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Finding My Inner Esther

Changing my name changed my life for the better

by
Catherine M. Zadeh
March 15, 2024

Tablet Magazine

Tablet Magazine

As Jews in Iran, my parents understandably avoided giving me a recognizably Jewish name—but they also missed the memo on giving me any Hebrew name at all. My father, a lover of all things French, named me Catherine, wishing for his daughter to essentially assimilate into the new country he would immigrate to, as if a name could do just that.

Fast forward to my New York wedding, where the rabbi threw me a curveball by asking for my Hebrew name. Apparently, “I don’t have one” wasn’t the right answer. I had to choose one, right then and there. The first name he suggested was Esther, thinking it was fitting because of my Persian background and some possible distant relation to Queen Esther. But, honestly, Esther sounded more like a name for my grandma than for a cool, modern Jewish girl like me. So, he offered a few more names and I stopped him at Ketura—because why not have a name that sounds vaguely like Catherine?

Who wants to be a handmaid when you can be a queen, right?

For 25 years, I was Ketura, and married life with my husband, David, was a blissful roller coaster. To sort out my emotional baggage, a friend dragged me to a clairvoyant who asked my name. He repeated my name “Catherine” a few times, paused, remained pensive, and then declared: “You are regal, a beautiful strong queen.” I thought it was strange, but why not?

Motivated to find even deeper meaning, I started to attend Kabbalah classes. It was during one of those classes that the teacher explained the concept of Hebrew names as spiritual identifiers. Basically, a Hebrew name serves as a vessel for our unique traits and divine gifts, a conduit channeling spiritual energy. So, perplexed, I went home, frantically Googled Ketura, and found out that she was one of Abraham’s handmaids. Not exactly the empowering revelation I was looking for. I did not like Ketura. I did not want to be a Ketura.

I reached out to my rabbi and asked him about the possibility of a spiritual makeover through a name change. Much to my surprise, he gave a thumbs-up, so I decided to make a swap: Ketura for Esther. Who wants to be a handmaid when you can be a queen, right?

Since then, I’ve felt this gradual transformation, making way for Esther to take the throne—a “queen” by choice. And, to be honest, it had a domino effect on everything. My whole vibe has changed, and my relationships—including my marriage—are all the better for it. And remarkably, this shift didn’t stop at my personal life. It’s like my newfound queenly spirit had a direct line to my creative and professional side, leading me to make the boldest move of my life and open my first gallery on Madison Avenue. You see, besides being a devoted wife and a dedicated mother, I am also a jewelry designer, an entrepreneur, and what started as a simple hobby, is today a brand of luxury jewelry that channels Esther’s strength of character and courage, drawing inspiration from the myriad cultures that have woven into the fabric of my life.

Catherine M. Zadeh is the founder and designer of ZADEH.

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