One gratifying moment in my Baal Teshuvah life was when I legally changed my “American” first name to my Jewish first name. I have tremendous pleasure every time I have to spell out my name to someone official: “M A T I S Y A H U.”
Many BT’s would gladly change their legal first name, however, they do not do it, due to the hassle involved with possible court proceedings, changing the social security, passport, car registration and driver license, credit cards, etc.
As for me, my name change was even more involved due to the fact that I hold professional licenses in three states. The legal-proceedings aspect of my name change was actually easy; I was able to do it through the mail in the county in which I live (Rockland County, NY). The whole thing cost under $200. I made the remaining changes to the driver license, etc., little by little. It took me almost a year to change everything.
These days, I receive a random piece of mail addressed to my old name. However, everything else is in my Jewish name and I like it!
Some BT’s are reluctant to legally change their names because they may be concerned with their image in the “business world.” Yehoshua, for example is a beautiful name, but Josh is so much easier for Chris to pronounce.
As for the affect on business, my Jewish clients love it, and many of the non-Jewish clients think it is a “cool” name. Besides that, a large number of my clients are from foreign countries, and they themselves have “strange” names. In any case, parnassa depends on Shomayim. As long as someone does not do something which is against hishtadlus (such as slapping the boss), then Hashem will help with parnassa.
In fact, many companies would probably love to have an authentic Jewish name on their company roster; because a Jewish first name brings, even if only the appearance of, “diversity” to the company image.
We are living in a very open world, where the moral standard is going down and down every day. Everyone is proud of flaunting their immorality. Why can’t we Jews, l’havdil, be proud in doing the right thing? For the same reason, I would urge parents to give Jewish names to their children as the child’s legal name also.
Boruch Hashem that we are not living in Berlin of 1943. These days in America, I don’t see any real danger of anti-Semitism towards one who goes by his Jewish name. I myself have done business with all types, and nobody has ever seemed to care. The main thing in business today seems to be: if you deliver results, who cares what your name is or what you dress like?
In conclusion, for whatever reason, many BT’s do not change their names legally. However, I personally would highly recommend the name change; for me it has been an empowering experience.