, or because it was easier for Israelis to pronounce.

Some grew up with little Jewish identity, and adopting a Hebrew name was a way to identify more outwardly as a Jew.

Some started using a new name for the novelty, or because it was more exotic than their given, Anglo name. And some feel that in a place like the Bay Area, where "ethnic is in," they, too, like to show off their ethnic pride — that is, Jewish pride.

"Language is everything in terms of cultural identity, and so by using my Hebrew name, I'm making a statement that I value greatly my identity as a Jew, to the point where I'm willing to use a difficult-to-pronounce-and-spell Hebrew name," said Yitzhak Santis, Middle East affairs director at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council.

"It's also a statement against assimilation," said Santis, who was known as Jeff in his formative years.

Nevertheless, we always hear that "Moishe Rosen" (founder of Jews for Jesus) "really" is Martin, and Chaim Yonkel (mythical Jews for Jesus missionary) is "really" Brandon. Apparently it's OK for Jews who don't embrace Jesus to change their names, but not for Jews who do believe in you-know-who.

Excuse the mixed metaphor, but...when the shoe is on the other foot, the emperor has no clothes.

Postscript: And where were these guys anyway, when Tony Curtis, Woody Allen, Soupy Sales et al. did the opposite and changed their names to non-Jewish-sounding ones?


  • At 12:42 PM, Blogger Heatherly said…

    living in a small NorCal town, people actually REACT when my husband and i call eachother by our hebrew names. it is weird that something so "natural" to us causes people to question where our faith in the Messiah is.

  • At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Moshe ben Avraham said…

    Okay. Yes there is a ridiculousness to not accepting a messianic Jews hebrew name. Personally I think Jews should focus on what is wrong with the religious beliefs and converting pratices of messainic Jews and not on how they present themselves.

  • At 7:04 AM, Blogger Bob said…

    I've always had a Hebrew name, Reuven ben Eliyahu, but I've always gone by English name Bob. If I ever lived in Israel, I would use my Hebrew name, but until then, I'll just be English speaking. HOWEVER, I find no fault in those who want to use another language base for their self-introduction.


  • At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Rebecca (and proud of it) said…

    I can't imagine that you run into that much discrimination as a Messianic Jew that uses your Hebrew name any more than as a former Jew, or Messianic Jew. I think that people are uncomfortable with the idea of Jews for Jesus, and as such look for any possible reason to criticize them.

    Also, for the record, Jewish kids who go to college and change their names (Sarah to Shachar, Amy to Aviva) are often also given a hard time. I think that the "vogue" of using Hebrew names is not as widespread as you've been lead to believe.

  • At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Robert Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan but I think he is still a Jew and a Christian.


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