Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Agnlicizing names; "Godlive" vs "Yechiel"; Heilman et cetera

In one of my very first posts, The Prophet Milton (PBUH) I registered my puzzlement at the convention of Anglicizing Jewish of names in English works, or really the lack of uniform convention for it. Why, asked I, should the Maharal of Prague be called Judah, something he never was called even one time in his life? (Even if it could be shown that he had a shem hol, a secular equivalent of Yehuda, like Loeb or even a direct Czech equivalent, the point is that /Joo-dah/ he never went by).

So I was perusing Dr Sam Heilman's book Sliding to the Right: The Contest for the Future of American Jewish Orthodoxy and wondered why, on pg 131 we find Joseph Caro and Solomon Ganzfried as well as Israel Kagan and Yechiel Michl Espstein.

Granted, there is no good way to Anglicize "Yechiel." But that leads to another question: why is the Hafetz Hayyim called "Israel," when he went by Yisrael Meir (so it should be written Israel Meir) and the author of the Arukh Ha-shulhan gets both his first and second name (Yechiel Michl Espstein)? If there is any rhyme or reason I don't see one, although it is noteworthy--maybe--that Dr Heilman seems to prefer R. Epstein's halakhic work to R. Kagan's.

Speaking of Anglicizing Yechiel, perhaps authors should pull a page from Rennaissance-era R Azaryah dei Rossi's Me'or 'Enayim who gave the Greek-named Philo a Hebrew name, its equivalent Yedidya. Why not "R. Godlive Michl Epstein"? I guess that would be too weird.

In any case, thinking about it, many of these persons didn't really use their Hebrew names either. Thus, Ha-Netziv, R. Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, was known as R. Hirsch Leib (and that doesn't even take into account how "Hirsch Leib" was actually pronounced in his native Lithuanian Yiddishe). I guess it would not be so precise to write "Moshe Feinstein" rather than "Moyshe" (or "Meyseh"), so Moses suffices!

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