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Primus inter pares


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Many Jewish family names were originally personal or occupational nicknames. Literally "blue stone" in German, Blaustein is an antimony or a lapis lazuli, and was probably an occupational surname, or a nickname referring to a "light complexioned" or "blond" person. In some cases Blaustein is derived from Blau, which is a Hebrew acronym.

In the 18 and 19th centuries, authorities in central Europe began to force Jewish families to adopt fixed hereditary family names. Many Jews then formed European-sounding family names that were in fact Hebrew acronyms. Blau is an acronym of the Hebrew "Ben Leadoni Avi", meaning "son of my master and father", a signature used by sons of Rabbis.

Blue was an important colour in the history of the ancient Jews. The robe of Aharon's ephad was "all of blue" (Exodus 28.31) and blue cloth was used to cover the furniture and vessels in the Tent of the Meeting (Numbers 4-11).

Stein, the second part of the name, is the German for stone/rock. This term and its equivalents in other languages are frequent family names in their own right or part of such names.

Localities called Stein are situated near the Bavarian city of Nuernberg (Germany); Krems, Niederoesterreich (Austria); and Schaffhausen (Switzerland). Kamnik in Slovenia (Yugoslavia) is Stein in German, and the name of several places in Poland called Kamien has been translated by Jews into the Yiddish Shteyn. Moreover, a considerable number of towns and villages have names comprising the terms for rock or stone.

In Jewish family names, these words carry meanings linked to symbolical allusions and values found in the bible.

On his way to Haran, Jacob stopped at Luz in the Judean hills for the night using a stone or his pillow. It was there he had his dream in which he saw a ladder reaching to heaven and God confirmed his covenant with Abraham and Isaac, promising him "the land whereon you liest" (Gen 28.10-22).

Stone was used to build the house of David (2 Samuel 5.11) and the house of the lord (1 Kings 5.31-32). The ten commandments God gave to Moses were written on "tables of stone" (Exodus 31.18) and the world itself rests on a cornerstone laid by the lord (Job 38.1-7).

The prophets used the term stone and rock as a symbol for Israel and its destiny (Isaiah 51.1-2, (Daniel 2.44-45) and rock is equated with God himself (Deut. 32.18, 32.4).

Blaustein is recorded as a Jewish family name with an American family of industrialists, originally headed by the Russian-born Louis Blaustein (1869-1937). Another distinguished bearer of this family name was the Albert Paul Blaustein (1921-1994), an American Civil Rights and human rights lawyer and expert constitutional consultant who worked to develop the Russian court system and constitution.

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