The Gentle Art of Changing Jewish Names

The Madansky brothers—Max, Solomon, Benjamin, and Jacob—have written that their names henceforth will be May. It is a good old Anglo-Saxon name, but the Madanskys are of Asiatic origin.

Elmo Lincoln, a movie actor, comes into a Los Angeles court on the motion of his wife, and it is discovered that he is only Otto Linknhelt.

A large department store owner was born with the name Levy. He is now known as Lytton. It is quite possible he did not like Levy as a name; but why did he not change it for another Jewish name? Or perhaps it was the Jewishness of “Levy” that displeased him.

A popular tenor star recently brough suit against his wife, who married him after allowing him to believe that she was of Spanish origin. “I understood from her misleading stage name that she was Spanish when I married her. Later I found that she was Jewish and that her real name was Bergenstein.”

One of the biggest and best known stores in the United States goes under an honored Christian name, though every one of the owners is Jewish. The public still carries a mental picture of the good old merchant who established the store, which picture would speedily change if the public could get a glimpse of the real owners.

Take the name Belmont, for example, and trace its history. Prior to the nineteenth century the Jews resident in Germany did not use family names. It was “Joseph the son of Jacob,” “Isaac ben Abraham,” the son being designated as the son of his father. But the Napoleonic era, especially following upon the assembly of the Great Sanhedrin under Napoleon’s command, caused a distinct change in Jewish customs in Europe.

In 1808 Napoleon sent out a decree commanding all Jews to adopt family names. In Austria a list of surnames was assigned to the Jews, and if a Jew was unable to choose, the state chose for him. The names were devised from precious stones, as Rubenstein; precious metals, such as Goldstein, Silberberg; plants, trees, and animals, such as Mandelbaum, Lilienthal, Ochs, Wolf, and Loewe.

The German Jews created surnames by the simple method of affixing the syllable “son” to the father’s name, thus making Jacobson, Isaacson; while others adopted the names of the localities in which they lived, the Jew resident in Berlin becoming Berliner, and the Jew resident in Oppenheim becoming Oppenheimer.

Now, in the region of Schoenberg, in the German Rhine country, a settlement of Jews had lived for several generations. When the order to adopt surnames went forth, Isaac Simon, the head of the settlement, chose the name of Schoenberg. It signifies in German, “beautiful hill.” It is very easily Frenchified into Belmont, which also means beautiful hill or mountain. A Columbia University professor once tried to make it appear that the Belmonts originated in the Belmontes family of Portugal, but found it impossible to harmonize this theory with the Schoenberg facts.

It is noteworthy that a Belmont became American agent of the Rothschilds, and that the name of Rothschild is derived from the red shield on a house in the Jewish quarter of Frankfort-on-the-Main. What the original family name is has never been divulged.

The Jewish habit of changing names is responsible for the immense camouflage that has concealed the true character of Russian events. When Leon Bronstein becomes Leo Trotsky, and when the Jewish Apfelbaum becomes the “Russian” Zinoviev; and when the Jewish Cohen becomes the “Russian” Volodarsky, and so on down through the list of the controllers of Russia—Goldman becoming Izgoev, and Feldman becoming Vladimirov—it is a little difficult for people who think that names do not lie, to see just what is transpiring.

Indeed, there is any amount of evidence that in numberless cases this change of names—or adoption of “cover names,” as the Jewish description is—is for purposes of concealment. There is an immense difference in the state of mind in which a customer enters the store of Isadore Levy and the state of mind in which he enters the store of Alex May. And what would be his feeling to learn that Isadore Levy painted up the name of Alex May with that state of mind in view? When Rosenbluth and Schlesinger becomes “The American Mercantile Company,” there is justification for the feeling that the name “American” is being used to conceal the Jewish character of the firm.

The tendency of Jews to change their names dates back very far. There was and is a superstition that to give a sick person another name is to “change his luck,” and save him from the misfortune destined upon his old name. There was also the Biblical example of a change of nature being followed by a change of name, as when Abram became Abraham and Jacob became Israel.

