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I Hate the Name Kenneth

Ken Aptekar (American, b. 1950)

I Hate the Name Kenneth, 1996

  • Oil on wood with sandblasted glass and bolts
  • 69 x 120 7/8 x 3 in. (175.3 x 307.1 x 7.6 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Barbara S. Horowitz, Howard E. Rachofsky, Ruth M. and Stephen Durschlag, Marcia May, J.W. Heller Foundation, Michael L. Rosenberg, Helga and Samuel Feldman, Caroline B. Michahelles and Robert G. Pollock gifts, and Fine Arts Acquisitions Committe, 1997-26a-h

On view



I Hate the Name Kenneth


I Hate the Name Kenneth






Encourage students to examine I Hate the Name Kenneth carefully. Have them read the text that is sandblasted onto the glass:

Abraham from Odessa
changed his name.
He had to if he wanted
to get ahead at Ford
where he got a job
painting stripes on
Model Ts. Fifty years
later Albert retired, a
vice-president in the
tractor division.

Abraham from a
shtetl near Minsk
never changed his name.
He lived in an
apartment near the
oldest synagogue
in Detroit, ran a
bicycle shop with
my grandmother
his whole life.

Kenneth was what my
parents named me.
They said it was the
closest they could
come to my Jewish
name, "Chaim,"
Hebrew for "life."
Abraham from the
shtetl called me
"mein Kenny."

I was seven when I
lost Grandpa Abe.
When he had to face
a small claims judge,
he collapsed from a heart
attack on the floor of
the courthouse.
Grandpa Al died much
later. I hate the name


  • What is the story being told here? Who is telling the story?

  • Why did Abraham from Odessa change his name? Why did Abraham from Minsk not change his name? Why does the artist hate the name Kenneth? Why do you think he uses such a strong word as hate?

  • Does anything about the story surprise you?

  • Have students examine the images in relation to the text.

  • Describe the images in this work of art. What do they make you think of? What time and place do they suggest?

  • What do the pictures have to do with the text? How do the images help the artist make his point? What is the effect of superimposing text on top of images?

  • Why do you think the artist included the frames of some of the images in the painting?

  • What is the effect of including white space in the painting and cropping the images in different ways? Is the location of the white space significant? How does it relate to the text?

  • What colors does the artist use? What do these colors suggest to you?


After giving students ample opportunity to examine I Hate the Name Kenneth, lead them in a discussion of related topics and themes:

  • Have you ever had to make a choice between being yourself and trying to fit in? How did you deal with the conflict? How did it feel? What decision did you ultimately make? Were you happy with your decision?

  • One of Ken Aptekar's grandfathers felt he had to choose between getting a good job and expressing his Jewish identity. Have you ever felt a need to hide aspects of your ethnic or cultural identity? What did you do?

  • Aptekar seems to feel more of a connection with the grandfather who retained his Jewish identity. Which one of Aptekar's grandfathers do you identify with more? Why?


  • Names and Family History
  • Personal and Ethnic Identity
  • Assimilation
  • Contemporary Art
  • Writing Memoirs