Humor | Sexy Carlos Danger just another guy with a Jewish alias

Anthony Weiner has made the news with his presumed alias, “Carlos Danger,” but historically speaking, Jews have been using name changes to hide their identities for hundreds of years.

The former congressman and current New York City Democratic mayoral candidate has been accused on of sex-texting under the name “Carlos Danger” with a 22-year-old woman, a little over a year after he was forced to resign from a sexting scandal in June 2011.

Weiner has since released a statement admitting that at least some of the allegations are true, but he has neither confirmed nor denied the use of the alias.

After listening to the late-night comedians yuk it up, and even trying a widget on Slate where you can be assigned your own sexting pseudonym — my name became “Eduardo Kill” — I ask: Should we be surprised by Weiner’s apparent need to hide his name?

Not particularly. The Jewish alias, for different reasons, is deeply engraved into our experience.

Looking, perhaps, into your own family history, many Jews, especially descendants of those who came to America via Ellis Island, now live under aliases. For instance, my name, Rodman, was shortened generations ago from either “Rodzimanansky” or “Rodzaminsky” — my parents could never quite resolve that — and is a name that at times has been useful.

Traveling in parts of the U.S. where there are few Jews, the name has allowed me to fit in, and in African American neighborhoods, due to the notoriety — some would say ignominy — of the basketball player of the same name, an easy way to cross cultural lines, even start up conversations.

In changing the family name, my family was in creative company. Jewish movie stars notably changed their names and spent their careers under Americanized aliases. Among a cast of many players, Bernard Schwartz became Tony Curtis, Isadore Demsky became Kirk Douglas, Betty Joan Perske became Lauren Bacall. In the music and art worlds, Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan and Emmanuel Radnitzky became Man Ray.

Sometimes the story behind one’s inherited alias, passed down for generations, can come as a jaw-dropper. In 2003, then–Sen. John Kerry was shocked to find out via an article in the Boston Globe that his paternal grandparents had not only been born Jewish in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as “Fritz Kohn” and “Ida Lowe,” but in 1900 changed their names to Frederick and Ida Kerry and in 1901 converted to Roman Catholicism.

Hundreds of years earlier during the Inquisition, Jewish aliases were important to Portuguese Conversos who fled to Amsterdam, where they were able to openly return to Judaism. Ac-cording to a site that helps people track down their Sephardic ancestry, the aliases were contrived because the Conversos, who often still had relatives in Portugal, felt the need to protect them.  

Some of our most famous writers changed their names. Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich became Sholem Aleichem. The “grandfather of Yiddish literature,” Mendele Mocher Sforim, also known as Mendele the book peddler, was originally Sholem Yankev Abramovich. Both authors changed their names and wrote in Yiddish to reach a larger audience.

Perhaps the greatest Torah commentator — the original Jewish sub-texter — also went by an alias, of sorts. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki is known to this day by his acronym, Rashi.

But what if, in a community “coming out” ceremony, we all emerged from behind our Jewish aliases. All the Greens would return to Greenbergs, Berks to Berkowitz, Roses to Rosenzweigs. Certainly, it would make for one incredible reunion, and a celebration of Jewish pride.

But I’d hate to type the program.

Edmon J. Rodman is a columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at [email protected]

Edmon Rodman
Edmon J. Rodman

Edmon J. Rodman writes about Jewish life from his home in Los Angeles and is the author of the weekly Guide for the Jewplexed on Contact him at [email protected].