If you have any Israeli friends on your facebook lists, there’s a good chance you’re slightly confused in recent months as to who exactly they are, as their last names have morphed into new, confusing, and sometimes rather long ones. The inspiration was a Hebrew-speaking ‘event’, initially planned for a week, which has since been extended until May 2013.
The organizers of the Facebook event ‘Melting down the melting pot: Recovering the lost names!’ has a pretty mission: ‘Change your redone Hebrew family name on Facebook to the previous last names of your father’s and mother’s family: whether it was a clerk at the jewish agency or a school teacher who changed your name; whether it was changed out of shame or fear of racism; whether it was due to a family feud, voluntarily, following kabbalah studies; whether it’s your pen name – for a week [now extended] we retrieve the lost name and tell its story.’
Over 1,000 people have joined the initiative, which resonates with descendants of holocaust survivors, Arabic jews and second-generation immigrants alike. The requirement for ‘Hebrew’ names, which many encountered upon arrival, is a subject especially painful for immigrants from Arabic and eastern European countries, whose name were - and, in the case of Russian-speakers, still are - often forcibly changed upon arrival. One fellow, Amos Bar, became ‘Amos Shlomo Bilibil-Stock’ on Facebook. ‘Bilbil is the Turkish name of the Bulbul bird, which is also why my grandfather didn’t hebraicize his name,’ he says; bulbul is Hebrew slang for male genitalia. ‘The second part of the invented surname, Stock, means stick. Grandpa actually hebraicized that, to Sharvit, and then everyone thought he was of oriental descent. Bar is a name my parents made up after my mother refused to be Mrs. Bilbil. I hereby use this stage to kick its behind. Shlomo is my second name, after my grandfather’s father, who died six months before I was born. And he was actually named Zeide.’
Café Babel, 14.11.2012