Kalman Weiser, York University, Toronto
The Eleventh International Conference on Jewish Names, Paper Abstract
In 1928, the Zionist-dominated Warsaw kehilla published a guide to advise Jews about registering names in state records. The guide aimed to eliminate what it described as the confusing welter that vernacular names presented to state officials and to “restore” among Jews the use of “pure” biblical names in their “beautiful eastern pronunciation” or in their “correct” Polish pronunciation. In response, the indignant opponents of such views marshaled their linguistic know-how to defend “corrupted” names as the quintessence of authentic Jewishness and, more specifically, Polish-Jewishness. Rival political-cultural groupings argued about the nature and importance of names as well as about appropriate naming practices to elevate Jewish dignity and simultaneously to make Jews “legible” to the state. Meanwhile, Jews of diverse orientations increasingly adopted Polish or other names, at times facing legal obstacles in their attempts to do so.
Focusing on Yiddishist views, this paper examines discussions of Jewish naming practices in the interwar period in order to understand conflicting conceptions of what constitutes a Jewish name and the importance of names for both articulating and transcending group boundaries. It seeks to illuminate Jewish patterns of acculturation and notions of individual and collective identity in this period.
A. Jagodzińska, “My name, my enemy: progressive Jews and the question of name changing in the Kingdom of Poland in the second half of the 19th century,” Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe 1  (2006) 31-59
K. Weiser, Jewish People, Yiddish Nation. Noah Prylucki and the Folkists in Poland, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011