Friday, March 15, 2013

What's in a name?

So, first for this to all make sense I suppose I should's a girl!! Yay for no circumcision fights!

But of course things are never simple. I called my dad to tell him it was a girl (and also because i had to ask a tax question). I also sent him and my mom the latest ultrasound pictures by email...still radio silence from my mom (haven't talked to her since I told her I was pregnant in December) but that's something to angst about another day.

When I told my dad we are having a girl, he immediately asked if I would consider naming her after my dead grandmother - his mother - the one whose funeral inspired me to start this blog back in 2007 when my dad used the eulogy to go on about how he has to make sure to pass on judaism to his kids.

I had actually been considering naming her after my grandmother already. Only I don't really like her name - her English name (Which she went by) was "Lola" which is a little too "she walks like a woman but talks like a man" for me, and her hebrew name was "Liba" which I like even less. So B and I had been considering basically every name that has two L's in it. In the end we decided the one we like best is "Lilith"- it has sort of a feminist connotation (yes I know there is no evidence for the "Lilith being the first wife of Adam" story before the 1300s or so) and I like the sound of the name and best of all, it doesn't end with an "A" like most other double-L names, since her last name will start with an "A" and neither of us like names that run into each other like that.

Anyway we hadn't told this to my dad, but today he sent me this email:
Hi Abandoning Eden,
Hope you are feeling well and that the pregnancy is proceeding well too.
After our last conversation I was thinking further about the Jewish name idea and thought I would pass this along for your consideration. Having a Jewish name, and specifically naming after Savta, is something that would be meaningful to me. It would help memorialize her life. On the other hand, I realize that Lola, Liba, Ahuva or other derivatives of Savta's name may not be fashionable for a girl's name these days or may not be what you had in mind. So, how is this for a proposal? Why don't you name your future little girl whatever you and B would like to name her with. I could go to my local Rabbi, and, with your permission and in a private ceremony, he could perform the prayer that confers a Jewish name for her, specifically, "Liba," Savta's Jewish name. No one would ever have to necessarily refer to her by that name on a regular basis. It is common in secular circles for children to have a separate Jewish name but not use it.
If it is all the same to you, this would make everyone happy.
Please let me know what you think. Thanks.
All the best,
This is what I'm thinking of writing back:

Hi Abba,

We actually have considered a lot of different names that sound like Lola, and are thinking we will give her a middle name of Lilith which is the one we liked the best (we don't want any name that ends with an "A" because her last name will start with an "A").

I really don't feel comfortable with you having some private religious ceremony on her behalf and giving her a jewish name. First of all, it would be similar to B's mom having a private ceremony with her catholic priest and naming her "Christina" or some other christian name, I wouldn't feel comfortable with that and I would worry that this would create inroads for her to try to convert my daughter to Catholicism later on. Second of all, I hate the name Liba more than the name Lola- no offense, but it reminds me of the word "Labia" which is just weird.

Of course you can do whatever you want without telling me about it, but I would rather you didn't. I remember you and mom saying that when I was born people wanted me named after some dead relatives, but you decided to go with the name that you wanted to name me. Please respect my purview as a parent to name my own daughter.

Abandoning Eden


  1. Abba has too much time on his hands. He should go volunteer somewhere.

  2. I don't know...he can do this without you or the baby having to be there, and you never actually have to use the name. What's the harm? Maybe let him have this. It costs you nothing but could bring about lots of goodwill.

  3. the harm is that if I let him do this, I am opening inroads for him to try to convert my kid to judaism later on. As I imply with my paragraph about my mother in law. I wouldn't want my mother in law doing a catholic naming ceremony for her either. As I said, he can do whatever he wants and I would never know otherwise, but I'd rather he didn't

  4. Hate to break it to you, but if your father has any connection to your child, it opens up the possibility for your child to convert to Judaism (not that she would have to convert). His very existence as a frum Jew in your life is a model for your child, whether you like it or not.

  5. I know, but I don't have to encourage him by letting him give her a Jewish name. And if he actively tries to convert her I'm gong to tell him to stop, and if he doesn't stop, she won't be spending a whole lot of time around him (as it is he lives 12 hours away, so I can't imagine them hanging out more than once a year or so).

  6. He nicely asked for your permission, and you don't have to give it. The example of "Christina" should be enough for him to understand your point. Just leave the word "labia" out, please. Liba is old fashioned enough that you don't have to explain why you don't like it, and comparing his mother's name to a female body part might be enough to send your straitlaced dad over the edge.

  7. His mother didn't even go by the name (she was not orthodox, he is a BT, she went by "Lola"). But Maybe I will say "it sounds like a part of female anatomy" instead of labia.

  8. Jewish Law does not allow your dad to have a private ceremony without your consent until your daughter is 12 years old. If he does it without your consent, it is considered void. Once she is 12, he needs your daughter's consent.

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  10. I like the name Lola and I really like the name Lillith. Unfortunately, though, your good intentions of naming her Lilith after your grandmother may go out the window since Lilith was an evil figure. So...what would be a good "double L" name instead...Delilah? (crap).

  11. "the harm is that if I let him do this, I am opening inroads for him to try to convert my kid to judaism later on."

