Saturday, May 10, 2008

What's in a name?

When I was getting my citizenship in Philly, I had a chance to change my name. My father and mother both did. I took a pass and never regretted it. It's not that I hate America or that I don't like the sound of John Q. Smith as it whizzes by my ear. It's just that to change my name would have been to change myself, to shrug of my past and my roots. I didn't want to do that. And when I read this, I felt again that I made the right choice.

Especially when I read this part:

"Fritz and Otto excelled in their studies in Vienna. However, like other Jews, they suffered greatly from the anti-Semitism that prevailed in Europe at this time. As a result, both Kohn brothers abandoned their Jewish heritage and converted to Roman Catholicism.

In addition, in 1897, Otto decided to shed the Jewish-sounding name of Kohn. He chose a new name by dropping a pencil on a map. The pencil landed on Ireland's County Kerry. In 1901, Fritz followed his brother’s example and officially changed his name to Frederick Kerry.

Fred, who worked as an accountant at his uncle's shoe factory, married Ida Loewe, a Jewish musician from Budapest. Ida was a descendant of Sinai Loew, a brother of Rabbi Judah Loew, the famous Kabbalist, philosopher and Talmudist known as the "Maharal of Prague" who some say invented the character of the Golem. Two of Ida's siblings, Otto Loewe and Jenni Loewe, were killed in Nazi concentration camps.

Fred, Ida and their first son Erich were all baptized as Catholics. And in 1905, the young family immigrated to America. After entering through Ellis Island, the family first lived in Chicago and then settled in Boston. Fred and Ida had two more children in America, Mildred (1910) and Richard (1915).

Fred and Ida and their three children lived in Brookline, where Fred became a prominent man in the shoe business and regularly attended Sunday Catholic church services. Fred did not tell and no one would have guessed that the family had Jewish roots.

In 1921, Fred Kerry, at age 48, entered a Boston hotel and shot himself in the head. Some say the suicide was due to financial stress or depression. Perhaps the transition from Czech Jew to American Catholic was too great and unsupported a spiritual, psychological and social change."

I have mentioned before that many, many and have I said...many here have been making not-so-subtle overtures to have me convert to the local flavor. When I tell them to pound dirt, I'm doing them a favor. Because the new and improved me wouldn't be me.


peemil said...

I'd top myself if I was Catholic too.

asiatown77 said...

That wasn't exactly what I was driving at. How have you been btw?