These are the Names


These are the names of the Nigerian girls that I included in my morning prayers today:


There is a blessing in the daily Amidah–the central prayer of Jewish liturgy–that asks God to bring healing of body and spirit to all those who are sick. It is a generic petition, but when we pray on behalf of people it is customary to add their names. This morning, I printed this list of the names of the 177 girls confirmed to be still missing since April 15th and I read them aloud, stumbling over unfamiliar combinations of consonants yet determined to give voice to each individual.  As I read the names, I noticed that many girls share the same surname; I presume that they are sisters taken from the same family.

I think about the hashtag “BringBackOurGirls,” now trending on Twitter, and remember that Nigerian women introduced this phrase to social media while they demanded that their government take action, while they protested and raised their voices, at no small risk to their own safety.

My own girls are at school this morning–one roams freely across a college campus in the city and the other walks confidently through the halls of a suburban high school. They are relatively safe at school. Still, as I recite the names of the missing Nigerian girls, I want to race to my girls’ schools and hold them close to my heart.

I silently acknowledge that we mothers are powerless to prevent violence against our daughters. I wish someone would print a list of the names of the mothers whose daughters are missing–the mothers who are suffering just as surely as their daughters are. I would pray for every mother by name.

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The biblical book of Exodus begins by listing the names of Jacob’s sons who went down to Egypt, names that are familiar to us from the book of Genesis. Why list their names again?  Obadiah Sforno, a commentator who lived in 16th century Italy, explains: “They are mentioned here, as it is suitable that their names be known, that every one of them be considered as a person, by the name that is the expression of their individuality.”

These are the names of the Nigerian girls. Let every one of them be considered as a person. Let each one of them be mentioned by name in our prayers until all return safely to their mothers.


Comments (3)

This is one of the best pieces I’ve read on this subject in it’s honest concern for the wellbeing of those involved. I love the idea of a prayer that includes all their names, the idea of a list of the names of the mothers, and your appreciation of the contrasting circumstances of your own girls. Thoughtful piece.

Thank you for sharing the list of names; I will follow your lead and pray using it as you have.

I have three sons, no daughters, but many teen students. Young women are so lovely, so full of promise and potential, and yet so vulnerable. I can only imagine what the mothers of these young women are experiencing.


Thank you, Tonia & Laura, for taking the time to share your thoughts & feedback here & in our writer’s group. Sometimes, when I am steeped in the writing process, I get really personal on my blog & almost forget that others will read and respond. Lately, the support and encouragement I have received from the My500Words community has been invaluable. You have helped me grow more comfortable with being vulnerable in cyberspace.

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