Jewish First Names
I have just finished reading what, to me, was
a truly fascinating article: “Jewish First Names
Through the Ages” (November 1955), by
Rabbi Benzion C. Kaganoff, an old cheder
classmate of mine and a fine scholar….
My wife and I are both in the field of Jewish
education, and we never know whether to be
more exasperated or amused when a pupil in
our Hebrew School either has no idea what
his Hebrew name is (there are times when the
parents don’t know, either) or tells us stammer-
ingly that it’s Yoche, Feivel, Henya, or Chisha!
. .. Believe it or not, the classmates of such
children, though knowing nothing, or next to
nothing, of Yiddish, invariably sense the
phonetic oddness of such names as compared
to the genuine Hebraic sound of their own,
and do not fail to show their amusement.
Things went so far in one of my classes that a
boy named Fred, whom a previous teacher had
named Pinchas, confessed to me secretly that
Feivel was his real name and would I please
never use it in class? Now I can use Rabbi
Kaganoff’s’ information and call him Uri-
though I doubt if it’s wise to tell him that
Feivel goes back to Phoebus! …
Another reason for our personal interest in
this article is that we finally found out the
origin of the name Breindel, which was that of
my paternal grandmother. My wife and I, be-
fore our daughter’s birth, discussed the possi-
bility of translating this into Hebrew…. And
now that we know it means “Brunette,” what
are we to do for future possible daughters? . . .
As a last observation, let me point out that a
sister of mine, named Edith in English and
“Ita” in Yiddish, has followed the trend the
Rabbi mentions of eliminating the “foreign”
accretions. She has been in Israel over four
years and has adopted Yehudit as her Hebrew
name. She will be appalled to learn, I know,
that her Yiddish given name is related to Yente
and Yetta, and intrigued about its coming from
Juanita. … Final question to Rabbi Kaganoff: what’s the
source of Chisha, anvhow? MORRIs SPRINGER
New York City
In his stimulating article concerning “Jewish
First Names Through the Ages,” Rabbi Ben-
zion C. Kaganoff refers to the assimilation
of names by Jews in America. This phenom-
enon is, perhaps, best illustrated by names like
Milton, Sidney, and others which have become
“Jewish” names in the United States because
Jews have used them so frequently.
In pre-World War I Germany and the
Austrian monarchy, a comparable development
took place. Siegfried, Siegbert, Sigismund, and
similar names also became “Jewish” names and,
for that reason, were eventually avoided by
non-Jews. In fact, the combination of these
names with typically Jewish family names pro-
duced strange bedfellows as, for example, Sig-
mund Freud or Siegfried Moses (a veteran
Zionist leader in Germany).
While French and Italian Jews use both
Hebraic and non-Hebraic first names, there
appears to be no case where a non-Hebraic
name has come to be considered a “Jewish”
name, probably because of the small number of
Jews in either France or Italy. ERNEST MAASS
New York, N.Y.
I was very much interested in your publica-
tion of “Jewish First Names Through the Ages”
by Benzion C. Kaganoff …
Permit me to contradict Rabbi Kaganoff’s
statement that there is no trace in the Bible
for the (incidentally not only American, but
universal) Jewish tradition of naming children
after deceased relatives.
The Biblical source is Deuteronomy 25:6:
a childless widow is required to marry the broth-
er of her deceased husband (yibbum); the first
son is to be named after the deceased first hus-
band “to prevent his name from becoming ex-
tinct in Israel.”
With this in mind, Jews for centuries named
their newborn boys after deceased grandfathers,
etc., thus keeping the name “alive in Israel.”
White Plains, New York
[Mr. Phiebig is the former secretary of the
Jewish Genealogical Society of Berlin.-ED.]
