Kirsten Fermaglich


On her book A Rosenberg by Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America

Cover Interview of June 12, 2019


I hope that this book will encourage more American Jewish historians (and indeed more Americans) to consider the significance and the meaning of antisemitism in American life, particularly in thinking about the relationship between the state and private actors. We need context to understand the politics of our contemporary era.

I also hope that the book will encourage more historians to take names seriously in general. Too often we use names as mere markers, rather than historical subjects themselves. But names are historical documents, full of historical meaning, and have not been explored enough.

Finally, I hope that the book will encourage all readers to reconsider the name changing in their own lives, or in their families’ lives. Name changing has too frequently been understood either as a joke or as a shameful abandonment of community. I would like my book to help readers consider the real struggles faced by Jews in the middle of the twentieth century, and the ways that those struggles shaped Jewish life and community.