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My hyphenated last name — Drachman-Jones — also honors the fact that I am the daughter of a Jewish mother and a Protestant father. I identify as Jewish, and I also greatly value the Ethical Culture tradition that has been passed down on the Jewish side of my family. My last name reminds me that I celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas; that I had a Bat Mitzvah and also grew up dyeing Easter eggs.
While my Jewishness is so much more than just my name— my family will always celebrate the high holidays by gathering together, cooking our favorite foods, telling stories and spending time together, regardless of what I decide — I can’t help but feel that changing it will mean losing parts of my heritage. After all, my mother kept her name and hyphenated mine precisely because she believed it mattered. And she and my father gave me my middle name precisely because it meant something to our family. Besides, as a tall, blond woman who doesn’t look particularly Jewish, my name is the only real indication to the outside world of my Jewish identity.
So yes, I could I keep my name. Or I could take my fiancé’s. I could keep parts of mine and add parts of his. I could even become a double hyphen. Simply put, there is no easy answer to the age-old and hugely common dilemma of how to preserve one’s family while simultaneously creating a new one. Just as surely as I want to share my last name with my future husband and future kids (that desire is especially intense when you grow up in a family like mine, with three different last names among four people), I also want to hold on to my personal and professional identity as a “Goldsmith Drachman-Jones.” Where does that leave me? Deep down I have a feeling that I’ll take my fiancé’s name, at least in my personal life; writing this article is my first stab at accepting that choice.
Abigail Jones is the digital features editor of the Forward. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @abigaildj.