Reflections on Judaism: Hebrew Name

My Hebrew name is Shmuel. In English, Shmuel roughly translates to Samuel. I was given this Hebrew name at an age younger than I could remember. If I had to guess, I would say that this name was given to me at the early stages of my Hebrew school career. This name was most likely given to me because of the rough translation of Shmuel to English meaning Samuel. Samuel is not my actual name. Sam is my birth certificate name. Most people think my name is Samuel because of cultural norms in America. I think this reasoning attributed to my naming. After going on birthright, I will always feel a different connection to the name Shmuel. The name Shmuel has taught me to respect my own name more. At the Western Wall, a man asked me why my name wasn’t Shmuel. He said “Sam is a bad name, Shmuel is a great name,” he said. I’ve thought about that moment almost every day since I left Israel. What the man didn’t realize is that while Shmuel means something amazing to him, Sam means something spectacular to me. Sam is the special name I was given at birth. I’m not Samuel, I’m just Sam. This simple name is surprisingly unique in American culture. Very few people are just named Sam. When I asked around in my Birthright group, I found out there were several other Shmuels, but not other Sam’s. This experience will always remind me what my name means to me. Every time I here the name Shmuel, I will always recall that moment when I gained a new appreciation for my birth name.

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Sam Wallach

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