I enjoyed reading Benzion C. Kaganoff’s
article on Jewish first names throughout the
ages. I always thought, however, that “poor
banal Yente had an exotic origin” in genteel
Gentile rather than in Juanita; also that “the
wretched Yachne” is not the Biblical Yocheved,
but the medieval-romantic Jacinthe (Hya-
cinth). B. G. KAYFETZ
Executive Director
Joint Public Relations Committee
Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith Central Region
Toronto, Canada
May I point out an oversight in Rabbi
Kaganoff’s interesting account of Jewish first
names? “Yigal” is mentioned, among others, as
an example of an Israeli name of recent coin- age. Actually, this name is quite ancient and
seems to have been in use through much of
the Biblical period. In Numbers 13:7 we read
of “Igal the son of Joseph,” one of the twelve
spies, in II Samuel 23:36 of “Igal the son of
Nathan,” one of David’s guard, and in Chron-
icles 3:22 of “Igal” a descendant of David. Un-
fortunately, the Hebrew “Yigal” was neither
consistently nor recognizably rendered by the
King James translators. MYRON ROBINsON
Frederick, Md.
The Stouffer Study
Many of us owe Nathan Glazer a consider-
able debt for his penetrating critiques of con-
temporary work in the social sciences which
have appeared regularly in COMMENTARY over
the past few years. Major research studies are
nowhere else subjected to such searchingly
critical yet fair-minded examination of their
central assumptions.
I read, therefore, Glazer’s analysis of Samuel
Stouffer’s Communism, Conformity, and Civil
Liberties in your August issue with my usual
admiration for his dialectic acumen. Shortly
afterwards, however, upon reading Stouffer;s
book, I discovered that his major criticisms
seriously distort it by reading into it implica- tions which the author himself explicitly dis-
Glazer accuses Stouffer of assuming that be-
cause public opinion surveys find certain opin- ions to be statistically associated with a socially
desirable attitude, it is therefore good policy
to promote these opinions and to overlook their possible, or even probable, falsity. Since toler-
ance of non-conformists is associated with a low
perception of the Communist threat, Stouffer,
according to Glazer, implies that those who
cherish civil liberties ought to minimize the
threat even though it may in fact be a grave
one. Now this sort of reasoning is certainly
very common in research studies of problems
on which liberals have strong moral or political
convictions (Glazer cites ethnic prejudice as
an example). The only trouble is that Stouffer
does not indulge in it. Glazer has used the
wrong argument against the wrong man on
the wrong problem.
Twice Glazer quotes Stouffer’s statement:
“If the internal Communist threat is now ex-
aggerated, and if the American people were
told this and believed it, tolerance of non- conformists would increase.” He asserts that
this is Stouffer’s “conclusion” and goes on to
suggest that only scientific caution deters
Stouffer from stating outright that the internal
Communist threat is indeed exaggerated and
that civil liberties would be served by a cam-
paign to minimize it. But Stouffer explicitly
rejects this line of argument: he points out that
the relationship between tolerance and percep- tion of the Communist threat revealed by his
data is by no means a consistent one, he sug-
gests that such a campaign might “lull people
into too much complacency about Commu-
nism,” and he concludes that civil liberties
would be better served by a “positive program”
stressing their value which would also “be
truthful about the internal Communist
threat.” . . .
Pursuing his effort to convict Stouffer of
what might be called the “virtue by association”
theory of ideas, Glazer says that “Dr. Stouffer
seems to take it for granted that the sensible
position of being awaYe of the threat and yet
upholding tolerance cannot be expected to
grow,” and he charges Stouffer with ignoring
the existence even in his own sample of people
“who are fully aware of the true dimensions of
the Communist problem in this country with-
out being intolerant.” Again, Stouffer does
nothing of the kind: on page 209 he contends
that “there is ample evidence in this survey
that knowledge does not breed intolerance. How
else explain the relative tolerance of so many people, including many of the local community
leaders who are fully aware of the internal
Communist threat or may even hold exagger-
ated views of it?” (his italics). Stouffer takes
great pains, as Glazer points out, to observe
the taboo of social scientists against making
“value-judgments” and he even shuns factual
statements that cannot be directly supported
by opinion poll data. Nevertheless, I think he
plainly indicates his preference for a position
that affirms civil liberties without denying the
reality of the Communist problem.
