While not all girls became observant, almost all took on a Jewish
name. Some had been given names by previous shlichim in a haphazard fashion -- Your name is Lena so well call you Leah.
Rabbi Bleich did not agree with that
method. He tried to impress upon the students and shlichim alike
the importance of names. A name was more than just something to be called by. It was a prophecy for the future and a source of strength for the person.
Every student who wanted to take on a Jewish name thereafter had to do research into the name and learn about it. Rabbi Bleichs apartment
was inundated with girls who wanted to research his book of names.
One girl could not make a decision. Weeks passed. She went to the Bleichs apartment so frequently that the girls were sure that she had
memorized the book. One day she finally came over to Bleemie to announce that she had decided on a name.
That Shabbos she stood proudly in shul, ready to be named officially during the Torah reading. There was a hushed silence as everybody waited to hear the result of her protracted reading. So, nu, whats to be your name? asked Rabbi Bleich.
Yakova, said the girl proudly.
Poor Yakova. She never did quite live down the fact that it had
taken her over a month to pick a name like Yakova.
Another student proudly took on the name Rochel. At a Shabbos
seudah, Bleemie overheard her say, Yeah, it was Chanie, but I like Rochel better.
Bleemie tried to sound casual. What was Chanie?
My name before I named myself Rochel.
Bleemie felt her knees go weak. Um, you mean some
shaliach decided to call you Chanie, but you wanted the name Rochel?
No. When I was born, my grandmother gave me a name in
Bleemie just stood there staring dumbly. How was she to have
supposed that a child in Russia had been given a Jewish name at birth?
Well, she finally managed to say, I think you
are now blessed with two names, Chana Rochel!
The significant thing about the name taking was that often the Jewish name did give the girl a certain strength. Take the example of the two little doves. Two best friends, sixth graders, took on the name Yonah.
A few weeks after the naming, one girls family decided to
make aliyah within two weeks. She had been in the school barely twomonths, not enough to make her Yiddishkeit strong
enough to last a lifetime.
Malky racked her brains for a way to make a lasting impact.
Without asking permission, Malky took the liberty of pulling the two Yonahs from their secular classes and teaching them Jewish fundamentals instead. Their name became a theme: The Yonah of Shabbos, The Yonah trapped between two rocks, The Yonah symbolizing the Jews ...
Two weeks passed by quickly, and Yonah V. left to Israel. It was
not long before Malky received a long, chatty letter from her. She wrote that, being a Yonah, she had insisted on being put into a religious school. One Yonah had soared up in flight!
The Yonah left in Kiev had mostly irreligious friends. The
pressures on her were enormous. One day she approached Malky.
Malky, I have something to tell you.
After shul on Shabbos, I went to the theater.
It was obvious that she felt guilty, and wanted to appease her conscience.
Malky was silent.
My boyfriend took my ticket. I didnt carry or pay.
Malky remained silent, racking her brains for the right thing to
Yonah bent her head shyly. Ill never do it again. It didnt feel right.
Smiling with relief, Malky tousled her students hair. Some
lessons were not needed. A Jewish soul can sometimes feel the truth. And another Yonah was soaring!