Monday, December 31, 2007

Women's Names

In last week's issue of Shabbat Be-Shabbato, R. Yisrael Rosen discusses the issues of women's name and reaches the following two conclusions:

  1. Women should adopt their husbands' last names
  2. Women should be addressed by name and not as someone's wife
I do not think that I am a devout conservative (as can be seen from various opinions that I have expressed). I am therefore not completely opposed to feminist claims (as can be seen from my writings). But this is not the place to become involved in this issue. However, I admit to total rejection of feminism when it damages family values, and in my opinion it definitely does cause harm. I will not expand on this theme, rather I will limit myself to the marginal issue of double family names.

Click here to read moreIt is clear to me that using double family names is not the ultimate goal. We can already see the first signs of married women who keep only their maiden name (is this true in the religious community too?), as if to say: "Marriage is a secondary element in my life." Or, "Whose business is it to know that I am married? This is an invasion of my privacy." And don`t think that I have invented these ideas. In preparing this article, I read several others (on the internet, of course) which preached that women should keep their maiden names, based on these and similar arguments. Sometimes this ideology is presented in literary terms: "No loss of personal identity... Equality: why shouldn't the husband change his name?"...

We will also take a brief glance in the opposite direction, at the Chareidi sector (at least among the Ashkenazim). In this community, the woman doesn`t have a name at all, even a private name, neither in Hebrew nor in Yiddish. In invitations to her child's bar mitzva or wedding she is simply mentioned as "his wife," nothing more. "How long will my honor be put to shame?" [Tehillim 4:3]. This is the cry of the psalmist of Yisrael. "How long will you disgrace me and call me Ben-Yishai... but not by my own name?" [Midrash Tehillim 4]. This refers to a man, a king, but it teaches us the principle: a loss of one`s name is a disgrace...

Let us return to the golden path, at neither extreme. Let us continue the family tradition where every woman has a personal name, and let us return to the tradition where every family has only a single name.

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