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 www.chicagotorah.org, which isn’t bad, but www.torontotorah.org 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 tzafon.com, 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…