Keren David

I am my family’s Lilibet

Jews know how to avoid broiges over naming children – or do we?


WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MAY 18: Queen Elizabeth II speaks with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex as they leave after the wedding of Lady Gabriella Windsor to Thomas Kingston at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 18, 2019 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

January 17, 2024 12:52

Oh, the delicious Schadenfreude in reading about the broigeses of others: and yet again we have the Royal family to thank. A new book has outlined the rumblings at the palace when the Sussexes announced their intention to name their daughter Lilibet, a family nickname for the queen. Royal journalist Robert Hardman quoted courtiers as saying that the late Queen was “as angry as I’d ever seen her” after Harry and Meghan stated she had been “supportive” of the name.

And how much more delicious was my enjoyment of the fuss over this “final insult” (according to the Telegraph) when I thought that this wouldn’t happen in a Jewish family. Traditionally we Ashkenazis never name a child after someone who is still alive. And although the reason given is generally that our priority is naming after the deceased, to pass on their attributes, it’s always seemed very clear to me that the real purpose is to avoid acrimony among the living grandparents who could easily be miffed if one is favoured over the others. (Sephardim, I know, do name after the living, I can only assume they are less given to broiges and hurt feelings than we are)

Anyway,my merry smugness faded away approximately two minutes later when I remembered. I am the Lilibet of my family.

My parents, naming their first child, wanted to honour their maternal grandmothers. My mother’s grandma Sarah had died a few years earlier. My father’s much-loved Booba died just before I was born.

The only problem was that her name - Katie/Gitel - was the same as my mum’s mother, who was always called Kitty. Never mind, thought my parents, we’ll call our baby Keren - Biblical, Hebrew - as her ‘English’ name, with Sarah as a middle name, and reserve the Yiddish ‘Gitel’ for her Hebrew name, plus Sara.

Grandma Kitty felt much like the late Queen allegedly did, that her name had been stolen from her, that the naming was somehow disrespectful and almost certainly bad luck. Tradition had been breached, and she was not pleased.

But luckily, the press had no interest in picking over our family broiges. And I can assure Harry and Meghan that my grandma never let any disquiet over my name to get in the way of our relationship. She adored me, just as I’m sure the Queen adored little Lilibet (if only she’d had a chance to get to know her).

When it came to naming my own daughter, I was determined to honour my grandma. But I picked her other Hebrew name - Chaya – as my daughter’s middle name, and we chose Catrin, the Welsh version of Katie, as her middle ‘English’ name, thus carrying on the family tradition of muddling our languages.

Gitel remains my non-Hebrew Hebrew name. There are no grandchildren in the offing for the foreseeable future. But if they should arrive one day and I’m still around to meet them — please, kids, don’t name them after me.

January 17, 2024 12:52

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