May 4, 2008

I present to you, a conundrum.

I've written a million times about names, the importance and significance of names, and the future I likely have as Chaviva E. The web world knows me as Chavi, and when I say the web world, I mean bloggers across the blog-o-sphere, people on Yelp (a review site I take part in), and even most recently I was featured on a Chicago Jew site with this moniker, meant to be permanent.

When I meet new people from the interweb in person (such as at Yelp events or when meeting friends of people on the web who know me via my blog or another blog), I'm always asked how I got my name, what it means, why I use it. I always explain that it means the same thing as my given name, which leaves the questioner wondering what the deal is with the given name. It's then that I explain that Chavi is my Hebrew name, which I chose, and that at some point will become my "permanent" name. I usually get funny looks, but it typically surpasses the whole "listen, I'm a convert" bit, not to mention usually gets a nod and a "Well, that's a beautiful name." And we call it a day.

And until now, I haven't had anyone say flat out that they REFUSE to call me Chavi.

See, there are those (family, exes, friends from the past) who will always know me as Amanda and will probably call me as such, and that's just fine. No problem at all. But most of those who are still very close to me (in the friend category) and understand and respect my choices are more than happy to integrate Chavi into their lexicon. One of my closest chums started calling me Chavi on his own accord, and it means the world to me. There are those on Yelp who knew me first as Amanda and then as Chavi and they flip back and forth, but are always careful to say "Which do you prefer?" and then go by that.

But today, someone essentially said they refuse to call me Chaviva. This person, ironically, is a Jew.

It seems that lately I've run into several Jews who just can't handle me. I'm too much Jew, I'm over-Jew-ing it. I'm Jew Jew Jew all the time. I was even accused of trying to convert the masses (what the hell?).

Now, when it comes down to it, I really don't care. I don't need every Jew on the planet to accept me, and I guess if my biggest problem right now is one Jew refusing to call me by my chosen, Hebrew name, then I'm doing pretty good.

I just wish I could understand why this person, who at one time welcomed me as a member of the tribe and treated me with the same respect as others, suddenly is unable to call me Chavi.

EDIT: So here's what this Jew has to say to me, flat out, in a public forum.

"Amanda, sorry, you'll never be jewish no matter how hard you try. I don't care if you change your name legally. I don't care if you go to shul every friday for the rest of your life. I don't care if you keep strict kosher rules. I really just don't care. You'll never be jewish. It's just not going to happen. It's not in your blood. Furthermore, I'm really just sick and tired of your holier-than-thou attitude."

Someone explain to me how people are allowed to keep their Jew card with this attitude? This person is just as bad as the ultra-Orthodox Jew who denies my Jewishness, except this person is on the other end of the spectrum. People never cease to amaze me in their ignorance, and they will eat the words they spew one of these days.


Rivkah said...

That sort of "calling out" is enough to knock someone off their feet for a bit. It's breath-taking how easily some people decide they are the judge of all things within their sphere.

I'm sorry you were treated to that attitude, Chavi.

zahavalaska said...

I don't know of the background of this person, but they're dead wrong. Of course you're Jewish.

A couple years ago I had a series of experiences with secular Jewish college students that helped to alienate me from Judaism for awhile. They held "Jew only" Shabbat dinners that I was explicitly not invited to. They explained that my interest in Judaism was "cultural appropriation" and an awful thing to do. Yes, stealing "their" culture. They would go on tirades about how it was wrong for non-Jews to be interested in Judaism.

When I finally decided to begin the conversion process, I shared this experience with many. (Having been at a small college, this had gone on for several years.) A lot of positive, friendly Jews, both converts and not, told me that they also got animosity from secular Jews sometimes. If you view Judaism only as a heritage, then you don't see room for others, I suppose.

And I'm sure you know the tradition that we're not even supposed to be talking about being converts, and no one is EVER supposed to bring it up. It's only in our modern context that we feel comfortable bringing it up in a positive way, but no one EVER has the right to do it in a negative manner. My heart to you.

Anonymous said...

Gross. This whole episode has made me reconsider finishing my conversion. I just don't know if I feel it anymore. So much hate and anger.

Chris said...

Isaiah 56 seems like a relevant passage to this situation.

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