There have been justifiable grounds, however, for Jews changing their names in Europe. The nationalism of that continent is, of course, intense, and the Jews are an international nation, scattered among all the nations, with an unenviable reputation of being ready to exploit for Jewish purposes the nationalistic intensity of the Gentiles. To mollify a suspicion held against them wherever they have lived (a suspicion so general and so persistent as to be explainable only on the assumption that it was abundantly justified) the Jews have been quick to adopt the names and colors of whatever country they may be living in. It is no trouble at all to change a flag, since none of the flags is the insignia of Judah. This was seen throughout the war zone; the Jews hoisted whatever flag was expedient at the moment, and changed it as often as the shifting tide of battle required.

A Polish Jew named Zuckermandle, emigrating to Hungary, would be anxious to show hat he had shuffled off the Polish allegiance which his name proclaimed; and the only way he could do this would be to change his name, which would very likely become Zukor, a perfectly good Hungarian name. Originally the Zukors were not Jews; now the usual guess would be that they are. In the United States it would be almost a certainty. Such a change as Mr. Zuckermandle would make, however, would not be for the purpose of concealing the fact that he was a Jew, but only to conceal the fact that he was a foreign Jew.

In the United States it has been found that Jews change their names for three reasons: first, for the same reason that many other foreigners change their names, namely, to minimize as much as possible the “foreign look” and the difficulty of pronunciation which many of those names carry with them; second, for business reasons, to prevent the knowledge becoming current that So-and-So is “a Jew store”; third, for social reasons.

The desire not to appear singular among one’s neighbors, when stated in just these words, very easily passes muster a being a natural desire, until you apply it to yourself. If you were going abroad to Italy, Germany, Russia, there to live and engage in business, would you cast about for a changed name immediately? Of course not. Your name is part of you, and you have your own opinion of an alias. The Jew, however, has his own name among his own people, regardless of what “cover name” the world may know him by, and, therefore, he changes his outside name quite coolly. The only likeness we have to that in America is the changing of men’s pay numbers as they move their employment from place to place. John Smith may be No. 49 in Black’s shop and No. 375 in White’s shop, but he is always John Smith. So the Jew may be Simon son of Benjamin in the privacy of the Jewish circle, while to the world he may be Mortimer Alexander.

In the United States it is hardly to be doubted that business and social reasons are mostly responsible for the changes in Jewish names. The designation “American” is itself much coveted, as may be gathered by its frequent use in firm names, the members of which are not American in any sense that entitles them to blazon that name throughout the world.

When Moses is changed to Mortimer, and Nathan to Norton, and Isadore to Irving (as for example Irving Berlin, whose relatives, however, still know him as “Izzy”), the concealment of Jewishness in a country where so much is done by print, must be regarded as a probable motive.

When “Mr. Lee Jackson” is proposed for the club there would seem to be no reason, as far as reading goes, why anything unusual about Mr. Jackson should be surmised, until you know that Mr. Jackson is really Mr. Jacobs. Jackson happens to be the name of a President of the United States, which names are quite in favor with the name-changers, but in this case it happens also to be one of the “derivatives” of an old Jewish name.

The Jewish Encyclopedia contains interesting information on this matter of derivatives.

Asher is shaded off into Archer, Ansell, Asherson.

Baruch is touched up into Benedict, Beniton, Berthold.

Benjamin becomes Lopez, Seef, Wolf (this is translation).

David becomes Davis, Davison, Davies, Davidson.

Isaac becomes Sachs, Saxe, Sace, Seckel.

Jacob becomes Jackson, Jacobi, Jacobus, Jacof, Kaplan, Kauffmann, Marchant, Merchant.

Jonah becomes by quite simple changes, Jones and Joseph, Jonas.

Judah (the true Jewish name) becomes Jewell, Leo, Leon, Lionel, Lyon, Leoni, Judith.

Levi becomes Leopold, Levine, Lewis, Loewe, Low, Lowy.

Moses becomes Moritz, Moss, Mortimer, Max, Mack, Moskin, Mosse.

Solomon becomes Salmon, Salome, Sloman, Salmuth.

And so on through the list of Jewish “changelings”—Barnett, Barnard, Beer, Hirschel, Mann, Mendel, Mandell, Mendelsohn, with various others which are not even adaptations but sheer appropriations.

The millinery business, which is one of the principal Jewish grafts off American women, shows, the liking of the Jews for names which do not name, but which stand as impressive insignia—“Lucile,” “Mme. Grande,” and the like. Reuben Abraham Cohen is a perfectly good name, and a good citizen could make it immensely respected in his neighborhood, but Reuben thinks that the first round in the battle of minds should be his, and he does not scruple at a little deceit to obtain it, so he painted on a window of his store, R. A. Le Cán, which, when set off with a borrowed coat of arms, looks sufficiently Frenchified for even observant boobs among the Gentiles. Similarly a Mr. Barondesky may blossom out as Barondes or La Baron.

Commonly, Mr. Abraham becomes Miller. Why Miller should have been picked on for Judaization is not clear, but the Millers of the white race may yet be compelled to adopt some method of indicating that their name is not Jewish. It is conceivable that a Yiddish and an American form of the same name may some time be deemed necessary. Aarons becomes Arnold—there are a number of Jewish Arnolds. Aarons became Allingham. One Cohen became Druce, another Cohen became Freeman. Still another Cohen became a Montagu; a fourth Cohen became a Rothbury and a fifth Cohen became a Cooke.

The Cohens have an excuse, however. In one ghetto there are so many Cohens that some distinction must be observed. There is Cohen the rag gatherer, and Cohen the schacet (ritual meat killer), and Cohen the rising lawyer, as well as Cohen the physician. To make the matter more difficult their first names (otherwise their “Christian” names) are Louis. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the young lawyer should become Attorney Cohane (which does all the better if thereby certain Irish clients are attracted), and that the young doctor should become Doctor Kahn, or Kohn. These are some of the many forms that the priestly name of Cohen takes.

The same may be said with reference to Kaplan, a very common name. Charlie Chaplin’s name was, in all probability, Caplan, or Kaplan. At any rate, this is what the Jews believe about their great “star.” Non-Jews have read of Charlie as a “poor English boy.”

There is the Rev. Stephen S. Wise, for another example. He booms his way across the country from one platform to the other, a wonder in his way, that such pomposity of sound should convey such paucity of sense. He is an actor, the less effective because he essays a part in which sincerity is requisite. This Rabbi, whose vocal exercise exhausts his other powers, was born in Hungary, his family name being Weisz. Sometimes this name is Germanized to Weiss. When S. S. Weisz became S. S. Wise, we do not know. If he had merely Americanized his Hungarian name it would have given him the name of White. Apparently “Wise” looked better. Truly it is better to be white than to be wise, but Dr. Stephen S. is a fresh point in the query of “what’s in a name?”

The list of Jews in public life whose names are not Jewish would be a long one. Louis Marshall, head of the American Jewish Committee, for example—what could his old family name have been before it was changed for the name of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States?

Mr. Selwyn’s name, now so widely known in motion pictures, was originally Schlesinger. Some of the Schlesingers become Sinclairs, but Selwyn made a really good choice for a man in the show business. A rabbi whose real name was Posnansky became Posner. The name Kalen is usually an abbreviation of Kalensky. A true story is told of an East Side tinsmith whose name was very decidedly foreign-Jewish. It is withheld here, because THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT prefers in this connection to mention only the names of those who can take care of themselves. But the tinsmith moved to a non-Jewish section and opened a new shop under the name of Perkins, and his luck really did change! He is doing well and, being an industrious, honest workman, deserves his prosperity.

Of course, there are lower uses of the name-changing practice, as every employer of labor knows. A man contracts a debt under one name, and to avoid a garnishee, quits his job, collects his pay, and in a day or two attempts to hire out under another name. This was once quite a successful trick, and is not wholly unknown now.

There is also much complaint among the stricter observers of the Jewish ritual requirements that the word “Kosher” is greatly misused, that indeed it covers a multitude of sins. “Kosher” has come to signify, in some places, little more than a commercial advertisement designed to attract Jewish trade. For all it means of what it says, it might just as well be “The Best Place in Town to Eat”—which it isn’t, of course; and neither is it always “strictly” Kosher.

It must be conceded, however, that the tendency to mislabel men and things is deep set in Jewish character. Jews are great coiners of catchwords that are not true, inventors of slogans that do not move. There is a considerable decrease in the power they wielded by such methods; their brilliancy in this respect is running to seed. This may be explained by the fact that there are so many song titles to write for the Jewish jazz factories, and so much “snappy” matter for screen descriptions. Their come-back is painfully thin and forced. Without peers in dealing with a superficial situation like a dispute over the beauty of two rival “stars,” or the amount and method of distributing confetti, they are the veriest dubs in dealing with a situation like that which has arisen in this country.

