The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Paul was only eight years old when this conversation took place; and although he didn’t understand the entire conversation and its importance, he still shared his parents’ and brother’s anger.  Looking back, we shared a laugh about it.  -Written by Derya Y.

The first thing they did when my father stepped off the boat onto American soil was change his last name.  Cohen.  It wasn’t a big deal.  It wasn’t anything that really mattered until my brother decided he wanted to go to med school.

“He probably won’t get in with a Jewish last name,” my father said as we stood, huddled together, in our comfortable living room.  It was a known fact that Jews usually didn’t get accepted into med school.  And although my father was proud to call himself an American citizen, I could hear the anger and hurt ringing through his voice.

“Let’s change our name back to your original last name,” my brother suggested.

“Kagan?” my mom said, her voice lingering on the last syllable as she considered my brother’s solution.

“Kagan,” my father repeated.  Our living room fell silent as my parents weighed our options—their faces contorted in contemplation.

“Okay Joseph, let’s change it,” my mom decided.  “But it can’t begin with “K” like it’s supposed to.  We have to spell it with a “C.”

“Why do we have to do that?” my father asked, confused.

“Because our silverware is engraved with the letter “C.”  I’m not changing our silverware.”

Name Change

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