Naming a Daughter

A personal perspective on choosing a name.

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Reprinted with permission from

JOFA

,The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance.

Checking the clock to be sure that Torah reading had already taken place that Thursday morning (which would mean that while I was in the hospital, just hours after my daughter’s birth, my husband had been called to the Torah to name our first child) I called my mother to tell her my first baby’s name.

Sharing Her Name With Family

“We’ve called her Dina,” I said, excited. “Lovely,’’ said my mother, but nothing else. “Dina, her name is Dina,” I tried again. “Yes, I heard you, it’s a lovely name,’’ my mother replied. “Mom’’, I said, this time somewhat exasperated, “Her name is Dina, for your mother.’’ “Oh,’’ my mother said, “that’s very nice, but my mother’s name was Henia Dina.’’ I knew that. In fact I had wanted to call our daughter Henia Dina, but my husband didn’t like the Henia part–too old-fashioned sounding, he said. So, for Dina’s second name, we settled on Hadara, the feminization of the Hebrew word for etrog, to reflect her Sukkot birthday. When we came up with the compromise, with me lying on the couch wondering exactly how late a first baby could come, I was delighted that I’d be able to please both my husband and my mother.

Identity and Naming

And, I hope I did. My mother didn’t mention the truncated name again and lovingly called her Dina for the almost five years they adored each other. Naming a child is no easy feat. In a single name that can be no longer than the blocks offered on identification forms, parents need to pay homage to ancestors, fashion an identify for a child younger than the milk in their fridge, determine whether the name should declare their commitment to Zionism, or to American pop culture, and try hard to come up with something that won’t get the attention of the schoolyard bullies.

Actually, Dina was not my first choice. My grandmother died forty years ago, and at least two other girls were named for her. I did want our branch of the family to claim a Dina too, but I very much wanted to name a daughter Rachel, for my Aunt Rochelle who died in her 90’s. Not just because no child had been named for her and not just because she had had no grandchildren of her own, but because she, though a decade gone before I became engaged, had a role to play in my deciding to marry my husband.

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Francesca Lunzer Kritz is a freelance health-care writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Self, and other national publications.

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