Immediately upon the appearance of the Jewish Question in the United States the Jews reverted naturally to their habit of mislabeling. They were going to fool the people once more with a pat phrase. They are still seeking for that phrase. Slowly they are recognizing that they are up against the Truth, and truth is neither a jazzy jade nor a movie motto, which can be recostumed and changed at will.

This passion for misleading people by names is deep and varied in its expression. Chiefly due to Jewish influences, we are giving the name of “liberalism” to looseness. We are dignifying with names that do not correctly name, many subversive movements. We are living in an era of false labels, whose danger is recognized by all who observe the various underground currents which move through all sections of society. Socialism itself is no longer what its name signifies; the name has been seized and used to label anarchy. Judaistic influence creeping into the Christian church has kept the apostolic labels, but thoroughly destroyed the apostolic content; the disruptive work has gone on quietly and unhindered, because often as the people looked, the same label was there—as the same old merchant’s name stays on the store the Jews have bought and cheapened. Thus there are “reverends” who are both unreverend and irreverent, and there are shepherds who flock with the wolves.

Zionism is another misnomer. Modern Zionism is not what its label would indicate it to be. The managers of the new money collection—millions of it, badly used, badly accounted for—are about as much interested in Zionism as an Ohio Baptist is in Meccaism. For the leading so-called “Zionists,” Mt. Zion and all that it stands for has next to no meaning; they see only the political and real estate aspects of Palestine, another people’s country just at present. The present movement is not religious, although it plays upon the religious sentiments of the lower class of Jews; it is certainly not what Judaized orators among the Christians want the Christians to think it is; Zionism is at present a most mischievous thing, potentially a most dangerous thing, as several governments could confidentially tell you.

But it is all a part of the Jewish practice of setting up a label pretending one thing, while quite another thing really exists.

Take anti-Semitism. That is a label which the Jews have industriously pasted up everywhere. If ever it was an effective label its uses are over now. It doesn’t mean anything. Anti-Semitism does not exist, since the thing so named is found among the Semites, too. Semites cannot be anti-Semitic. When the world holds up a warning finger against a race that is the moving spirit of the corruptive, subversive and destructive influences abroad in the world today, that race cannot nullify the warning by sticking up a false label of “Anti-Semitism,” anymore than it can justify the sign of gold on a $1.50 watch or the sign of “pure wool” on a $11.50 suit of clothes.

So with the whole group of labels which the Jews have trotted out like talismen to work some magic spell upon the aroused mind of America. They are lies. And when one lie fails, how quickly they hitch their hopes to another. If “Anti-Semitism” fails, then try “Anti-Catholic”—that might do something. If that fails, try “Anti-American”—get the biggest talent that can be hired for a night on the B’nai B’rith platform to shout it. And when that fails, as it has—?

The American Jewish Committee is itself a misnomer. The committee is not exclusively American, and its work is not to Americanize the Jews nor even to encourage real Americanization among them. It is a committee composed of Jews representing that class which profits most by keeping the mass of the Jews segregated from Americans and in bondage to the “higher ups” among the Jews. They are the “big Jews,” as Norman Hapgood used to call them, who say to the “little Jews,” “You hang closely together; we will be your representatives to these foreign peoples, the Americans and others.” If the American Jewish Committee would change its name to this: “The Jewish Commission for America,” it might be nearer the truth. It has dealt with America in the recent past very much as the Allied Commissions deal with Germany. There are certain things we may do, and certain things we may not do, and the Jewish Commission for America tells us what we may and may not do. One of the things we may not do is to declare that this is a Christian country.

There is one absolutely safe rule in dealing with anything emanating from the American Jewish Commitee. Don’t rely on the label, open the matter up. You will find that the Kehillah is not what it pretends to be; that the Jewish labor union is not what it pretends to be; that Zionism is a camouflage for something entirely different; that the name and the nature are nearly always different, which is the reason for a particular name being chosen. It runs all the way through Jewish practice, and presents another little job for the Jewish reformer.

[THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, issue of 12 November 1921]