Throughout the 20th century, especially during and immediately after WWII, New York Jews changed their names at rates considerably higher than any other ethnic group. Representative of the insidious nature of American anti-Semitism, recognizably Jewish names were often barriers for entry into college, employment, and professional advancement. College and job application forms were intentionally used as a means to “control” the Jewish population in a given college or institution. As such, many Jewish families legally changed their names in an effort to thwart pervasive anti-Semitism and discrimination. In A Rosenberg by Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America
(New York University Press, 2018), Kirsten Fermaglich
nuances the misconceptions and common assumptions made about name-changers and engages in a rich and meticulously researched study examining this trend.
Kirsten Fermaglich is Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Michigan State University.
Lindsey Jackson is a PhD student at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.