6: Image, illustration by Suzette Phelps, "Moment" magazine, 1977.

6: Image, illustration by Suzette Phelps, "Moment" magazine, 1977.

In his monologue at the opening of Part One: Millenium Approaches, Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz eulogizes Louis’s grandmother, Sarah Ironson. In doing so, he lists the names of Sarah’s family members:

“We are here this morning to pay respects at the passing of Sarah Ironson, devoted wife of Benjamin Ironson, also deceased, loving and caring mother of her sons Morris, Abraham, and Samuel, and her daughters Esther and Rachel; beloved grandmother of Max, Mark, Louis, Lisa, Maria… uh… Lesley, Angela, Doris, Luke and Eric. Eric? This is a Jewish name? Eric.”

This illustration from a 1977 issue of Moment provides a concise visual representation of the trends in Jewish names that seem to confound Rabbi Chemelwitz. 

Suggested Activity: After reading the opening scene of Part One: Millenium Approaches, ask students to look at the illustration in small groups. Invite students to discuss: how does this image relate to Rabbi Chemelwitz’s comment about Eric’s name? What kinds of historical events might impact how Jewish parents choose to name their children? To what extent does this image reflect naming traditions that you have observed in your own community? What, if anything, makes a name Jewish?

Source: Suzette Phelps, cover image, Moment, October 1977.