What’s in a Name?

The Day I Finally Changed My Last Name and What Led Up to That

Today, December 22, 2014, 30 Kislev 5775 on the Hebrew calendar, is a very important day for me, for today I changed my surname to one of my own choosing. This has been a long time coming, as I will, with your permission, go on to explain here.

How it all began

I was born Orit Presser in Tel Aviv, Israel. Good name, great family and what did I know, I was just a kid? At age 5, my parents took my sister and me to New York, where we arrived July 14, 1967. Not long after that, I went into the first grade. I learned many names that of course were foreign for me and not at all what I was used to but I also, being musical and artistic, did not feel anything for the name Presser. As an aside, interestingly enough, the name Orit, which no American could pronounce and was bully fodder for American kids, suited me very well.

Less delicate humans who were fluent in Yiddish would say Fresser, which means one who eats to extreme. This is grammatically incorrect in Hebrew but I won’t get into that.

Here I was, Orit Presser who kept consoling myself in the knowledge that when I would grow up and marry, I would take my husband’s last name. Little did I know that in my generation of quite possibly the most confused humans on the planet, I would grow to be asked whether I wanted to change my last name.

What’s wrong with Presser?

You might ask what was wrong with Presser. Prima face nothing but it was generic and meaningless to me. Even my paternal grandfather changed his European surname for a Hebrew one. He changed Presser to Porat but he did it only after my grandmother had left him, they divorced and all three sons were Presser for the duration.

I found that Pressers abounded and that for me the name bore no strong identity, one way or another, except to my amazing father, who to me was my hero in every way. Be that as it may, as the years wore on, one of the three brothers, the oldest, was killed and the other two grew apart and were not in touch for long periods of time.

Though I never denied my maiden name, as I said before, I never truly identified with it and name is, after all, one’s identity.

Name Change #1

At age 19 1/2 I married and my name was changed to Hecht. My ex husband (for good reason which I won’t detail) was tentative when on our honeymoon I called myself Orit Hecht. I lived with this name for ten years and for me it meant a connection to husband and son. Whereas up until then I had one name (the first) no American knew how to pronounce, I now had TWO names no American could pronounce (you have to grind your tonsils on the “ch”) but I didn’t care, as I just saw the bigger picture and was happy with a family of my own.

When I divorced after six years of marriage, I kept the name Hecht because of my son and because my reputation in the work force was under Hecht.

Name Change #2

Well, I remarried at age 29 1/2 and this time I married a man named Hizme and came, bearing his name, back to live in Israel. Now, foreign as the name was, it meant a lot. The man I married was famous for his art and craftsmanship. He made custom ordered jewelry and judaica, with each piece designed specifically for the customer. He was also a kabbalist (Jewish mystic) and immersed in Torah knowledge. I loved and admired him; he was my protector, lover and mentor and okay, so it was a weird name but full of meaning and I was happy.

I often mused that my initials did not change and that both married names had the same number of letters. Unwittingly, that was very telling. Marriage number two ended in divorce and again I kept the name because I had studied natural medicine and earned certificates under that name. Again, I sought employment and gave up my private enterprise of a clinic, to earn my living and my reputation in Israel was as Orit Hizme.

Itching to Make a Clean Break

When Hizme and I divorced, my father, G-d bless him and keep him well until 120, said that I should go back to Presser. I tried not to argue (no easy task) and just kept on with the name Hizme.

I wanted to clean the slate of all three surnames and take one of my own choosing. Initially, I constructed a hybrid, which resulted in Hart. However, Hart has absolutely no meaning in Israel and believe me, I researched it thoroughly. A bit more effort resulted in Haddar, which in Hebrew means glory, splendor, majesty, citrus and the name of the planet called Beta Centauri. Full of mojo I almost did it until I spoke with a friend who said Hadass by way of suggestion. I was still in the stage of consideration and Hadass just did NOT sit well with me. My mojo was deflated and all the air was sucked out from my sails.

Hizme endured due to laziness and lack of motivation and decision. I also didn’t feel like running around among various offices and companies to have them change my name on their records.

Ravages of Time

Time did not enhance the name Hizme. As younger and younger people entered the workforce, the name became increasingly more butchered. It was pronounced Ayzmee, Eezmee, Chizme (grind those tonsils) and every time I had to spell it out or explain, it just seemed an ordeal. Perhaps the worst part was that due to Israel’s security situation, the name Chizme came up again and again, since it is the name of an Arab village.

The name Hizme is, in fact, an Arab name. It is a town in Yemen and trust me, I totally do NOT connect with that!

I will add that the younger generation doesn’t know how to pronounce Presser. They distort it to Parser, Purser, Perser. Oh, give me a break!

Lemons and Lemonade

Recently, the company for which I worked the past four years closed its offices in Jerusalem. This resulted in my termination. I also wrote my last check and it was time to order new checks. I decided it was time.

I posted an opinion poll on Facebook and my wonderful friends were very kind and helpful, though I was considering going back to either Presser or Hecht. It was a most serious issue.

 

Brainstorming

A serious talk with my son in which he reasoned there was no point going back to a name I left behind so long ago (Hecht) and that my granddaughters might change when, please G-d, they grow and marry and he suggested I take a whole new name. He reasoned that Hecht is a pike fish and that in Hebrew “dag” (the a is pronounced like in car) means fish and that I could take the name Dagan. Dagan in Hebrew means grain which also holds meaning for me, as a natural holistic health therapist.

A very good friend thought of the word Tsur which means rock and is also connected with Chanukkah in which we are in the midst. Diaspora Jews connect Tsur with Tsuris which in yiddish means troubles/problems and I have already had a very generous portion.

