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Nov 15 2013

Torah MOMentary: Let There Be Mama

By at 9:31 am

mama nametag

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Vayishlah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

“The earned name is worth much more than the given name.”

–Ecclesiastes Rabbah, 7:4

I didn’t change my name when I got married. I’d always thought sharing a name sounded romantic, but when the time came, I realized I would resent giving mine up. And besides, I was too busy (or lazy) to even think about getting a new passport, driver’s license, and credit cards, so I managed to live three and a half decades with the same name my parents gave me back when I was born. Until I had my baby.

Now I have a new name: Mama.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlah, Jacob wrestles with the angel. After a long night of struggle and a hip injury, the angel finally asks Jacob to let him go. And Jacob says, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” And the angel blesses him, not with riches or descendants, but with a new name: Israel, “One who struggles with God.”  It’s a complicated name, but fitting after Jacob’s all-night wrestling match. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 14 2013

Name the Next Kveller Baby, Again

By at 10:12 am


The words “We need help thinking of a good ‘Jewishy’ name for our baby,” arrive in my inbox from time to time. After writing about the baby names I would use if we were having more kids, as well the situation that resulted in my husband taking over the naming of our fourth child, I have made myself known as a baby name fanatic. When people ask for my advice, I tackle the job with dedication and pure joy.

My baby naming “career” began when Kveller’s editor, Deborah Kolben, wanted ideas for her second daughter. One of the names I offered was Romi. She used it, and even though she probably had it on her list already, I like to pretend that I really did name Deborah’s baby.

For Deborah and for Kveller’s readers, I identified five categories that I believe Jewish parents consciously, or in many cases, subconsciously use when they’re looking for “Jewishy” names for their kids. Those categories are: Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 7 2012

What to Call Grown-Ups

By at 4:05 pm

mr. awesome nametagWhen I was little and growing up in the former-USSR, I called my parents’ friends either Aunt or Uncle with their name appended. My African-American husband did the same when he was a boy living in Harlem.

But, in 2012 in New York City, it isn’t quite as simple anymore.

Our two oldest sons go to a very traditional school, where all teachers and other adults are addressed as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. (It’s actually pretty funny, the door of one kindergarten classroom lists the teachers’ names as Mrs. X, Miss Y, and Ms. Z.) As a result, all of their schoolmates’ parents are also formally referred to. Read the rest of this entry →


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