Moreover, by concentrating on the opinion
survey’s failure to differentiate statistically be-
tween those who are “intolerant” of Commu-
nists because they realistically see them as a
threat and those who are indiscriminately in- tolerant of all whose views differ from their
own, Glazer manages to avoid any admission
that the Communist threat is in fact greatly
exaggerated and its nature misunderstood by a
large part of the public. He neglects entirely
the chapters of the book supporting this con-
Glazer states his own conviction that “native
Communists exist and have played a consider-
able role in American government, society, and
culture, and still play some role,” but he never
defines which aspects of internal Communism
constitute a danger. A whole section of Stouf-
fer’s survey dealt with this. Of those who said
that the Communists were at least some danger,
28 per cent feared the conversion of others to
Communism and the spread of Communist
ideas, whereas only 16 per cent mentioned
sabotage or espionage as the main threat (other
answers were too general to be classified). On
one of the few occasions when Stouffer brings
himself to make an assertion about the realities
of the Communist problem in contrast to peo-
ple’s opinions about it, he suggests that “the
era of making any appreciable number of Com-
munist converts in this country has long since
passed.” Does Glazer disagree with this mani-
festly sound judgment? And isn’t the question
of how Communists are dangerous almost as
important as the question of whether they are
dangerous? Finally, one amazing statement occurs in
Glazer’s article which brought me up short:
he refers to “the two positions on Communism
and civil liberties that are politically relevant to-
day-the position of those who feel that no
measures at all should be taken against native
Communists, and the position of those who
feel that Smith Acts and McCarran Acts are
important and necessary defenses against Com-
munism” (my italics). If by “politically rele-
vant” he means with a real chance of affecting
policy, this assertion is fantastic. For what in-
fluential political figures or organizations favor
taking no action at all against native Commu-
nists? The need for some security regulations
barring Communists from sensitive posts in
government, the army, and some areas of pri-
vate industry is almost universally recognized,
even by the many people who regard the Smith
and McCarran Acts as neither important nor
necessary and who dislike the present security
I hold no special brief for the Stouffer book,
which I regard as an important but very limited
contribution to the understanding of a complex
subject. But I think Nathan Glazer’s zeal to
correct what he thinks represents naivety about
Communism has misled him in this instance.
University of Toronto
Toronto, Canada
MR. GLAZER writes:
A good part of the points in controversy be-
tween Dennis Wrong and myself may be settled
by a reading of pages 208-9 of Dr. Stouffer’s
book, in which he sums up his analysis of the
relation between tolerance and perception of
the internal Communist threat. If I quote from
these conclusions more fully than I did in the
original review, I think it will be possible for
the readers of this exchange to grasp Dr. Stouf-
fer’s position exactly:
“To sum up, these tabulations converge to demonstrate two facts:
“1. …. there is consistency in the relation-
ship between perception of the internal Com-
munist threat and tolerance of non-conformists.
The relationship is high enough and consistent
enough to suggest that if the internal Commu-
nist threat is now exaggerated, and if the Amer-
ican people were told this and believed it,
tolerance of non-conformists would increase.
[Dr. Stouffer then proposes a test for this
“2. The relationship between perception of
threat and tolerance . .. is far from a I-to-I re-
lationship. This has further important implica-
tions. It suggests that merely accenting the
negative-merely asserting that the internal
threat is exaggerated-would be limited in its
effectiveness. For substantial proportions of the
American population are intolerant in spite of
the fact that they perceive relatively little in-
ternal Communist threat. Somehow one would
have to bring home to them the value of the
fundamental liberties…. This is difficult-
even risky. For such a positive program also
would presumably be truthful about the in-
ternal Communist threat, even if it attacked ex-
aggerations. Some intolerant people who see
little or no threat might be made more aware
than they are now of the potential danger of
an internal Communist conspiracy. …. Is
there not a danger such a program, based on
truth, would boomerang and actually increase
the intolerance?
