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Nomenclatural Crisis

Monday, 15 August 2011

Here in our beautiful new neck of the woods corn fields, most children refer to adults as Mr. ben Ploni and Mrs. bat Ploni. Lovely.

Except…

I have never been “Mrs. Frummie.”

Five years of reform school + a rabbinic thesis + s’micha + twelve active years in the rabbinate = Rabbi Frummie.

Doesn’t it?

But the moms here refer to me as “Mrs. Frummie.” And even though stepping off the pulpit to stay home with the Frummies doesn’t negate my credentials, wouldn’t it be easier to fit in as “just another mom” without the clerical title? Will our new neighbours, friends, etc. treat me differently if they are reminded of my title every time they refer to me as “rabbi.”? On the other hand, my ordination was a transformative moment. Being a rabbi is an essential aspect of who I am. And can’t really be stripped from my soul.

Thoughts? Comments? Advice???

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. Mimi permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 8:21 am

    Go with Mrs. You might be surprised at all the degrees and titles lurking behind the other Mrs in the ‘stay at home’ world. I certainly was surprised to find all the lawyers and MBA’s, and Phds and Drs volunteering to hand out lunch at school because they had the time at home. Since it was a Jewish Day School, the Rabbi’s were addressed as such. (tho there was one who kept it under her hat.)
    Don’t worry, people will ask and find out how accomplished you were in your ‘former life’.
    You’ll be back to Rabbi Frummie in your ‘future life.’

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 8:51 pm

      Don’t worry, people will ask and find out how accomplished you were in your ‘former life’.
      You’ll be back to Rabbi Frummie in your ‘future life.’

      It actually has very little to do with accomplishment and more to do with who I am. I don’t find myself compartmentalizing the “rabbi,” “wife,’ “musician,” “mom,” etc. parts. I am who I am.

  2. mamadestroy permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 8:37 am

    If you would prefer to be referred to as Rabbi, I think that you have every right to state that preference. My father is a professor people who don’t know him always call him “Mr. Schulman”. When they say it, they have every intention of being respectful, as I’m sure people who call you “Mrs.” do. He generally gently and quietly states his preference to be called “Dr.” and people generally have no issue with that. I can see how in your situation, there could be an added layer of sexism involved, but I think I would just assume that people are respectful and that they are saying “Mrs.” rather than “Rabbi” merely because they don’t know any better.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 8:52 pm

      I would agree with you that folks mean no disrespect. And it really is how one states one’s preference. Your father handles it with kindness. A good model to follow.

  3. Monday, 15 August 2011 8:52 am

    go with “mrs.”. People sometimes have funky barriers when it comes to having personal relationships with clergy. it’s not giving up the title to fit in, it’s about creating a life for yourself with friends, community, etc. You want to make this as easy for yourself as possible. The title “mom” is just as central to who you are as “rabbi” – but you don’t think people outside of your kids should call you “mom”. “mrs.” is just one more facet of who you are. It doesn’t negate the other facets. just my 2 cents. for the record, many of the kids in our neighbor hood call my husband Mr. Caruso. it didn’t seem to make sense to insist on the rabbi part, esp since some are not Jewish, and honestly? he kinda likes being just a dad in this case, not a rabbi 🙂

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 8:54 pm

      he kinda likes being just a dad in this case, not a rabbi

      I think this was the sentence that clinched it for me; I’m never “just” anything. I am guessing it is because I grew up with a dad who was never just a dad. That it to say, being a rabbi is so essential to his very being that there was no line of demarcation.

      Interesting how we all relate to this in such different ways!

  4. Monday, 15 August 2011 10:21 am

    As someone who is friends with rabbis, I can safely say that those of us who address them as their first name are not any less aware of their Rabbinic status. However, when interacting socially, it fits better. It is more personal, and if you want to build personal (versus Rabbinic) relationships – that is key. {{In fact, one of our good friends coaches his sons soccer team. He is “Coach Rabbi” and the other coach is “Coach Mark” b/c the kids think of him so specifically as Rabbi, and in this case – he just wants to be a dad – like what Leah said}}
    That said, you are who you are. Does it matter that I call you Sarah in my head, even though I know its not your real name?

