Hating my Name

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Pink Sherbet Photography

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Chana Jenny. That’s my name.

And I’ve always hated it.

To clarify, I have nothing against the name Chana or Jenny on their own.

I love the name Chana. That’s the Hebrew name my parents gave me. I like that I’m named after my grandmother, who died before I was born. I like that my name means grace and kindness, two traits I’d like to have some more of. I like that my pen-name is Chana, since I write about moms and Judaism and holiness, which I feel are so embodied in the name Chana.

And I like the name Jenny, too. Jenny is the name that people I know have always called me, even today. I feel like it’s a cute name, a light name, a sunshine-y name. I feel like Chana is my true spiritual essence, but that for day-to-day dealings with neighbors, plumbers, telemarketers, I’d prefer that my true Chana essence remains hidden behind the fluorescent yellow, smiley-face mask of Jenny. Using the name Jenny, for me, feels akin to wearing clothing to cover my bare skin.

So, if I don’t like the combination “Chana Jenny,” why for G-d’s sake did I combine them in the first place?

I combined them because, as you might be aware, there are two of us writers named Chana Weisberg. The other Chana Weisberg is a Lubavitch rebbetzin from Toronto and a popular writer and editor on Chabad.org (and yes, we’ve met. She is the best! I am so totally proud to be a member of the hyper-exclusive “Writers named Chana Weisberg Club”!) So a few years ago, I decided that in order to reduce, at least somewhat, the considerable confusion between the 2 Chana Weisbergs, I would change my writing name to Chana Jenny.

It was a hard decision to make, and I’ve never felt comfortable with it. It feels so weird, so awkward. Faigy Sue. Leah Leslie. Odelya Margit. Chana Jenny. Yuck!

But the other day I was walking home, and I had a funny, meteoric-sudden revelation about the name Chana Jenny.

I realized that I love it.

Because the dissonance between Chana and Jenny, I realized, is who I really am.

Chana…Jenny

I am religious…but for the first twenty years of my life I was far from it
We are religious…but our families are not
My kids attend an Orthodox school…and I attended a Quaker one
I am an Israeli…and an American
I celebrate a “Mazal Tov” birthday…and a “Congratulations” birthday too
My kids speak Hebrew…and I answer them in English
My two favorite magazines are Binah…and the New Yorker
My two favorite hangouts in Jerusalem are the Central Belzer Shul…and the avidly secular Israel Museum*
My two favorite websites are Aish.com…and the New York Times “Motherlode” blog
My two favorite musicians are Efrat Razel…and Vivaldi
My two favorite cities are Jerusalem…and New York
My two favorite foods are felafel…and Pringles potato chips

Weird, right?

Weird, and nice too. Because today when I see the name Chana Jenny Weisberg, it no longer makes me cringe and grit my teeth.

Today, when I see the name Chana Jenny Weisberg, it just makes me smile real big. Because that’s me.
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*I love the Israel Museum especially since the new spectacular renovations. But I am careful about the exhibits I enter there. Some of the Modern Art exhibits, for example, are absolutely nihilistic and gross. I love the Archeology, Judaica, and South American, and African exhibits, for example.

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13 comments

  1. Beautiful post! It captures the disconnect many of us experience. This seems to be a popular topic in the J Blogosphere lately…

  2. I love it! And Binah and the New Yorker are my two favorite magazines, too.

  3. Funny you mention this… I just started vising this site a several weeks ago… one thing that caught me was your name. I’ve thought about it a few times, wondering if you go by both, or if maybe your parents wanted you to have both a religious name and an “american” name… or??

    whatever the reason you have the name, it gives me this particular feeling about you – somehow the name just makes you feel kind and down to earth – the easy to talk to type. non-pretentious. I like the name a lot.

    It is odd that I should have even have put that much thought into your name to begin with — but when I saw you post this morning i just knew I had to mention it!

    whatever your name is – it is clearly that for a reason 🙂

  4. I smiled, reading this. It really does seem to suit you!

    I’ve always hated the name Jennifer. I’m not as blonde and as perky or as anything as I’d need to be to suit it well. And I hate my Hebrew name, too – Yosefa. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just Yosef with a ה on the end. 🙁

    My own idea was to set my sights on a third name, my “aliyah name,” which I can choose for myself. But when I mentioned the possibility of ADDING a name, my mother was very, very hurt.