    In what way does a name that your child won't know, won't ever be used, and won't be known to anyone but your father's circle of friends have the ability to create inroads.

    "Having a Jewish name, and specifically naming after Savta, is something that would be meaningful to me. It would help memorialize her life."

    Apparently, his emotions mean nothing to you.

    If you're going to reject his request, I suggest something more along the lines of, "Abba, I love you so much, and it pains me to say this, but I cannot agree to this. It is very important to B and A that our daughter not be "claimed" by any religion, either my family's via a name, or his family's via a baptism. I understand how meaningful it would be to name her after Savta, and I have been trying to find an English name that B and I like that would be a tribute to her. I'm sorry that I cannot do this for you, but I truly love you and loved Savta very much."

    The naming is clearly important to him. If you love your father and you are rejecting his request, I think you should at least acknowledge his emotions, even without granting his request. If you don't love your father and care about his emotions, why continue to have a relationship that you seem to fear is mostly a ploy for him to "steal" your children for his religion?

    I assume this is another snarky email to your blog, but I don't understand why you are trying to hurt him.

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    2. Well. Even in "frum" families where there is a uniform degree of religiosity, it's common for there to be disputes and hurt feelings over the choice of a baby's name. (I have heard this firsthand). So no need for any guilt on AE's part for not acceding to his request. Your wording sounds wonderfully diplomatic, but I wouldn't say that AE is trying to "hurt" her father.

    3. I'm not rejecting his request, we're most likely giving her the middle name lilith to be similar to my grandmother's name. Anyway I already sent the email and he responded favorably.

    4. That's good to hear. Your answers were definitely based on reason, fairness, and aesthetics.

      Maybe your kid(s) will be interested in Judaism - your job is to raise them to think for themselves and to think critically, and what they do from there is their responsibility.

  12. "I think that would be fine, Abba. By the way, my in-laws will also be taking her to their church and secretly baptizing her."

  13. Haven't read the other comments yet, but I'm impressed at the mature communication between the two of you regarding a difficult issue. What a difference from earlier episodes in your blog. I hope you find it heartening. I hope I get to such a point with my own folks.

  14. wow first im so happy its a girl and im sure ur little cutie is going to be addoriable
    and wow ur father really is pushing u and i think u really wrote back to him very well its ur child and u have the right to do and give her any name u like

  15. Hi There
    I have been wanting to write to you for some time. I can't tell you how helpful it has been to read your blog as I disentangle myself from my modern orthodox upbringing to feel true love with my wonderful fiance who was raised a Catholic. We are different in that we both deeply believe in god, but one of love. Thankfully my fiance has sorted out his own miserable background in regards to god - and has been very kind and sensitive as I work through mine. My father died, and it sounds like he was more like your mom. But we had no contact for 3 years before his death. Honestly his death was a relief. My mom and I are close. I love her very much but she is small minded and I know is waiting for my relationship to end. It's painful and I talk with her about not talking about him behind our backs. I hear through the grapevine. BTW I'm in my 40's and this is my first engagement- but that doesn't seem to phase her. Luckily I have cousins who have married outside the religion - and others who have married converts - my sister who is just about as religious as my mom loves my fiance. I am lucky in that respect. My struggles are deeply internal. I remember as early as 9 being frightened that my parents would disown me if I married outside the religion. I think I was having a psychic premonition of the future.

    Your strength, honesty and courage to place this all online has helped me sooooo much! Mazal Tov on the birth of your beautiful daughter. Goodness sake, it's no one's business but yours what you name your child!

    All the best to you and your new family

    1. Congrats on your engagement!!! My husband was raised catholic too. I'm glad you find my blog helpful, and honestly- it doesn't affect my day to day life as much as it may seem, I only post here when things are bothering me, but I post here almost every time things are bothering me, so it seems like I dwell on this stuff a lot more than I do. But once you are married your day to day life is about your husband and you, not about your parents so much. Congrats again!

  16. It seems that religion aside, you and your dad agreed on the biggest part of the conversation, that you consider paying tribute to your grandmother for her name. Lilith (or Lily?) seems perfect for a Lola/Liba. I happen to like Liba as it means "her heart" but agree with you on Lola. All I hear is. . .her name was Lola, she was a show girl. . .with purple feathers in her hair. . .

    1. Yeah my grandmother never went by the name Liba at all, I never even knew that has her hebrew name until my dad asked me to name my daughter after her, so to me lilith seems more similar to her real name (Lola) than Liba does.

      This was my dad's response to my email: "Hi AE,

      I would never do anything like this behind your back. That's why I am discussing this with you. I figured it did not matter to you re: religious rituals but I see that, to you, it seemed as if it were infringing on your parental rights, which is not my intention. If you change your mind, please let me know.


      So I'm not sure he's entirely happy with the Lilith thing, but to me that's my way of remembering her. And yeah we are in agreement- I was thinking up names that sounded like Lola long before my dad asked me to name her after her, or even before we knew she was a girl. :)

  17. Congrats on the little girl! I like the name Lilith - people will call her Lily, and I love that name. Your mother is unreal. I wonder if perhaps she's suffering from early onset Alzheimer's or dementia? You're her only daughter, this is her first grandchild. Why else isn't she over the moon with happiness for you/

  18. But... you *are* giving her a Jewish name.


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