    Ultimately, its about what you are comfortable with and what will make you happiest. And you don’t have to know that now!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 8:56 pm

      And you don’t have to know that now!

      I guess I just feel as though it would be easier to make the decision so that I don’t have to switch midstream.

      As for social relationships, I’m fine with my first name. This solely has to do with the way that kids address me.

  5. Monday, 15 August 2011 10:33 am

    After they find out that you are a rabbi, they willprobably call you Rabbi Frummie anyway – or ask which you prefer.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 8:56 pm

      Not likely. I’ve had a few people ask me if being a rabbi was a volunteer thing or something that I did on the side. And then they referred to me as “Mrs. Frummie.”

  6. Debra permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 11:00 am

    You said it. It can’t really be stripped from your soul, no matter what anyone calls you.

    I suspect the adults you meet socially will be calling you by your first name, so as regards the “Mrs. Frummie” business we’re talking children and strangers, right? As you make friends and people come to know you, you might ask them to instruct their children to call you Rabbi in place of Mrs. if that’s what you prefer, since you’ll be addressed by them on a more regular basis and might as well be addressed in a manner that is comfortable to you.

    Or go with it. As you noted, you will still and always be “Rabbi” in your soul, and as others have pointed out, you will continue to be called “Rabbi” in other circles of your life–for example, at the congregation that your family joins, colleagues will (I hope!) introduce you to others as Rabbi Frummie, and “Rabbi Frummie” you will be to many of the children and adults, unless you invite them to address you otherwise.

    Of course, the experience of being a rabbi who is a member of another rabbi’s congregation raises a whole other raft of new and ambivalent experiences. As before, feel free to be in touch if you want to talk with one who’s a year into all this. (This blog platform gives you access to my email address, right?)

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 16 August 2011 8:58 pm

      as regards the “Mrs. Frummie” business we’re talking children and strangers, right?

      Correct.

      Of course, the experience of being a rabbi who is a member of another rabbi’s congregation raises a whole other raft of new and ambivalent experiences. As before, feel free to be in touch if you want to talk with one who’s a year into all this. (This blog platform gives you access to my email address, right?)

      It does and I’ll be using it!!!

      We haven’t started to shul-shop yet. Had a few other things to do first… 🙂

  7. ZaydeGiraffe permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 11:16 am

    I have many members of my congregation who hold doctorates. I generally call them by their first names. However, when I use their last names (in tallking to them or about them) I NEVER call them Mr., Mrs. or Ms. I always say Dr.

    I don’t mind it if people call me by my first name, but find it jarring when they say Mr. I gave up Mr. 40 years ago. The only exception is my dry cleaner, for whom English is a second language. However, thanks to your bringing this up, I may try to explain the use of the title Rabbi to the folks at the cleaners.

    As I read the other comments, I wonder if views on this might be generational. I’ll be interested to read further comments as they are posted. Clearly, this is a rather complicated issue.

  8. drspace permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 12:08 pm

    do YOU refer to your friends/neighbors by THEIR professional status–i.e. doctors (dr. so-in-so), lawyers (so-in-so, esq.), teachers (mrs./mr. so-in-so)? If you do, then you probably have every right to ask for that in return.

  9. Amitzah permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 1:46 pm

    Go with what makes you feel comfortable. I doubt they would begrudge you a preference. There are plenty of woman who have titles, or who have decided to keep their maiden names after marriage, that this shouldn’t come out of the blue.

  10. Monday, 15 August 2011 3:52 pm

    I don’t really like or enjoy being called “sir.” It always makes me think of my dad and he is much older than I am. OTOH, some of the friends of my children need to have more “sir” and less “Jack” in their lives. It might help kill some of the attitude that comes with it, but that is a different story.

