I'm sure everyone has heard that the decidedly non-Jewish celebrities Tom and Katie Cruise inexplicably chose
a Jewish name for their newborn daughter, Suri. And not just a biblical name - but a very Yiddish diminutive of the name Sarah. I read about a similar phenomenon over Pesach in the bestselling book Freakonomics
. Apparently, when the lists of names given to all newborn babies in the US for any given year were culled, the lists for both boys and girls that were born to parents with the highest levels of education were laden with Jewish names. From the boys' list, out of 20, names, six were Jewish or hebrew, with Dov and Akiva taking the #1 and #2 spots (Elon, Yonah, Tor and Zev round out the group). The girls list included Meira, Aviva, Rotem, Atara and Zofia. I'm not really sure if these lists prove that Jews figure prominently among the most highly educated Americans, or just that Jewish names are very attractive to the most highly educated Americans, but either way, it's a cool little bit of information.
Speaking of Jewish names, I've noticed another amusing phenomenon in my community. I was at the pediatrician's office last week with one of the OrthoKids, and the nurse came out to the waiting room to call some patients into the examination rooms. "Uh...Philip and Natalie?" Silence. "Philip and Natalie Schwartz?" At this, a little boy with a large velvet yarmulka and payos, and his sister, who was wearing a uniform identifiable as being from one of the more religious girls' schools in the area, jumped up just as their mother called out "Nechama and Paysach, our turn!" I mean, come on. We live in America. It is 2006. If the Pakistani child sitting next to me in the waiting room can get called in with the name "Kumar", and the Hispanic child across from me can have the name "Estralita" on her chart, why is it necessary to have Orthodox children addressed as "Philip and Natalie"? What I find even more amazing is the class list from my youngest's playgroup. With names like Gregory, Aidan, William, Samantha, Madison and Grace, it's hard to believe that the playgroup is a decidedly Orthodox one. Interestingly, though, the playgroup is frequented by a more Modern Orthodox crowd, where the names tend to be more Americanized altogether. In my older children's schools, however, which might be considered more right-wing, I can't imagine any
children fitting in if they were to go by some of the names of the kids my youngest rolls play-dough with. As a matter of fact, I think to attempt to have your children go by the names "Aidan" or "Samantha" in my older kids' schools would be close to committing social suicide.
Still, one has to wonder why these identifiably Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox parents such as the ones I encountered at the pediatrician's assign their kids such...well, American aliases. Do they expect them to need the names if they go to college or grad school? Who are they kidding? Let's be honest. We are talking Yeshivish city. Their kids aren't going
to college. But in all seriousness, there must be a more Jewish permutation of "Paysach" than "Philip", don't you think?