Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Last night, as we were watching “Chuck,” I did a little Internet Research. The show features an actor by the name of Adam Baldwin. Having grown up one block south of the Baldwin Brothers, I was having a Senior Moment - I didn’t remember Alec, Billy, Stephen, and Daniel having a brother Adam.

And that’s because they didn’t. Adam is an Unrelated Baldwin.

But my Internet Research revealed some interesting facts about Massapequa, my hometown. I found out that Massapequa (and its incorporated component, Massapequa Park) has one of the highest concentrations of Italian-Americans in the country...between 40 and 50%, depending on which part of town you’re looking at.

No surprise there. Matzoh-Pizza, I used to call it, where Italians and Jews live peacefully together. It certainly accounts for the large number of pizza joints. You couldn’t get a bad pizza in Massapequa if you tried...no Domino’s or Papa John’s stands a chance.

That got me thinking about Saint Rose of Lima, the huge Catholic church that stands on Merrick Road to this day. And that, in turn, got me thinking about Naming Conventions for Houses of Worship.

Catholics like to name their Houses of Worship after Saintly People, it seems to me. Jews, on the other hand, do not. With us, it’s names like “Beth Shalom” (House of Peace), “Shaarei Tzedek” (Gates of Righteousness) and “Etz Chaim” (Tree of Life). Or something that includes the name “Israel,” naturally enough. It’d be easy enough to construct a Random Synagogue-Name Generator that would splice words like “Shalom,” “Tzedek,” “Torah,” and “Chaim” to corresponding words like “Beth” or “Kahal” (congregation) - you’d never run out of Shul Names.

When you see a name like “Beth Moshiach” or “Shaarei Yeshua,” you know you’re dealing with so-called Messianic Jews. Or as we Jews would say, “Christians.”

Protestant church names are more varied. First Baptist Church and Second Baptist Church - those are pretty common. “Church of Christ” - there are plenty of those - always struck me as redundant. Who else would you worship in a church? The Buddha? L. Ron Hubbard?

Church of Zeejus
Zion Pentecostal Tabernacle Church.

Here’s a good one: the Zion Pentecostal Tabernacle Church pictured above. Probably a real church name, even though the sign is fake (Zeejus!). Sounds evangelical, no? But except from the word “Church” - a dead giveaway that Christians are involved somehow - the other terms are right out of the Hebrew Bible. Zion: that’s an obvious one. Pentecostal: Pentecost is derived from the Greek name for Shavuot, one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals required in the Law of Moses. Tabernacle: from the Latin tabernaculum, or little tent, it’s the word used to describe the portable sanctuary (mishkan) the Israelites carried in their desert wanderings. For some reason, it’s also a French-Canadian epithet (Tabernac!) But despite all of the Jewish-seeming content of the name, when I see “Zion Pentacostal Tabernacle” on a House of Worship, I’m thinking that Jews will be thin on the ground in there. There might, however, be snakes.

Then there are the Primitive Baptist Churches. Services have gotta be interesting there, with the congregation decked out in their best Sunday bearskins and loincloths. Gawd only knows what ends up in the collection plate...

What interesting House o’ Worship names have you seen?

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