“Such a possibility exists, of course. But
against it is the faith that, in the long run, the
American people can be trusted with the truth.
… Knowledge does not breed intolerance. How
else explain the relative tolerance of so many
people … who are fully aware of the Commu- nist threat. . . ?
“. . a campaign of information might con-
ceivably boomerang in an opposite direction
… such a campaign might .. lull people into too much complacency about Communism.
This is possible but it seems unlikely.” It is perfectly clear that Dr. Stouffer does not “explicitly reject” the line of argument summed up by the sentence with the two “ifs” in conclusion (1) in the quotation above. Note the order of the conclusions: (I) people should
be taught that the Communist threat is exag- gerated; (2) they should be taught the value of fundamental American liberties. A “tricky” and
“dangerous” consequence of the second cam- paign is to increase awareness of the internal Communist threat. I think I have been fair in
giving Dr. Stouffer’s position, whereas Dennis Wrong raises minor qualifications to the posi- tion of major conclusions. My review argued that Dr. Stouffer had con-
fused the problem of intolerance, which is en- demic in this country, and which is directed at Socialists and atheists and “nonconformists” no
less than at Communists, with the specific prob- lems raised by Communism-which involve tolerance of non-conformists only in part. It
was in the course of this discussion that I said, “it is impossible in his book to distinguish the two positions on Communism and civil liber- ties that are practically relevant today.” In my effort to formulate the two “practically relevant”
political questions I am afraid I used a short- hand open to much misunderstanding. I was referring to political measures against the Com-
munist party, and there the division is between those who wish to outlaw the party, or come
close to it, as with the Smith Act and McCar- ran Act, and those who do not feel special legislation should be passed to limit the Com-
munist party as a political organism. It is of course true that many who hold the latter posi- tion (as I myself do) also favor the adoption of security measures against individual members of the Communist party of varying degrees of
Mr. Wrong finally raises many questions which were outside the limits of a review and are also outside the limits of an exchange of correspondence. In a word, however, I do not very well see how the Communist threat can be exaggerated as long as Russia is one of the
two major world military powers. And it is for this reason, too, that though Communists to-
day, I would certainly agree with Dr. Stouffer,
make very few converts, this is a matter that could change in a number of years, and under other conditions.
But this has nothing to do with my review,
whose main point was that there is no inherent
relation between knowledge of and opposition
to Communism and intolerance; that rather, there is only an inherent relation between ig- norance and intolerance. These are crucial dis-
tinctions for the understanding of this problem.
On occasion, Dr. Stouffer’s data led him to draw these distinctions; but the whole force of the book was to imply the existence of a nec- essary relation between anti-Communism and intolerance. NATHAN GLAZER
New York City
“… to the Nations”
Permit me to congratulate COMMENTARY on the learned and thoughtful article “The
Jewish Mission to the Nations” (October 1955) by Rabbi Jakob J. Petuchowski. This is the sort of article that stimulates thought. If it
should do no more than help some Jews take cognizance of their spiritual and religious heri- tage, it is well worth while.
The fact is, however, that the positive, tangible values of the Jewish religion rest on a much firmer foundation and have a broader
appeal than its ideological concepts and dogmas. It is regrettable, therefore, that Rabbi Petuchowski almost forgets the former and stresses mainly the latter. The Jewish religion
has 613 commandments which a Jew is obli-
gated to observe. It is the practice of the com- mandments rather than the philosophical con- cepts that make the Jew.
