Choosing a Name

28 01 2007

I think one of the hardest things about converting is deciding what to do about names.  First off, I have to choose a hebrew name for myself.  Now, choosing a name for your child is one thing, you can just choose a name that sounds nice.  But choosing a name for yourself, that’s much harder.  Not only do you have to choose something you like the sound of, but everyone who meets you will ask why you chose it, and what it means. You need at least one reason for having chosen the name (If not more, since you’ll get sick of giving the same reason over and over again).  You can choose something that is phonetically similar to your given name, or something that has symbolic meaning.  I have some ideas so far, one is a name that’s common in my family, and a second is based on the middle name I share with my mother.  For me, choosing a name connected to my family is a way of reinforcing the fact that I want to remain a part of my family, that this is not my way of running away from them, or separating myself from what I grew up with.  I havn’t made a final decision yet, but I’m reasonably certain what I’ll do. 

In addition to choosing a hebrew name, I’ve been asked several times what name I’ll go by when I convert (My hebrew name, or my birth name).  At least one of the people who has asked this has informed me that I have to go by my hebrew name, but he was far over the line to say that.  Just because he has started to go by his hebrew name as he became more observant doesn’t mean that it’s the right decision for everyone.  I think it’s a very personal choice;  your name is who you are, it’s a part of your identity.  My name isn’t particularly Jewish, but it’s certainly not enough to make me stand out as a convert.  While not wearing a sign that says I’m a convert isn’t a big part of my decision because of that, I feel like to change my name is to try and cover up my history, to hide the fact that for 21 years of my life (at least) I wasn’t Jewish.  The fact that I found Judaism on my own, rather than being born into it, is important to me, it’s something that I want people to know, not something I’m ashamed of.  For all those reasons, I will continue to go by Emily, the name my parents (who I love) gave me.  (Again, I think it’s a very personal choice, and I have nothing but respect for someone in my position who makes the other decision.)

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3 responses

6 02 2007
Chaviva

My Hebrew name is Chaviva (which is actually Hebrew for my given name, Amanda) and different people refer to me by whichever they choose. I have several friends who know me as Chavy, and others who call me Chavy Jo and others who still call me Amanda. It works itself out 🙂

6 02 2007
Emily

Yeah, all my friends end up calling me “Em”, a nick name which I have ended up with in every group of friends I’ve had, despite never doing anything to encourage it. It’s funny how little control we really have over what we’re called.

6 06 2007
nuch epes ah chosid

You can end up having both names that’s not a problem many born jews do that, they have their hebrew name and their other name by which they go in their business-friends world
something like Sarah-Jessica 🙂

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