Kirsten Fermaglich has been teaching history and Jewish Studies at Michigan State since 2001. Her interests center around the historical meanings and problematic nature of ethnic identity in the United States. She is particularly interested in secular Jews as both members of and outsiders to the Jewish community. Fermaglich is also interested in the ways that gender, race, class, and family intersect with ethnic identity.
Areas of Expertise (3)
Antisemitism in the US
Why Americans Change Their Names, And What It Says About Identity
Throughout American history, many men and women have sought to change their names. Some immigrants to the country have done so in an attempt to assimilate to America, while others who were born here have done it to escape certain connotations of a given name. Whatever the reason, our guest historian says the reasons behind name changes are often more complex than they seem. We look at who’s changing their names and why...and what it all says about identity in America.
Event Appearances (1)
Schuler's Authors Night
Okemos Meridian Hall
Journal Articles (2)
“What's Uncle Sam's Last Name?” Jews and Name Changing in New York City during the World War II EraJournal of American History
2015 In 1942 the Columbia Law School student Eugene Martin Greenberg petitioned the City Court of the City of New York to change his surname to Grant. “While in the U.S. military forces,” the petition explained, “petitioner believes that his career will be more successful and he may ultimately secure merited advancement on legal assumption of said proposed surname.” Greenberg assured the judge that he did not intend “to forsake the Hebrew religion of his family.”
"Too Long, Too Foreign … Too Jewish": Jews, Name Changing, and Family Mobility in New York City, 1917-1942Journal of American Ethnic History
2005 In 1932, A man named Max Greenberger petitioned the City Court of the City of New York to allow himself, as well as two of his four children, to change their last name to Greene...