We must admit that, in practice, there really is hardly any difference between Reform
Judaism and Unitarian Christianity. How then can Reform Judaism convert a Liberal Chris-
tian? On the other hand, Orthodox Judaism
has a great deal to offer to thinking men of
all denominations. To name but three com-
mandments: Circumcision, Kashruth, and the
sanctity of marital relationships. What these
mean in terms of health and clean living! To
be sure, the founder of Reform Judaism in America, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, stood firmly
for the observance of the dinim, but his fol- lowers have given up the Shulchan Aruch. It is paradoxical that Orthodox Judaism,
which could offer so much to converts, does not believe in proselytism, whereas Reform Juda-
ism, which has hardly anything tangible to of- fer, is for conversion. Is it because Orthodoxy
is strong and self-sufficient whereas Reform Judaism is deeply conscious of its inherent weakness?
The Nazarene Gospel
As a non-Jewish historian who has been
privileged to “plow with the heifer” of a
learned Talmudist, Joshua Podro, I am de-
lighted with Gerson D. Cohen’s negative praise
of The Nazarene Gospel Restored-our answer to an even more difficult riddle than Samson’s.
Mr. Cohen writes in the November COMMEN-
TARY that the events recorded in our reconstruc-
tion of the original oral tradition of the Jerusa-
lem Church “are all quite possible.” But why
does he add: “There simply is not the slightest
shred of evidence to make the Graves-Podro re-
construction a whit more likely than a host of
other possible solutions”?
Granted, it is impossible to prove scientifically
what this oral tradition was; but can he name a
single other solution than ours that makes co-
herent sense without involving almost as many
historical solecisms as the Gospels themselves?
He likens our meticulous argument to a
great detective story, the solution of which is
just a little too good. But in this context he
should recall Sherlock Holmes’s apothegm, to
the effect that when all other possible theories
fail to fit the facts, the remaining one, how-
ever improbable, must be correct. Fortunately,
our views have become less fantastic, in the
light of the Judean Caves discoveries described
in the same issue; but I realize that it is almost
as difficult for a Jew as for a Christian to ac-
cept them. The Christian because he has been
conditioned to hold the logically untenable be-
lief that you wicked Jews crucified your God;
the Jew because he prefers not to discuss, or
even think about, a subject that caused his
ancestors such misery and that is still likely to
give him undeserved embarrassment in all
countries throughout the world but Israel.
HOWEVER, the book has now been out for
nearly two years in England and the United
States, and not a single scholar, either Jew or
Christian, has yet been able to put his finger
on any historical flaw in the argument. Many
have tried. The most persistent was an anony-
mous ecclesiast in London’s leading literary
journal who (among other things) refused to
accept the meaning of a Hebrew word defined
by a celebrated Jewish lexicographer, on the
ground that his works had not yet been trans-
lated into English; and accused us of “uneth-
ically camouflaging” the text of Galatians 4:14.
A Jewish lawyer got a retraction from the
editor before our libel case reached the High
Court; it appears that the reviewer had over- looked a well known papyrus discovered in
1936, on which we based our argument, and
which was over a hundred years older than his uncials and cursives!
Paul’s being a Greek on both sides, and not
(as he claimed) a Benjaminite, should not be
regarded by Mr. Cohen as an invention of
Joshua Podro and myself. It was the view held
by the Ebionites, Jesus’ original Jewish follow-
ers (not “Christians”), and of course con-
demned by the Early Fathers as heretical.
I expect COMMENTARY to dissociate itself
from the views expressed in this letter, but
should be grateful for its publication.
Palma de Mallorca
MR. COHEN writes:
Mr. Graves is quite right that any attempt
at solving the historical problems of the Gospels
of necessity involves conjecture, emendation,
and a considerable degree of uncertainty. How-
ever, the line which separates the artist from
the scholar is a delicate, tenuous one, probably
one of taste. My own tastes, and, I submit,
those of most historians, will incline to the
more temperate speculations of men like Arthur
Darby Nock or Yehezkel Kaufman. The latter’s
chapters on Christianity in his monumental
Gola we-Nekhar I have found respectful to the
sources, while as stimulating as Mr. Graves’s
solution and far more satisfying intellectually.
