NYTimes article on Christian/Jewish names brings out the stupid

An article appeared Friday in Motherlode, the NYTimes Parenting blog inexplicably not called Father & Motherlode, titled My Jewish Daughter, Mary. As you may have gathered from the title, it featured the thoughts of Israeli citizen (resident?) and mystery novelist Devorah Blachor as she agonized over whether to name her Jewish Daughter “Mary.”

If the decision caused her such agony, you might astutely ask, why not just choose a different name? As it turns out, Devorah had little choice in the matter: she offered naming rights to her first-born, and he immediately settled on Mary.

Alright, then.

Now, I’m not interested in writing about whether Mary is an appropriate name for a Jew. I know at least one Jewish Mary, and a whole crew of Jewish Chris and Christinas. Granted, they all converted to Judaism, but the point is that it’s in no way a crippling affliction; so long as Devorah doesn’t name her daughter Ursulah or Dorcas she’ll probably turn out fine. This wasn’t really worth bringing to the New York Times.

But I promised the stupid, and the stupid I’ve got. Unsurprisingly, it comes in the form of comments:

As far as I can tell, the Mary you are referring to (if one is to believe the old tales), was Jewish.

The fact that the Mary in question was in fact Jewish makes it hard to take this piece seriously.

I am joining the other commenters in my confusion as to why naming a Jewish daughter Mary would be odd. My first thought was that the name Mary seems quite Jewish to me, since I was taught that the mother of Jesus was a Jewish woman named Mary.

Wasnt Mary, mother of Christ, Jewish? Just saying [Another commenters’ response: “Yes, of course. Apparently the author of this feature had a rather narrow education.”]

The most famous Mary in history was Jewish.

Well, Mary must have been a Jewish name first!

Mary was a Jew. And it’s a common name among the Jews of the New Testament.

The original Mary was Jewish, and her son, Jesus, is probably the most famous Jewish man of all times.

I can’t tell if that last commenter is just piling on the stupid, or if he’s actually trying to make a coherent point: though the historical Mary was indeed Jewish, so was her son Jesus — and Jews very rarely name their children after him.

Again, I have no interest in whether Mary is a “Jewish name”, but Devorah’s dilemma quite obviously has little to do with what the name meant in 33AD Palestine but what it means to her and to other Jews today.


3 thoughts on “NYTimes article on Christian/Jewish names brings out the stupid”

  1. For the record, the name Palestine didn’t exist in the year 33. The Romans invented it after the destruction. Judea, Israel, or (if you go way back) Canaan were the only recognized names in the year 33.


  2. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name smells as sweet…right? I seem to recall the medrash stating that 3 things kept the Jews in Egypt from total assimilation: language, dress, and names.

    Today in America, the only distinguishing Jewish dress (outside of the Haredi world) is a kipah and tzitzit. Most American Jews do not wear these.

    As for language, the literacy level of American Jews, particularly in Hebrew, and their ability to communicate, is abysmal. Reform (and many Conservative) centers have nearly done away with Hebrew texts for prayer/study books.

    Names seem to be the last real identifying characteristic. Those named Chris and Christina will probably assimilate much easier than those named Mordechai, or even Jonathan. So will those named Mary more easily lose themselves and their Judaism.


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