What’s in a name?

Stacey - St Louis, Missouri
Entered on April 30, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

What’s in a Name?


It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It is a confusing last name; hard to pronounce, unusual. Despite the confusion my last name causes and the constant mispronunciations from teachers, solicitors, and students, it defines who I am. I believe in the strength of a name.

Words often define individuals, but my last name holds more significance than any word in the English language, for after my sister and I get married the last name will be gone. There are no other Giblichmans in the world and in 100 years it is likely no one will ever hear the name again. I came to this awareness when I was about 15 years old and since then it has tied me to my heritage and the history of both sides of my family.

This realization was sparked during my sophomore year of high school. Through an activity at my synagogue my parents and I wrote each other ethical wills. The wills expressed what values, beliefs, and traditions we hold close to our hearts and want to pass on to one another. My parents articulated their love of their family history and the hardships their ancestors went through so that I could have the life that I do. The respect I gained that day not only for my parents, but for my great grandparents whom I’ve never met has never left me. I harbor great appreciation and respect for my mother’s grandfather, who was dirt poor but brave enough to save a woman from a burning building. He was a bread deliveryman on Chicago’s west side with a pushcart back in the 1920s, who spoke English with a thick Russian accent. So while he may not have been a scholar, a businessman, or a doctor, he had more courage than most Americans I know today. While I never knew him, I like to believe the courage he held is part of who I am.

I have great appreciation for the Giblichmans, who were able to preserve our unique last name on their way here from Austria. My grandpa and his family came to the United States in a different fashion than most Jewish people of their time. His father was a Cantor, a prominent figure in a synagogue who sings the prayers. He was brought over to Chicago by a synagogue on the south side. The synagogue made sure the Giblichman family had a safe trip over, and that included preserving their unique last name. Unfortunately, my grandpa’s grandparents, aunts and uncles did want to come to America. The Giblichman name died with them during the Holocaust, when a neighbor told the SS they were Jewish. Then some 40 years later, my grandfather began his quest to find the Giblichmans every the world. From St. Louis to Paris to Jerusalem, there were none to be found. He discovered the name had died in the concentration camps of Europe. The perseverance of my grandpa’s family drives my belief system. I believe one must respect and take pride in the traditions, customs, and values of their ancestors.

I strive to hold on to the values and ethics of my ancestors. I continue to struggle with the fact that I will be giving up “Giblichman” in the next few years because it is more than a name. It embodies my strong will to take advantage of all the opportunities that have been presented to me in life. Without my ancestors’ determination and drive, I would not have the education, career, or life that I do. I believe that despite a changing of names I will never lose Giblichman. The strong name embodies the traditions and customs that I will pass on to my own children, therein lays my last name’s strength. I will forever believe in the power of a name.