Posted by: ritagone | June 14, 2017

What’s In a Name?


This past week we attended our youngest granddaughter’s graduation ceremony from her 5th grade elementary school in the San Fernando Valley before she moves on to middle school. (Yikes, how did that happen so fast??  But that’s another story!!)  There were four 5th grade classes represented, with lots of singing and skits and awards and plenty of hooting and clapping by friends and family.  In short, everything a 5th grade graduation ceremony should be.

One of the things that struck me was the diversity of her classmates.  Because of the location of the school, white kids are in the minority, and that’s a lovely thing.  Kids who grow up with kids of other races and ethnic backgrounds have many advantages over kids who grow up in a bubble.


There were lists of the names of the graduates on the program which was handed out.  One name in particular made me smile:  Hillel McDonald.  Now, there’s no way Hillel McDonald would be reading my blog, but if he were, I would ask his indulgence, because I’m not making fun of him at all.  I’m just smiling at the merging of two such dissimilar sounding cultures: Hillel, which is a Hebrew name found in the Old Testament and referring to one of the greatest sages in the history of Judaism, who died in 10 A.D.  It’s a name you see often in religious Jewish circles even today, a revered name. McDonald is a Scottish clan name, a derivative of the surname MacDonald, meaning “son of Domhnall,” about as Gaelic as you can get, one of the largest of the clans, Clan Donald.

And there they are, in one 11 year old boy: Hillel, a strong Jewish name, and McDonald, an equally vivid Gaelic Irish or Scottish derivative, together in one person. The metaphor, the imagery, struck me profoundly, and I couldn’t help but smile.

In a world that’s torn apart by differences of color, of race, of opinion, of politics, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could just attach two disparate names to something or someone and suddenly bring peace and reconciliation to them and everything around them?

I know, I know, it doesn’t work that way; it’s not that easy.

But for just a moment, I imagine young Hillel growing to be a man who knows what it’s like to bring together two different communities, two distinct groups of people, because the two heritages he was given at birth meant something to him and to his parents, enough that they would give him a name that embraces two cultures, two people groups so different from his one another.

I’m going to keep that image in my head and heart and pray that somehow the Hillel McDonalds around us can use their combined names to mean something to the world in which they are growing up.



  1. Thank you Rita, interesting image you brought about for your readers. It gives me hope for a better future for us all. Change starts within individuals at a personal level, nothing like ones name is more personal.

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