Contemporary Jewry

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 177–179 | Cite as

Kirsten Fermaglich: A Rosenberg by Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America

NYU Press, 2018, 256 pp, Price: $28.00
  • Shari RabinEmail author

American Jewish historians have long been concerned with the question of “identity,” largely understood as an inchoate affective state. Kirsten Fermaglich’s new book tackles this topic, but strips the history of the existential question, “Who are you?” to its most mundane and bureaucratic – yet still tremendously meaningful – component: “What is your name?” Fermaglich’s eye-opening study focuses on those who found this question particularly vexing in the twentieth century, specifically Jews who changed their names, those that thought about, and those who had opinions about it, which it turns out was most Jews, at least in New York. Along the way, she refutes a number of widely cherished folk myths about the topic, namely that Jewish names were regularly changed at Ellis Island and that name-change was an individual (and male) strategy that indicated a rejection of Jewishness. Fermaglich demonstrates that Jewish name-changing was widespread among New York Jews, who used it as a...


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oberlin CollegeOberlinUSA

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