A few weeks ago, I was preparing to head home for Rosh Hashanah. I was flustered, tired and just ready to get back to decompress for the holiday. I’d seen this woman before, she works on my floor and we wished each other shana tova as I rushed out with a sheitel case loaded on top of my suitcase and backpack to head to the airport.
Today, she and I found ourselves in the elevator again. After asking about each others’ holidays, she told me she thought I was respectful to wear a sheitel when I was home. That she saw it as a good thing I could be “the real me” and also live in a frum world. I nodded, not because I agreed but because it’s the polite thing to do in an elevator with a coworker whose name you don’t even know.
She doesn’t know the real me. She doesn’t know the extent of my frumkeit or what I gave up to be standing in the elevator with her. It’s not her fault, but the presumption made me uncomfortable.
Then, as if she was reading my mind, “what’s your name?” I told her the name I use at work. “No,” she said, “your real name. Your Jewish name.”
I told her.
She smiled. “I love that name. It’s beautiful. Can I call you that instead?”
As the elevator doors opened, she suggested I could still be “me” and not have to use a “goyishe name” to cover myself up.
For me, the name separation allows me to be someone completely different at work. Someone who doesn’t have children who live on the other side of the world, who doesn’t come from a family where they are ashamed of success in the workplace.
I’m hesitant. It’s a chance to merge the two worlds, but am I really ready? Does using my own name – the one I was born with – elevate me or bring me down?