Friday, July 31, 2009

How NOT to name your Jewish institution

I’ve been working on selecting a URL (web address) for our new Yeshiva University-Torah miTzion Beit Midrash of Toronto, and I’m having a rough time of it.

Our sister organization in Chicago chose, which isn’t bad, but is a little of a harder sell, because of all of the to’s in it (too much TO is bad for you, as Buffalo will find out).

So I started thinking about naming Jewish institutions, in general, and how challenging it can be. A good name, like a logo, is catchy but also meaningful, brief and spare but able to encompass the key elements of your identity. That’s not so simple.

One way to do it is to get good initials, but good initials are hard to find. The Ner Yisrael kollel in Atlanta is called ASK, Atlanta Scholars Kollel. That’s great - for them. For us, that would turn into TSK (Toronto Scholars Kollel), which conjures up images of a disapproving schoolmarm. We could go with OSK (Ontario Scholars Kollel), but that would sound more like one of those odd creatures the JPS invented in translating the Torah's list of kosher and treif animals ni (Anyone know what an ossifrage is? Without checking wikipedia?).

You can try the one-from-column-A, one-from-column-B approach; this is popular with shuls:
Column A: Ohavei, Rodfei, Chovevei, Bnei, Tomchei, Shaarei
Column B: Chaim, Yosher, Simchah, Torah, Shalom, Emet
But this is too pedestrian.

Another way to pick a name is to pick a Hebrew word that communicates meaning and identity, but that can be tricky as well. Hebrew words are loaded with biblical and midrashic associations, some of which are negative.

I thought about, since tzafon means north, but two problematic connotations immediately came to mind: “מצפון תפתח הרעה, Evil will come from tzafon/north (Yirmiyah 1:14),” and “הרוצה שיחכים ידרים, הרוצה שיעשיר יצפין. One who wants to become wise should go south; one who wants to become wealthy should go tzafon/north (Bava Batra 25b).”

It reminds me of the founding of Edah; did those who picked that name not immediately think of “עד מתי לעדה הרעה הזאת How long will I have to put up with this evil edah/group (Bamidbar 14:26),” and similar negative associations?

(We had a similar problem in naming our children. Miriam? No, she had tzaraat. Yaakov? He experienced horrible suffering for much of life. Etc.)

So the search continues. And don’t even get me started on the matter of a logo…



    mmmmm .... maaaaple ....

  2. Everybody needs a little TLC - Toronto Learning Center.

    Seriously, Good Luck! It almost requires ruah hakodesh.

  3. Leave it to the JBlogosphere and we'll solve the problem.

  4. TTT

    Torat Torczyner b'Toronto

  5. The abbreviation for the shul in Allentown (SOI) sounds like the popular (or perhaps infamous) meat substitute. I don't think that has scared many people away (though I suppose there could be a vast underground community of frum meat lovers in Allentown).

    How about YUKO? (Yeshiva University Kollel of Ontatio)?

    Since this Kollel is in Canada perhaps the French language opens up further possibilities?

  6. My 2 cents: yucantorah (for Yeshiva University & Canada...)

  7. Thanks, all, for your suggestions... stay tuned...

  8. Toronto

    TASK - part of a set of actions which accomplish a job, problem or assignment.

    Is that not the TASK of every kollol - to accomplish a job, solve problems, or accomplish a TASK?

    - your chaver

  9. Toronto
    Institute for


    TORAH - Toronto Ontario Rabbinical ? ?

    TIS-YU (TISSUE) - Toronto Institue of Scholars from Yeshiva University

    TOTS - Toronto Ontario Torah Scholars

    TOURS - Toronto Ontario University of Rabbinical Scholars

    YODA - Yeshiva of Ontario D'lemudai Achronim

    YENTLE - Yeshiva Educators of Ner Toronto Lemudai Emunah

    TYCK or TICK - Toronto Yeshiva (Institute) Community Kollel

    - chaver

  10. Yeshiva University Kollel of Ontario (YUKON)

  11. KAVONA (Kollel Avreichim of North America)

  12. Chaver, Ari-
    Thanks for all of these suggestions. Some of them are pretty good!

  13. you're quite welcome. remember, we get all the royalties, or at least a day of learning on our behalf :>)

  14. POSUK (post-graduate university kollel)

    CANUCK (canadian university community kollel)

  15. I'm surprised you don't want to name your children Ya'akov or Miriam. Whether or not they had hard lives doesn't surpass the fact that they were upright influential leaders of our people. Everything is going to have a fault to it.

    I go to a shul called Darchei Noam? Will that relax you?

    Worst comes to worst you can get a benefactor and name it something like Adas Yehuda v'Shoshana.

  16. Anonymous 3:24 PM-
    Certainly, everyone has faults, but there is a longstanding tradition of avoiding naming children for pain. That's what we wanted to avoid.