The Power of Name

My legal first name is Esther, but the actual name on my birth certificate was Estera. An anonymous immigration officer Anglicized my name when I arrived in the United States at the age of five months. I was born in Stuttgart, Germany on October 27, 1946, to Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors. My mother chose to name me in memory of her mother, who had perished at Treblinka.

For many years, I felt my name, with its overtones of the biblical Esther who “saved the Jews,” was a burden. I was the oldest child, born right after the war and, compounded with my name, I felt that I had to accomplish great things to make up for my family’s loss and be worthy of my namesake. Now that I am nearly fifty, I have a different perspective. I, like many other second-generation Holocaust survivors, have always keenly regretted the absence of grandparents in my life. But now I feel that my name gives me a special link with a grandmother whom I could never actually know.