I fail to see how the Dead Sea Scrolls buttress
Mr. Graves’s restoration of the New Testament
narrative, that is, of the life of Jesus and his
disciples. Mr. Graves’s contention that Jesus’
teachings echo one school of authentic Jewish
thought is not new with him, nor did I take
any exception to it. I merely maintained that
his attempt to footnote his imaginative recon-
struction of the events-virgin birth to resur-
rection-may be brilliant, but not necessarily
cogent. Please note that I did not say that Mr.
Graves invented Paul’s heathen ancestry. I was
simply suggesting that Mr. Graves rather pro-
miscuously embraces any material that fits his
case. To be sure, this is not an historical
“flaw,” if by “flaw” he means poor dates or
misquotations; but uninhibited eclecticism still
is not history as most people in the Western
world have hitherto treated that subject.
The Kastner Case
W. Z. Laqueur’s “The Kastner Case,” in
COMMENTARY of December 1955, leaves more
questions open than it answers, but I do not
think it is his own fault entirely. One wishes, of course, that Mr. Laqueur had
taken into consideration facts that can be found
in Gerald Reitlinger’s The Final Solution and
Leon Poliakov’s Harvest of Hate, both of which
books he himself mentions. He would, I am
sure, have ascertained that the Kastner story
did not start with the introductory letter Rabbi
Weissmandl gave Wisliczeni, but with the first attempts to rescue Jews in Slovakia. (Rabbi
Weissmandl now lives in this country and can
be called on for corroboration.)
It was early in 1943 that news began to leak
from Bratislava (Pressburg) that Jewish lives
could be bought with money. From then on the
question of ransoming Jewish lives was dis-
cussed again and again, but save for a few exceptions nothing was done about it on a large
scale. A second basic omission in Mr. Laqueur’s
article is his failure to stress the specific Hun-
garian Jewish situation and the different atti-
tudes prevailing among the Jews of Hungary
themselves. The fall of Bela Kun’s Red repub- lic in 1919 sent thousands of Jews into bap- tism, and produced a strong movement for
assimilation whose followers were not too happy
about their more faithful brethren outside
To answer some of the other questions raised
by Mr. Laqueur, we have to recall that there
was factional strife in the SS leadership, espe-
cially in 1944: both Schellenberg and Becher,
with the alleged consent of Himrmler, tried to
use the Jews to provide the SS with an alibi
after the defeat of the Third Reich. Kalten-
brunner, Eichmann, Krumey were opposed to
this, and Himmler had to conceal his attempts
to exploit the plight of the Jews from this group, whose attitude, like Hitler’s, was: “After
us the deluge.”
We have also to realize that Hungary’s own
leadership was corrupt, and after March ‘1944
under frequent change. When Horthy dis-
missed his prime minister, Stojay, the mas-
sacre of Jews stopped for a few months.
This brings me to my main point. We have scores of books on the extermination of the
Jews, but not one authoritative volume, or even monograph, on the attempts to rescue them.
Mr. Kastner certainly did not operate in thin
air, but kept in steady contact with Jewish
organizations that were, in their turn, in touch
with the Allied governments. There is an un-
tapped wealth of material on the rescue work-
the trials, the disappointments, and the modest successes it knew-in the files of the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, of the
World Jewish Congress, of the American Jew- ish Committee, and, last but not least, of the
Jewish Agency for Palestine.
Thus Mr. Laqueur’s questions need not go unanswered forever. The “Kastner case” would
have remained a “Greenwald case,” and not
been exploited for purely political ends, had this
material been thoroughly studied and the re-
sults published. The picture that we get from the Kastner case will remain onesided until the
story of the rescue attempts is told in full. Here is a task that has awaited the interest of the
many Jewish research institutions far too long. KURT R. GROSSMAN
New York City
In our issue of November 1955 the name of
the author of the story “The Others” was in-
correctly given as Alfred Memmi. Mr. Memmi’s first name is Albert.

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