Azriel and Azriel

“This is my son Azriel Rifkin (left), who is named after my Grandfather Azriel Shnay Z”L (right), a Holocaust survivor. When my grandfather came to America to start a new life, he decided to go by ‘Allen’. He was proud to be a Jew, but he wanted to blend in with his new surroundings. Perhaps to him, the name Azriel was the equivalent to wearing a yellow star- would he be targeted again? persecuted again? So within the walls of the home that he built, he spoke Yiddish and sang hebrew songs as Azriel. In the outside world, he built a business and lived day-to-day life as Allen.

My grandfather passed away two weeks after I found out I was pregnant. So when I gave birth to a baby boy, we knew we wanted to honor his namesake. The question was – would we name him Azriel or Allen? Azriel is hebrew; it means “with the help of G-d.” Allen is simple; it would be easier at Starbucks or on his LinkedIn Profile. But what would my Grandfather have wanted? Well, to me the answer was simple. If the Holocaust had not happened, ‘Allen’ would have never existed. The name ‘Allen’ was born out of fear, a longing for a new life where it was safe to exist as a Jew.

And so, we named him Azriel; the name my Great-Grandmother had chosen in 1925 and the name I know my Grandfather was so proud of. Because in 2017 we didn’t have to be afraid anymore. It was no longer acceptable to be antisemitic or racist. Right?! The world had come so far, or so I thought. I am in utter disbelief of what is going on in our country right now and across the world. But I will tell you one thing, those days of living in fear and silence are over. I have never been prouder of my heritage, of my people, and of my Azriel.”

Source: Deborah Shnay Rifkin