Because I’m All About that Base, ’bout that Base, ’bout that (Data)base

Okay, it almost works. I’ve had that damned song stuck in my head all day because of this awesome video of what the song would sound like in the 1940s. I’m slightly obsessed with it.

Let that be your background song as you read this post.

Who am I kidding? You’re transfixed and you’re not even paying attention to this. I’ll give you another couple minutes to enjoy being transported back in time.

And speaking of the past…I return you now to the yeshiva where Erin, the earnest gentile (non-Jew), is working away furiously at her computer, learning the database program as fast as her brain can rewind to pre-Windows software days. Yes, yes, if you’re thinking Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe you’re in the ballpark, at least visually. Except that despite its ancient-looking interface, its capabilities were vast (and vastly underutilized). I might have been able to launch a bochur (young unmarried male, especially a yeshiva student) to the moon if I’d been given training. But…training costs money and I was adequately consistent in my ability to know just enough to get by without.

And yet there was this particular non-software issue that tripped me up at first:

Note that Jews outside of Israel usually have two given names: one in Hebrew and one in the language of their birthplace. The latter name usually appears on the child’s birth certificate, but the Hebrew name is what he or she would be called in religious circles and functions. (from Judaism for Dummies)

Yaakov = Jacob

Dovid = David

Shmuel = Sam

Ahron = Aaron

Tzvi or Zvi = Ted

Yehoshua = Joshua

Moshe = Mark

Mordechai = Michael

You get the idea. So imagine how easy it was for me to miss that the Moshe and Rivka Goldstein in the database were the same couple listed on their check as Marc and Rebecca Goldstein (totally made-up names, by the way). If you’ve ever done data entry or maintained a database, you can imagine how this could lead to many a duplicate record in the system.

This multiple-name issue also complicated student record keeping. Which name should print on transcripts? Which should print on student identification cards? What about mailing labels? Reports? Diplomas? The legal or the Hebrew? Or is the legal the Hebrew? Or is the legal the English? Oh my! In a parallel universe there might be a policy, simple as: “X name prints on X thing.” At a yeshiva? At a yeshiva with an unruly database, no less? Policy, schmolicy.

So after some trial and error I became proficient at transliterating the names in my head. I also became quite proficient at merging database records and reprinting transcripts and diplomas and lists and mailing labels… It was meshuga (crazy) at its finest. “Welcome to the yeshiva family! Oh, and women aren’t allowed to be heard singing, so please turn down whatever that video is that’s playing on your computer.” 😉





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