It's been almost two months since my conversion. I have been shocked that the most common question I am asked is, "So what do I call you now?"
Of all the things to ask about a conversion, that's the first thing that comes to mind?? Maybe it's the most polite (and practical) thing to ask, but I never expected to get this question. It just didn't occur to me that the conversion is the most practical time to change one's name.
There was nothing to prevent me from choosing to call myself by my Hebrew name prior to my conversion. In fact, I do it here to blog anonymously. Because of that, many of you out there only know me as Kochava and still refer to me as that. However, I have never gone by Kochava "in real life." Of the people who choose to adopt their Hebrew name, they generally seem to start using it full-time long before conversion is imminent.
Why would someone choose to change right at the moment of conversion? We're all different, and I can imagine some reasons for that, but it seems unusual in practice. Either people adopt it early on or they adopt it later (many adopt their Hebrew name when making aliyah to Israel). It seems that few people adopt it as soon as they come out of the mikvah. To me, that seems like the "purist" approach: don't go by your Hebrew name until you are, in fact, a Hebrew. Right? Makes sense. Maybe that used to be more common or maybe rabbis used to set that as the rule.
I happen to have an amazing Hebrew name. So why wouldn't I choose to use it? My English name also happens to be an amazing name, and I am very connected to it. I may choose to go by Kochava at some future point, but not now.
At the most basic, and as I mentioned somewhere else on the blog, I'm the same person I've always been. I don't see a contradiction (or even dissonance) between my "former" life and who I am now. Because of that, I feel like it would be disingenuous to essentially take on a new identity.
Everyone is different, and everyone will approach this question differently. This is just how I approached my own case. Every person's experiences (especially when you're dealing with identity!), their family history, and each person's community situation (especially if dating) may require a differnet analysis in every person's case. Even generational differences could play a part. There is literally no end to the factors a person must consider when deciding whether to change one's name (Jewishly or legally).