    So I guess I’m still stuck. But like I said, in all the great ways you mentioned, your name really does fit what I’ve read about your life so far…

  5. I am so glad you love your name now! You have worked so hard to become who you are and your name is part of that. Keep using it to inspire each of us to continue the journey of becoming who we are.

    Jennifer – why did your parents name Yosefa? Maybe there is a very special, good reason there which would help you love it?

  6. I was deeply relieved when you began calling yourself Chana Jenny Weisberg. It bothered me that even I, who “know” (somewhat) both of you, sometimes read something and wasn’t sure who had written it, you or The Other Chana Weisberg.
    Now it’s easy… there’s Chana Weisberg (that’s her) and there’s Chana Jenny Weisberg – and that’s always, and only, YOU.
    So… thank you so much. And I love how you describe why it is right – felafel and pringles… profound and beautiful writing, as usual!
    I’m also really glad you like Binah. I work for Binah on occasion and will tell the others (in fact I’ll show them your blog).
    Yasher koach, Chana Jenny!
    P.S. I have always hated my name.

  7. It’s good that you now include both names because I always confused you with Chana Weisberg from Toronto. What’s more, when you first started using both your names and didn’t know who you were at the time I was like, why would Chana Weisberg from Toronto suddenly use an English name? Then it all became clear…

    Thanks for your articles, they are great!

  8. Chanah Elka

    Chana Jenny, I have always loved that combination in your name. Other than distinguishing you from the other Chana Weisberg (there are my librarian tendancies), the names themselves are beautiful. I have always liked the name Chana. And Jenny is such a pretty name, and as you mentioned, a very friendly one.

    • Chanah Elka

      I forgot to mention that I understand about feeling divided by names (among other things). As you can see, I have a Hebrew name that I post with, and that is the spiritual me, and what I consider my true name. However, other than my husband, nobody ever uses this name.

      I am known by a secular name to my family and community alike.

      The combination of your two names seem to be more at peace than having two names and not having one of them used.

  9. Really enjoyed reading! Moshe Rabbeinu had ten, Yisro seven. I am catching up myself.

  10. Miss Perfect

    It’s funny that you wrote this because a few days ago I was thinking what a cool religious and light hearted name you have!

    My given name is Irish for warrior. And my warrior spirit gets me into a lot of uncomfortable situations but someone has to deal with them so it is me.

    I write often with a rabbi and I asked for a Hebrew name. I wanted a name that meant, “Nice and quiet and sweet” or something like that. He liked my name and said it fit me, that my parents had psychic revelation when they named me and that it fit, but I pleaded and said I would do as he said, just please give me a Hebrew name and indicated meanings that I wanted because I hoped I would change to the name. He sent me a list of several names and said, “Kaylee– I think this is perfect.”

    I was like, “OK, Kaylee I am, but what does it mean?”

    We both laughed over that. . . Kaylee is very close to my given name. And it means perfect!

    Now when my warrior nature gets me into trouble or at least uncomfortable but I am doing what needs to be done, I remember that I’m doing what I have to do and that I’m perfect even if I am not comfortable. 🙂 The rabbi did more for me with self acceptance than anyone ever has when he helped me choose.

    I told my X-ian husband and he was very sweet– he loves the name and put a song called Kayleigh by Marllion on my iPod.

  11. Oh wow, thanks for clarifying. I did get mixed up between the two of you during all these years lol.

  12. Just wanted to say kol hakavod for using both names. I’ve been in Israel many years and always assumed that “someday” I would use my Hebrew name. However, I don’t love or identify with it, but feels more appropriate in the frum Israeli world. In addition, my English name is sometimes hard to catch for Israelis and I feel it makes me stick out as a non-chareidi woman working in a chareidi environment. And as a frum woman, why shoudl I use a secular name?

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