web analytics
September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

What’s In A Name? Everything!


I once asked my parents why they had named me Chana Malka, and they responded: “We didn’t, the rabbis named you.” For the longest time, I chose to be content with that answer, but then again, for the longest time I chose to be content with my assumed religious identity, and never felt the need to examine either subject too closely. I am the daughter of two loving parents, a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father.

But two weeks after my 19th birthday, in the food court of a Tel Aviv shopping mall, I was informed that actual halacha only considers a child born to a Jewish mother to have the birthright status of a Jew. My informant wasn’t a particularly observant person, but what she shared was stated as common fact. What was this halacha (a word I had never heard before)? Was it true I wasn’t Jewish? Would I have to “convert” to my own religion?

I was thirsty for answers and in need of consolation for the sudden state of confusion into which I was thrust.

What do you do about the kid who thinks she is Jewish but isn’t a real Jew; who has more connection and involvement in Jewish life than the child born with full-Jewish status according to Jewish law? Suddenly, I was that kid. And to this day, I still struggle with what to say when I meet someone in the same situation.

Do halachic Jews realize how difficult it is to admit you’re not Jewish; to simply walk away from an identity that fit your outlook on life; to be told you’re not a Jew but your friend with the non-Jewish father is; to realize you could be harming the very nation you wish to defend and connect with in so many ways?

We all have choices in life. The easiest choices in life are not always the wisest, let alone meaningful. I recognized that choice: I could continue to live my life hardly understanding what it meant to be Jewish, all the while knowing I was only considered a Jew by the Reform movement’s 1980s decision (recognition of Jewish identity when either parent is Jewish if the child is raised as a Jew). Staying as I was would mean that in the back of my head and heart I would continue to question my Jewish status, which didn’t technically exist.

I chose to convert according to the highest standards of halacha, by the approval and testimony of the Beit Din of Monsey. The Torah is the greatest treasure ever created, a gift given exclusively to the Jewish people as a reminder of our special relationship with the Creator of the world. This, in fact, is a privilege and if you do not understand why you were hired to protect the king’s crown jewels, then what value could they possibly possess for you?

In Judaism, names often reflect on the qualities of an individual. In the process of undergoing halachic conversion, I was given the unusual opportunity of renaming myself, so I wanted something with personal relevance.

I chose two Hebrew names – Batya Miriam. Why specifically those two?

The Midrash tells the following story: Pharaoh’s daughter decided to become a sincere convert to Judaism and was on her way to the Nile River for ritual immersion. Her name, Bithia, evolved into Batya. I chose this name because, like Pharaoh’s daughter, I consider myself born into a life of great opportunities and privilege, cognizant of the Jewish people but generally observing them from afar. We both saw past the complacence of our upbringing – what do I really believe? How do I want to live my life?

I didn’t go looking for change, but when confronted with the truth, I couldn’t remain complacent either. The more I learned of Torah-true Judaism, the more I discovered a life of purpose and joy. Was it an easy transition? No. Yet Torah doesn’t expect me to be perfect. I am expected to keep moving forward in life, improving myself in observance of Torah and mitzvot, which is the basis of Jewish life.

My decision was one based on finding truth, not upon emotion or the desire to rebel. I chose to be Batya because we both chose to help the Jewish people. I attempt to live up to that goal, looking for opportunities to serve the Jewish community, especially in times such as these when there are such great misunderstandings about what it means to be a Jew.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “What’s In A Name? Everything!”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Candy-laden bulletin board greets children on their first day of school in the lobby of an Efrat apartment building. Sept. 1, 2014.
The message reads:
"To our dear children ... may it be a year of fun and happiness in your studies." 
Did You Know September 1 is an Israeli National Holiday?
Latest Indepth Stories
0.5-Shekel-hatasham-RJP

The War projects to lower Israel’s 2014 GDP 0.5% but will have little influence on foreign investors

The_United_Nations_Building

It is in the nature of the Nations of the World to be hostile towards the Jewish People.

champions

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually fighting to “liberate Jerusalem and all Palestine.”

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

More Articles from Batya Graber

I once asked my parents why they had named me Chana Malka, and they responded: “We didn’t, the rabbis named you.” For the longest time, I chose to be content with that answer, but then again, for the longest time I chose to be content with my assumed religious identity, and never felt the need to examine either subject too closely. I am the daughter of two loving parents, a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/whats-in-a-name-everything/2011/02/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: