Tag Archives: Baby Diaries

Welcome to the World, Maayan Shalva Weitzman

12 Jun

On Thursday, my wife and I welcomed our first child, a daughter, into the world. This morning we named her Maayan Shalva. Here’s why:

Dear Maayan Shalva Weitzman,

First off, welcome to the world. Right now I’m sitting at the kitchen table in Bubby Marla’s (is Bubby what we decided, Marla?) and Grandpa’s house, and you’re in the family room, on uncle Corey’s lap wrapped in your pink swaddle and so small and cute and beautiful, and you’ve only been in this world for three days, and yet somehow I already can’t imagine my life without you—though as I read this over I hear you wailing away upstairs and, well, let’s just say this parenting thing is really weird.

Anyway, please forgive the hackiness of this post—I mean formatting it as a letter? Such a cliché. It’s just that I really wanted to explain why your mother and I decided to name you Maayan Shalva. Also, I thought one day you might like to know how it is that you came to hold such a seemingly strange and non-American sounding name. After all, the name Maayan Shalva didn’t just appear out of thin air. Mommy and I gave it tons of thought, and even threw a few jabs at one another.

So let’s start with your middle name, Shalva. Shalva is a Hebrew word, it means tranquil, or peaceful. It can be found in verses in Job, Proverbs and other Judaic texts. It’s the feminine conjugation of the word Shlomo, which in English is Solomon.

Your great grandfather’s name was Solomon (Solomon D. Rosen, to be precise). He was my mother’s (I’d use her grandmother name here but she’s having some trouble picking one) father, my Popi. He died this past January, just about six months before you were born.

I know that as I write this you’re barely a person, but I have no qualms saying that you would have loved him. How could you not? He was everything you look for in a role model: smart and challenging but also kind. Proud but also selfless. Others came first. He always had a smile on his face, even as his body continued to fail him over the years in cruel ways. He never stopped learning, never stopped being curious about the world around him. He loved his family, his religion, his people, his countries (America and Israel), and a good corned beef sandwich. Also, he was a huge NBA fan. Need I say more?

We’re naming you after Popi so that we can honor him and keep his memory alive. But also, our hope is that giving you his name, Shalva, inspires you to follow in his footsteps and live a life that he would have made this great man proud.

As for Maayan, well, let’s begin where Mommy and I did—with the letter “M.” That’s for your Mommy’s Zayde, Bubby Marla’s father, Max. Like you, I never had the pleasure of meeting Zayde. But over the years I’ve heard so many stories about him and learned so much about his life. He was the epitome of a special man.

First, there’s his life story. Max is one of the millions of European Jews who spent time in one of Hitler’s concentration camps during World War II. Zayde spent years in Bergen Belsen, before being liberated and eventually making his way to Passaic, New Jersey. I won’t make you read here about the horrors of the Holocaust, or about the many ways that Zayde was tortured during his time in the camps. I will, however, share with you one story that I believe personifies the man you were named after:

Once, while in the camps, Nazi guards discovered a pair of hidden tefilin and phylacteries. They began threatening prisoners as they tried to learn to whom they belonged. Zayde, knowing the owner of the tefilin was too weak to withstand the punishment that would no doubt come his way if it were learned that he was the owner, claimed them as his own. He was beaten, but survived. And he never regretted the decision.

Despite all this, Zayde insisted on building a Jewish home in New Jersey. Which is great, but the trait that those who knew him use most when describing Zayde, and which I hope you imbibe, was his kindness. By all accounts, Zayde was as kind a man as there is. Need proof? Just ask Mommy’s Savta. Edith Horowitz is not a person who suffers fools. She’s not a woman who doles out compliments just to be nice. But ask her about your Zayde—a man she was not related to and didn’t have to love—and she’ll tell you what a special and sweet person he was. Our hope is that you live up to his name.

Now let’s talk about your full name. Maayan is Hebrew for wellspring, meaning a light in darkness. For one, Zayde’s Hebrew name was Meir, which means one who shines. The idea behind the names are the same—a Maayan brings comfort and warmth to those in need.

It was also important to your mother and I that your name be Hebrew. We wanted you to always be aware of your heritage, religion and culture, and to always feel connected to your second home—Israel, and to be proud of all of it and not slink into the background. Will it sound strange to some in America? Perhaps. But my hope is that one day you grow up and realize, like I, as someone named Yaron did, that being able to correct people (it’s Ya-rohn, no Yah-rin) is actually a blessing, to be able to explain to people what language your name is, and what it’s like to be Jewish and connected to Israel—that’s a great honor and gift, and also a responsibility we want you to have.

So, Maayan Shalva, that is how you got your name. Your name is there to honor Zayde and Popi, but also to serve as a beacon for the life we hope you live. Our blessing to you is that you live a life that would have made both them proud, and that you serve as a wellspring, a light, a comfort, to your friends, family, people and countries.

With love,

Abba and Mommy.