    I agree that you need to go with what makes you feel comfortable.

  11. Lael permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 4:41 pm

    I third? those who say what makes YOU comfortable. But I also think If the children already call parents Mr or Mrs Such and Such, Rabbi So and So or Pastor So and So is the same kind of normal for this area, formal address, in my opinion.

    Names are so important. They are part of our (ethinic, religious, academic, cultural) identity and sometimes it’s important to remind those around us of our unique differences.

  12. Mimi permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 6:04 pm

    I am curious as to whether there is a generational bias. My opinion was to not use the Rabbi in a ‘mommy’ situation. I’m of the generation where the kids call adults by their first names and I would never think of calling my parents friends by anything but Mr and Mrs. (My friends of the that age are called by first name, but my parents friends, never)

  13. Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus permalink
    Monday, 15 August 2011 7:18 pm

    You worked for it, and you deserve to be called Rabbi. My kids’ friends always addressed me as Rabbi (those who used titles), and when they fell back to Mrs. out of habit, sometimes my kids corrected them, and sometimes we just let it go. They also addressed my husband as Dr., and that wasn’t too complicated for kids to handle.
    You don’t lose your title just because you don’t happen to be working as a rabbi at the moment. This is also a teaching opportunity, especially in a region without a large Jewish population.

  14. Monday, 15 August 2011 9:21 pm

    IMO, “Rabbi” is more than simply a title. It is, as you say, “… an essential part of who [you] are.” IMO, by introducing yourself as “Rabbi Frummie” you share an intimate part of who you are with the person you’ve just met. You’ll fit in no matter WHAT people call you (because it will only take a few minutes for people to discover you’re pretty cool to hang out with) and referring to you as “Rabbi” will only cause people to want to get to know you better! 🙂

  15. Tuesday, 16 August 2011 3:29 pm

    I’m a swim instructor in my spare time and I can not tell you how many of the parents I work with are Drs, Rabbis, Pastors etc. in their professional lives. I asked one I had become friendly with (after running into him at a charity event with the Dr. printed on the donation list) and he told me that there, he is a parent, not a Professor/Researcher and as such Mr. was just fine. I find a lot of the parents feel that way.

    On the flip side, I’ve had others correct me in rather obnoxious ways which I find off putting. (Although I’m careful not to transfer those feelings to the kiddos) How am I to know what title they’ve worked for when all I have is their child’s name on a paper?

    That said, do what’s comfortable for you, but if you’re correcting people left and right, please just be kind about it. They probably have no idea.

  16. Wednesday, 17 August 2011 1:11 am

    Another thought: setting aside that you would prefer to be addressed as Rabbi Frummie by the neighbors, and knowing that there are some people you’ve touched who will always call you Rabbi, is it important to you that your kids hear you addressed as “Rabbi Frummie?”

  17. Katharine permalink
    Wednesday, 17 August 2011 11:44 pm

    “This solely has to do with the way that kids address me.”
    OH. The *kids*. Yes, that’s very different.

    If anything I think it would be easier to say to children, “I like how polite you are calling me Mrs. Frummie, but I would prefer if you called me Rabbi.” Then it might catch with the parents. Children – malleable and not known for being fragile about that sort of thing.

  18. Tuesday, 23 August 2011 12:45 pm

    Dear Rabbi Frummie,

    Your name, and what people call you is your call. If Rabbi Frummie is who you are, then why conform to society’s ideas and perceptions by adopting another, less comfortable name. Just cyber-knowing you the little bit that I do, Mrs. Frummie sticks oddly in my throat–as if it is a name that belongs to someone else…perhaps even a someone who is the wife of another someone–which I realize you are, of course.

    Ok, so I know you get my point. I’m being wordy when all I really want to say is “do you thang, girlfriend!” (whatever that may be)

  19. Thursday, 8 September 2011 5:42 pm

    So, what’s your name around the neighborhood these days?

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