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Our images of name changing are frequently clichés: movie stars who adopted new names or Ellis Island officials who changed immigrants’ names. Kirsten Fermaglich upends these cliches by examining previously unexplored name change petitions. In twentieth-century New York City, thousands of ordinary Jews legally changed their names to respond to institutionalized antisemitism. While name changing allowed Jewish families to achieve middle-class status, the practice also became a source of family pain and community stigma.
Dr. Fermaglich is associate professor of history and Jewish studies at Michigan State University. Her most recent book, A Rosenberg By Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America, was awarded the Saul Viener Book Prize by the American Jewish Historical Society in June 2019.
Purchase the book here and a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to the local Bookstore in Great Barrington.