May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A discussion took place recently among a group of friends of varying ages. What is the appropriate way for children to address adults who are friends of their parents? Should a 6-year-old be saying “Hi Linda” or should they be saying “Hi Mrs. Saks”? It seems that depending upon whom you ask you will get different answers. The younger generation, in their 20s, 30s or 40s will generally say that their children call their friends by their first names, and some might even go so far as to say that they think that it is ridiculous for their children to refer to them as Mr. and Mrs.

Most likely it all depends upon what you were taught when you were growing up. We always addressed our parents friends as Mr. and Mrs. It was considered rude to do otherwise. Some very close friends became “honorary” aunts and uncles.

There is an entire other world out there that calls everyone by their family names only. In the more yeshivish community, children address their parents’ friends by their surname and adult men and women speaking to the opposite sex always call them by their family name. For example, my daughter’s closest friends in Rochester are addressed by her husband as Mrs. So-and-so. They have an older guest in their home each week for a Shabbat meal and never, ever call him by anything but his family name. For many of us, that behavior would be considered weird and for others it would be quite the norm.

We always remember the phone calls from Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski who would always introduce himself as “Twerski.” We found that manner to be common amongst the more chasidic older generation. And we will always remember a rav from Montreal that we were not close with who would call our home and ask for “Mordy.” We know of no one else who every referred to Mordechai as Mordy. Some feel the need to shorten a person’s name whether or not they themselves ever did so.

Interestingly, in the Montessori method of teaching, teachers are addressed by their first names by their students. Imagine if there were a yeshiva type of Montessori school. Would children call their secular teachers by their first names and their limudei kodesh teachers Rabbi or Mrs.? Or would it be Moshe, Dovid, Eliezer and Shoshana?

It is interesting to us how most people are careful to address their rav by his full name or as Rebbe but when they talk to others about them they may choose to say only their last names. Why are young children calling their rebbetzins by their first name? We remember when a new family joined our shul, Ahavat Yisroel in Montreal, and the mother immediately introduced her 4- and 5-year-old daughters to me and said “This is Nina.” It felt really awkward to have them run around calling out to their friends in the same tone of voice as to their rabbi’s wife. Nina always introduces herself as Nina Glick and always tells people to call her Nina. Somehow, though, for little children who have never met her before it seemed inappropriate.

We are certain that there are those who will read this and immediately feel that we are acting as though we are living in a different age. That fact was obvious when Nina had this discussion with that group of friends. However, the question is how and when do you teach your children respect for someone who is an adult? Immediately by addressing them differently the lesson is learned that they are not “buddies,” but are adult friends of their parents or theirs and therefore require a different manner of being treated and referred to.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick

 

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