The Jewish Week is always here for you.
We need your support now.
Your contribution will help us bring you vital news
and frequent updates about the impact of COVID-19.
My Name Is Rachel Cohen

My Name Is Rachel Cohen

My younger daughter is named Sophie, and my husband never ceases to give me a hard time whenever we, as we frequently do, encounter another little Sophia/Sophie/Sofia.

“I warned you that you were condemning her to a lifetime of being known as Sophie M!” he says. His preference was “Sage,” but hey, I won the coin toss. (Yes, the hotly contested name was really determined by a coin toss — Ellie, then 2, did the honors!)

It’s a beautiful name, and while I haven’t regretted the choice, I have noticed that it creeps ever higher in popularity: in Sophie’s birth year, Sophia was the ninth most popular name, and in 2009 it reached No. 4. At least we didn’t call her Isabella (No. 1).

So my heart goes out to Rachel Cohen, the new director of Young Adult Initiatives at the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, who notes in a recent blog post that “There are thousands of Rachel Cohens in the world today—one went to my summer camp, there is almost always one enrolled at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, 376 of us use gmail and there are 960 of us on Facebook!”

What makes this Rachel Cohen stand out from the pack, however, is that, despite having the ultimate Jewish name (surpassed only by David Cohen, of which there are over 3,000 on Facebook, including over 10 who share mutual friends with me), she grew up singing in the church choir and, when people asked her if she was Jewish, would answer, “Well, my father is.”

But since going on a junior-year Birthright Israel trip, Cohen has cast her lot with the other Cohens in the Tribe, and she shares some of the story in two very interesting blog posts.

Interestingly, while she doesn’t address it in the blog, Rachel, as a “patrilineal” Jew would not, unless she’s had a halachic conversion, be considered Jewish in Israel (or in many other parts of the Jewish community including, officially, Reform which, in a policy few people seem to adhere to, only recognizes Jews of interfaith parentage if they’ve been raised as Jews.) I’ll be interested to learn how she wrestles with this issue. If you’re interested to know more about the whole patrilineal descent issue, please check out some of my past columns here, here and here. And to learn about some of the challenges Israel (which I, too, fell in love with my junior year of college) poses for interfaith families and their offspring, read this.

Now that I’m done with THAT shameless self-promotion, here’s one more thing: Please, please “like” me on Facebook!

read more: