Skip To Content

Is a Name Change Identity Fraud?

I never gave serious thought to changing my last name (it’s about as Jewish as you can get) until I realized how pervasive antisemitism has become. I am in my 50s and beyond the age where it might matter, but my daughters are in their early teens and will soon be applying to college and then entering the work force. I am thinking about modifying my children’s last name. Many of our ancestors did. What do you think?

— Identity fraud?

Many of our ancestors did indeed change their names. In an effort to assimilate, to be accepted in “polite” company, many sacrificed their names, their heritage and their pride. In short, they sacrificed not just their integrity, but their true identities; they woke up each morning to live a lie.

I don’t know if there is more antisemitism in the air, but I do think people are less reluctant to voice it. Your concern for your daughters is legitimate. But you may want to reflect on whether you want to let antisemitism get the upper hand. Is your goal in changing your daughters’ names to counsel them to “pass”? Should they deny their Jewish roots when asked about their religious and cultural affiliation? If so, by all means make the modification in their name. While you are at it, consult a plastic surgeon about modifying any Semitic features your daughters possess that might “give them away.” Because once you take the first step to hiding your true identity, there is no end to the lying, deceit and self-denial. Surely there is a more constructive — as opposed to reconstructive — alternative.

* * *|

My husband and I have been happily married for two years. Before we got married he agreed to have his vasectomy reversed. He now claims to have no recollection of that promise. He is not at all prone to lying, and I almost believe him. Unfortunately, I desperately want children. He is quite a bit older than I, so time is of the essence. He likes other people’s children and is a kind, loving and attentive husband. I think he would make an excellent father, but he insists parenthood isn’t for him.

— Selective memory

Sounds to me like the old bait-and-switch routine. You are being far too kind (read naïve) to accept your husband’s amnesia plea. I could accept different recollections about any number of things: your favorite breakfast food, turtles or puppies for pets, what kind of car to buy or even your willingness to move to a foreign country. But to have children or not is not one of them. Ask yourself this question: Would you have married this man if he had told you up front that he did not want children? If the answer is yes, then you will find a way to live with your husband’s selective recall. If not, perhaps you can refresh his memory with an ultimaturm: no reversal, no marriage. There is still no guarantee that your husband’s reversal will take and that he will be able to father children. But at least you will know you tried. Sacrificing your desire for children on someone else’s account is no recipe for a long and happy marriage. You will only resent your husband and regret the decision for the rest of your life.

* * *|

I was amused to read the question from your reader who said her parents asked her to buy them a luxury condo and she turned them down. My situation is the opposite: My younger daughter and son-in-law offered to give me the down payment on a condo in my hometown with the stipulation that their names also be put on the certificate of title. I would pay the mortgage payments, condo fees, taxes and upkeep. I turned their generous offer down. They now think I am stubborn and ungrateful.

— Deeds and intentions

Your children get credit for trying, and also for providing an instructive lesson in how to exploit aging parents. Any child about to propose a financial or business plan to his or her parents should consider the following: avoid a proposal that any 10-year-old would find inequitable. Clearly you are not yet senile and your children do not have the courtesy to wait until you are. I do not begrudge your children for asking. But I do object to the indirect and disingenuous form their offer took. Let them think what they want. You are right, and they are both wrong and manipulative.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.