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Thread: Cohen?

  1. #11
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    @eskay: sorry i didn't mean to generalize, i meant it as a shorthand for the dominant culture. I know many Christians, Muslims and Atheists (of which, funny enough, i am one) who are gentile and respectful. I only meant to reference the feeling of people who live in the dominant Christian culture who may not see how this is offensive.

  2. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by kerrie View Post
    The name is reserved for holy/royal members only and is offensive to some when used for their random kids. I've seen tons of threads about this, and lots of people suggest using alternate spellings (Koen, Coen, Cowan) to make it less of an issue.
    Sort of. Except Jews don't name our kids "Cohen" as a first name either. It's not like we're jumping around claiming "wait wait Abraham was ours first, don't use it! Moses was ours first, don't use it!" etc. We use those names as first names and other people certainly can and do as well and even the stuffiest of Orthodox Jews don't walk around getting offended by atheists or Christians etc. using names that we think of as Biblical or Jewish.

    But Cohen isn't a name, its a title. I don't know anyone Jewish who uses Cohen as a first name. Even Cohanim. (People who are Cohen bloodline)

    It is a last name, because it was a title. Like Pope. It'd be someone's right to name their kid Pope if they wanted, but they couldn't very well get that surprised if some Catholics felt a bit trod on by that. It'd be antagonistic and kind of tacky. Especially with the tacked-on "But it doesn't mean that to us; we don't care what it means to them" that follows Cohen around when it's used as a name. There's issues of cultural appropriation a yard thick.

  3. #15
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    This thread is really interesting! I've never considered the name Cohen as a first name,but I had no idea how offensive it was to appropriate it!
    I don't know a lot about Jewish culture beyond the bare bones,but it always seemed a very religion specific name to me. In that part I was right,but interesting to learn how important a name it is in Jewish culture.
    I agree it would seem culturally ignorant to use it. It would only take an Internet search to find out as I have.

  4. #17
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    Cohen would be offensive, so I wouldn't use it. But I don't like it when people say those who use it are culturally ignorant. Not everyone Googles a name before they use it, and not everyone is going to know about the ties to Judaism. It's just a human error. Maybe if they used the name knowing it was offensive I would consider them ignorant, but not if they did it accidentally, without realising.
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  5. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by juliet.a View Post
    I have posted this before, and will post it again if need be.

    Just because people are starting to name kids this name does not mean it's ok.

    In the Jewish religion this isn't just any name. This is the last name of the descendents of the high priest Aaron. These are people with a special place in the Judaism, as they have a history (5000 years) of being high priests.

    Being of Jewish descent I would not even name my child this because I am not one of these holy people.

    It goes even deeper than that:
    Yes, Cohen is a sacred name for the Jews. I equate it to a Christian naming their child Mohammed purely because they liked the sound of it, without considering the political aspect of the name. Think of how a Muslim might feel in this situation.

    Having said that, there is a deeper issue, and that is appropriation.

    The reason, I believe, that Christians find no name they can feel is offensive to them is because Christianity is the dominant religion and dominates western culture. Often Christians don't understand appropriation because they're the ones that exoticize other cultures.
    When you are part of a minority group, you are used to the mainstream culture mostly ignoring your specialized customs and culture. You have your shul and holidays, live in your community (in this case the Jewish community) as well as living in a mainstream community also.
    Now this actually happens all the time, and it's level of offensiveness varies, but when the mainstream culture appropriates/gentrifies aspects of other cultures turning them into fads, this is shocking and has the potential to offend- especially when it takes from the holiest part of a culture.
    When the mainstream picks and chooses little bits of other faiths and cultures to feed it's fads it debases those things, because you're not respecting any other part of that culture. It's usurping and it feels uncomfortable.
    I think your explanation of the history of Cohen is very helpful. I beg to differ though that Christians are somehow oblivious to the potential for a name to be offensive. Christians are often very aware of name meanings, the concept of sacredness, the appropriateness of a name for a child given history/background, etc. Especially Christians who are devout and really delve into their religion. In short, being a religious person makes you more sensitive to other religious people. As a devout Catholic, I would never disregard or downgrade the importance of respecting what is sacred in other religions precisely because I "get" how offensive it is when say, someone who is not Catholic desecrates something Catholics consider sacred. The OP in fact admits she's not very religious so she doesn't (initially) "get" why something would be offensive to a Jewish person. Well, as a religious person, I "get it" and so would the vast majority of Christians I know.

    So yeah, just wanted to throw in there this isn't just about being the minority or being the majority (although arguably, there are many who report themselves to be Christian culturally but don't practice their religion, so practicing Christians may indeed be in the minority. Hard to get the numbers on that).

    ETA: Ah, I saw your clarifying remark! Still, I am not sure being Christian is the issue as much as the "dominant culture" is the issue (which nowadays I feel is pretty diverse). But anyway, this is a fascinating thread! And I totally agree that Cohen should be off the table as a name out of respect.
    Last edited by phillipswife; May 4th, 2012 at 02:53 PM.

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