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In 2011, TheKnot.com surveyed almost 20,000 newlywed women. They found that only 8 percent kept their last names. Of the remaining 92 percent, 86 percent took their partnerâ€™s last name. Six percent hyphenated or created a new last name.
While Iâ€™ve seen other studies that show the percentage of women who keep their last names atÂ closer to 20 percent, the fact remains: Changing your name after marriage is the â€śnormalâ€ť thing to do.
Changing my name has never felt like the right move for meâ€”my last name is the one on my degrees, itâ€™s part of the name of my photography business, itâ€™s the name Iâ€™ve written under, and, itâ€™s the name Iâ€™ve used my entire life. Iâ€™ve given this some serious thought. I support a personâ€™s right to choose the name that feels like the best fit for them, and I understand the idea that a unified last name presents a unified team.
But, for me, changing my name just doesnâ€™t feel right.
(It also should be noted, that Justin isnâ€™t up for changing his last name either. My last name is hard to spell, and heâ€™s spent too long building his brand to change his name to something else. I donâ€™t think this is a conversation only half of a coupleÂ should be havingâ€”if name changes are on the table, they should be on the table for everyone.)
It wasnâ€™t until recently, when concepts like name changes shifted from hypothetical to reality, did something click for me. Changing my last name would mean separating my name from my familyâ€™s nameâ€”and taking a step away from my Jewish identity.
I know that marrying Justin, who isnâ€™t Jewish, wonâ€™t make me any less Jewish.
It wonâ€™t make our home any less Jewish; it wonâ€™t invalidate the mezuzah hanging on the door, or make my observance of holidays any less meaningful.
It wonâ€™t make my work any less Jewish; it wonâ€™t tarnish my past community organizing, nor will it make my work with Keshet and commitment to full LGBTQ inclusion in the Jewish community less authentic.
Taking Justinâ€™s last name wouldnâ€™t make me any less Jewishâ€¦ but it feels that way.
As an Ashkenazi Jew, with a very classically Ashkenazi Jewish last name, my name is a calling card. Rozensky, with its â€śrozenâ€ť and its â€śsky,â€ť shouts Jewish. I can trace its Jewish history. My name comes with a connection to my peopleâ€”not just in the sense of â€śthe chosen people,â€ť but also in the way it connects me to previous generations of Rozenskys. Iâ€™m not ready to step away from that tradition.
There will be plenty of compromises made in our marriage; after all, meeting each other halfway is an important part of keeping a relationship working. But when it comes to our namesâ€”which hold such important aspects of our identitiesâ€”compromise doesnâ€™t seem like the best bet.
One of my favorite holidays is Hanukkah, and for that, I give a lot of the credit to the Beerorah. The Beerorah is something that my fiancĂ© Derek and I came up with the first Hanukkah we were dating â€“ well, really itâ€™s a gift pack from Heâ€™Brew brewing company (a division of Schmaltz brewing) that his best friend had given him when the friend found out he was dating me.
We joke that the Beerorah combines our two loves: â€śMy love of God with his love of beer.â€ť And Derek really does love beer â€“ itâ€™s his hobby in a true aficionadoâ€™s way. I have learned more about craft beer in the four-and-a-half years weâ€™ve been together than most people learn in a lifetime, and we love to visit beer bars and breweries just to try new and rare beers. Also he and his best friend have a collection of over 500 bottles of (craft) beer, carefully inventoried in their â€śbeerventory.â€ť
As for me though, the love of God part is apt too. A Conservative Jew, Judaism has always been a large part of my identity. Growing up, I attended synagogue every Saturday because I wanted to â€“ not only to gain guidance from the Rabbiâ€™s sermons or to enjoy the serene satisfaction of the silent Amidah (one of my favorite prayers), but because it was the center of the social circle for my friends and I. Go on a date? Having family drama? Meet at synagogue and we can discuss it.
But going to synagogue and practicing Judaism were also integral to my identity in part because of the climate in which I grew up. I am from Riverdale, NY â€“ home of eight or nine different synagogues and many many Jews. Nonetheless, my synagogue was swatstikaed one weekend when I was in Hebrew School. On the night before Kol Nidre (the holiest night of the year) a year or two after September 11th, our synagogue was firebombed with Molotov cocktails. We attended services while eager news crews waited outside to interview us and have gone through metal detectors and pat downs with varying regularity ever since. So my Judaism and its essentialness to my identity came in part from the fears to my safety that came with it â€“ and the way those fears bound my group of close friends and I together to the community and to each other.
That said, it was never essential to me to date a Jewish guy. I greatly enjoyed learning about different religions and cultures and watching people experience aspects of Judaism for the first time. I always had a strong opinion about how I wanted to observe Judaism and had my own relationship with God. I knew that my kids will be Jewish, that I am Jewish, that my family is Jewish, that I will never be anything but Jewish. And honestly, I knew I needed a laid back low-maintenance sports fan kind of guy â€“ I wasnâ€™t sure I would necessarily find that within the Jewish community.
You can say â€śOh, but traditions! But continuity! But faith!â€ť but I have also found that Derek has been much more respectful of my faith and practice than the Jewish guys Iâ€™ve dated. One got mad at me for not answering the phone while I was at a Friday night Shabbat dinner. I got in a heated argument with another who asked, â€śBut WHY do you believe? WHY do you have faith? Whereâ€™s the rational proof that God exists?â€ť Both were the moments when I knew the relationships wouldnâ€™t work out. The Beerorah was one of the first examples of Derekâ€™s openness and respect of my faith. And when we light it together each Hanukkah (this year was its fifthÂ iteration), it reminds me of that â€“ that we can meld what matters to us together to create something just as wonderful (or more wonderful) than the original. I havenâ€™t compromised anything â€“ Iâ€™m still Jewish, and I still have my love of God and my observance. He still has his love of beer. And we both have each other.