Naming a Daughter
A personal perspective on choosing a name.
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.
Naming After A Tragic Life
One day over tea in her London apartment, she turned to me and announced she had some marital advice. “Don’t marry,’’ she said, “unless you can have endless conversation.” “Was that your life with Uncle Ferdie?” I asked. “Not one bit,’’ she smiled--bequeathing me advice hard won. So, more than ten years later, having had my heart broken by a man I never should have spent time with in the first place, I had no interest in dating, much less marrying when I moved to Washington, D.C. But my now husband coaxed me on my second Shabbat to join him after havdala for a drink at a pretty hotel near my apartment.
We talked all night, never looking up until the exhausted hotel staff, having swept and vacuumed, begged us to leave so that they could go home, too. Just a few weeks later, when he asked me to marry him, having passed the Aunt Rochelle test was my reason number one for saying yes. But her advice notwithstanding, Rochelle’s life was a sad one, her two sons died very young and had no children of their own.
I called my mother in tears one night in about my eighth month of pregnancy because Neil was adamant that his child would not be named for someone whose life had been so tragic. I expected a comrade, but my mother sided with my husband, saying that it was reasonable for him to look ahead and hope for a much happier life for his child.
A Name With Two Meanings
Henia Dina had given birth to nine children, raised eight of them, and saw each begin homes of Torah and good deeds. When we named our daughter Dina, we thought only of the grandmother who died when I was ten, and in whose apartment I would happily eat potato kugel on days I got home from school while my mother was out. But a few days after our baby was born, my father told me that he had told his relatives that she was named Dina for two ancestors--his mother-in-law, but also his grandmother, Dina Eisenmann, who died in Bergen Belsen, one of only very few of our family to perish in the Holocaust.