Posted BY: Rabbi Michael Barclay
Names are extremely important in all cultures, and especially in Judaism. The Torah teaches that when Avram makes his covenant with God, his name is changed to Avraham to reflect his heightened spiritual awareness. When someone is extremely sick, there is the custom in both Judaism and other traditions of giving him a new name to enhance his healing. Many cultures believe that if you are named after someone, then you carry a bit of that person’s soul. The concept of names is so important that the second book of the bible (known as “Exodus” in English), is actually named in Hebrew, “Shemot”, which means “names.
Given this truth, we need to ask the question as to why two of the largest non-profit Jewish organizations in Los Angeles have recently chosen to change their names and remove any reference to Judaism from their new monikers. We additionally need to see how this is a larger pattern of “re-naming” that is taking place with individuals and organizations, and is reflective of some disturbing challenges.