In the mid-1930’s, my great uncle, just out of high school and struggling to find a job, came home one day to announce he was changing his last name from Gerstenfeld to Grey. The entire family went along with his decision, and today that family is the Grey family.
My family is not alone. Jews around the globe have changed their names throughout history to help avoid antisemitism, to assimilate and generally to blend in.
But today, some Jews are fighting to change their names back. A recent article in the LA Times reports that close to 30 French Jews, whose families changed their names to more French-sounding ones after World War II, have formed La Force du Nom (The Strength of the Name). The group is petitioning France’s State Council to legally revert their names back to the original, more Jewish-sounding ones.