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Making a name for myself…

image Shh… don’t tell anybody.  Especially my mother, because she might cry.  I have a name already picked out.

Here’s the thing – I already have a perfectly good name.  Four of them, in fact.

I have two English names:  Jennifer Mary.

I have two Hebrew names:  יוספה מרים (yosefa miriam)

I hate them all.

Jennifer is NOT “me.”  Someone pointed out to me last weekend that my parents were ahead of the curve with my name and my sister’s – most Jennifers are in their 30s… and I’m not.  And as for my sister, there are many little teeny Abigails running around out there, but very few in their 30s, as she is (her EARLY 30s!!!).

(a few more reflections on my other blog about the name Jennifer)

Yosefa is definitely not me.  It’s not even a name, as far as I’m concerned.  Kind of like Josephine (indeed, my mother has always spelled it with a J), but worse: it’s a made-up name created by adding the letter ה (hey) to the name Yosef (Joseph).  I was named after my mother’s Uncle Joe, my grandfather’s beloved brother; this name was important to him, and he said so to my mother.  Which is very nice and sweet and all, but it’s still… not… ME.

Miriam… nope.  There are many Miriams out there, and I have met lots of them and liked quite a few, but they are not me.  Which I suppose could be used as an argument against any name, but really.  I asked my ex-husband once if I looked Jewish, and he said I didn’t look like a “Tzippi.”  I knew what he meant.

And Mary?  Like Miriam, it comes from my father’s Tante Mirel, who was called Auntie Mary in English.  I never met her, obviously, and he obviously thought highly of her.  But the name has raised eyebrows my whole life… “nice Jewish girl” comments.  As it is, my last name is very not Jewish. 

Most importantly, Jennifer and Mary are not what I envision as the “Israeli me.”  Ted has a beautiful Hebrew name, אקיבע נתן/Akiva Natan.  I don’t want to wind up being the unvoweled, inelegant ג'ניפר with that awful little tick-mark after the gimmel.  Jin-iffer?  Or a hard G, Ginnifer?  Gynee-fer, like some kind of feminine iron supplement? 


In Israel, I want a Hebrew name.  I don’t want to lose the names I have; I’m planning to leave them and their meanings exactly as they were given.  But I want to ADD a name… well, um, in front of the others.

My mother didn’t like it one bit when I mentioned this casually, so I have dropped it.  For the time being, I am not mentioning it.

I have the name in my head; I say it almost every day.

I saw a photo of a family gravestone a couple of weeks ago and was shocked to see “my” name on it (just as I am shocked, now that my son has the name זאב/Zev to see “his” name on several family graves). 

But of course, that must be where I first heard the name and came to love it.  I hope it will help my mother, that it is a family name, that it doesn’t come from nowhere. 

That in that tiny besieged land which we must all continually strive to bring back to life, physically and spiritually, I will be bringing this name, this family, back to life.



  1. I think it is funny when people ask how I chose the name Yosefa. Seriously, you think I would have picked Yosefa by CHOICE? I was named after two Josephs, one on each side. My mom once told me something like, if I ever thought you would have gone by Yosefa I would have thought more about it. I was first in Israel for a semester in 10th grade and started becoming religious there. When I considered going by Yosefa, my Anglophile host sister convinced me it was very old fashion and uncool. So I shelved it until college. At Chabad house I let them start calling my Yosefa, and it stuck.

    I want to warn you, Israelis don't really 'get' middle names. If you have a middle name that is more common than your first name, they will assume you use it. So I've learned to answer to "Rachel." Maybe it's something with the computer system, but they do it a lot. My daughter, Talia Esther, they call Esther, even thought Talia is REALLY trendy, especially in her age group. And my husband, Aaron Shmuel, was called Shmuel the whole time we were opening a bank account.

    Anyway, my point is, think twice before adding a name to you teudat zehut. Miriam is actually not so unusual. My daughter's teacher was Miri and I also hear Mimi. And adding a name "in front" doesn't guarantee Israelis will call you by what you consider the first name.

  2. I wonder why that is, about the middle names?
    In any event, I plan to be known as only ONE name, at least on my teudat zehut. If somebody gives me an aliyah, I'll tell them my full name... :-)
    (or if, chas v'shalom, we need a mi sheberach of some kind or tehillim)


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