I called my father who, when he isn’t clowning around is amazingly wise and intelligent. We talked and reasoned (I did) that Presser was and always would be my name. Nowhere do I deny it as my maiden name but that I truly did not see myself schlepping (great word) around with Hizme for the duration and that I never liked the name Presser. Interestingly enough, we shared a moment of sincerity and candor and my father told me that he wanted to change his name from Presser at some point to, perhaps, Porat and that my mother, of blessed memory, told him to leave Presser, since it was a good name in all places.

I told my father that the two names I was considering were Dagan and Tsur and so he too liked the ring of Orit Dagan and this is how it came to be.

Easier said than done

Israel 1.01          

Well, if you think you can just decide on a new name, not so. FIRST you pray with all your might that the Ministry of Interior is not on strike (a national sport). THEN you swim around their website which was not designed to make anyone’s life easy except maybe for the company paid to build and maintain it. Thanks to my friend Esty, who found the microscopic link and emailed it to me, I was able to then further navigate the site and read what was required.

Photos

First one needs photos. They do not write how many you need but it has to conform with Ministry standards. This photo is the same as what would appear on your passport but for Israeli documentation, you can smile, wear makeup, earrings and your ears can be covered. I make the distinction because apparently for the USA you can only have a certain amount of makeup, no earrings, no smile and your ears must be showing.

Israel 1.02 Applied Skills

On a neighborhood Facebook group I asked about a place in the neighborhood where one can have these photos taken. Apparently, there is some sorry excuse for a store in the shopping center, a flight below the Ministry of Interior branch. I took the bus and went, only to be told by a woman with spidery hair dyed too black for her thin, wrinkled face, that the photographer was out and would return in about a half hour. Since it was rainy and cold, I opted to sit and wait. I sat on the stool that was there for taking the passport photos. A white background is required. Please, you had to see this thing. Up to the height of where an average person would reach, the oak tag paper was warped and stained and its bottom border was curled upwards.

I want to add that this is a typical Israeli store, where you have to keep your coat on or you’ll freeze and of course, not only the entrance is open but also the back door, so Spider Hair can smoke.

Said photographer was in a meeting and could not even be notified by message that a customer was waiting. At some point, G-d took pity on me and the phone rang. Apparently it was the illustrious photog who called to tell Spider Hair that he would not be returning before morning.

Off I went to the bus stop, this time headed for the Jerusalem Mall. I went to the camera store on the top floor. There was no waiting so the man told me to freshen up in front of the mirror and I adjusted my hair and removed scarf and jacket and obediently sat on the stool. Before I could ask, my six photos were printed and cut. No draft, no smoking, no pneumonia and I was done.

Thank you, Acrobat  

Thanks to the tools on Acrobat Reader, I downloaded the form in PDF and filled it out on the computer. This is marvelous because nobody has to become dizzy reading anyone’s handwriting. I emailed it to my loyal and long time friend Esty, who printed it at work. As a result of my employment being terminated, I cannot print at home.

Esty and I met and she gave me four copies of the form in an envelope which was helpful, since I put everything in that.

Have Passport, Won’t Travel

According to the Ministry site, one has to bring one’s passport in changing one’s name. Mind you, there is not stipulation IF you have a passport. Apparently every Israeli has one.

I found my passport and noted that it had expired August 2nd of this year. I thought that I just might renew it while I’m there and already have photos.

The BIG DAY

So, today was the big day. With all I needed conveniently tucked in my bag, I set out. The security officers asked me to state my business to which I replied “Change of name.” One asked where I lived and so I told him, since the branch only provides services to certain neighborhoods. The other asked whether I had a photo so I said “six.” He said “You only need one.” I answered “But they gave me six. It’s okay, don’t worry.” Same man asked whether I needed a form to which I replied “Yes and it is already filled out.” I figured there was no point in telling him I had four copies, after the photos, I didn’t want to further confuse him.

I waited my turn and came to the window and before she could say anything I placed all items before her on the table. I told her I read the site and knew the surcharge. I asked whether they accept payment by credit card and they do but you must make just one payment. I decided to take the opportunity to also renew my passport.

My brand new ID card was issued on the spot and laminated and my passport will be delivered registered mail to my home.

Next Step, The Bank  

My bank is half a flight below the Ministry. I could almost slide down the banister to get there but walked down the stairs instead. I went to the clerk and filled out all the necessary forms and signed my new name for their records. I ordered checks and credit cards and left elated, dizzy and very excited.

Other Odds and Ends

I went home and phoned a few companies, notifying them of my name change for their account records and still have to notify some more places but the major job is done and it is no small thing. I feel my new name suits me and when I phoned my father to tell him that it’s official, he was no less excited than I.

At the close of my first day as Orit Dagan, I bid you good night. Name Tag

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  • Judit Morzsa

    Great post. By the way my surname means breadcrumb in Hungarian and it’s also a dog’s name in a famous Hungarian poem which goes “Breadcrumb, my dog sharpen your ears”. The name was chosen by my father in the late 1940s under circumstances I wouldn’t detail in a public post. My sister, who is a teacher of English wanted to change it, she felt embarrassed to be called Miss Breadcrumb in front of class, only the hassle kept her from this. So I can sympathize with you as far as changing names is concerned.

  • I also want to change my surname – Ralt, a name that me and my ex-husband invented when got mariried. This name was ment to represent Ayn Rand (which we both adored than) and her hero – John Galt (Atlas Shrugged) and also represented in a way women’s lib as the name was not the husband’s name takem by me. Today, Ayn Rand is not relevant to my life as well as my name – Ralt.

    • Dina, it takes time to decide because a name is a person’s identity. I’m sure you will find a name that fits you. I also felt that Ralt was wrong for you but it wasn’t my place to say anything.