This book now goes into a lot of “begats.” (He reads) “And Aphraxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber” and so on and so on. These pretty important folks?
MATTHEW HARRISON BRADY:
They are the generations of the holy men and women of the Bible.
– Inherit the Wind
If you recently begat a boy or girl or have one on the way, you may be in the market for a name. You could opt for something ancient (and eye-opening) like Aphraxad, Chimham, Naphtuhim, Maher-shalal-hash-baz or a boy. Or perhaps Jaala, Taphat, Nehushta or Lo-Ruhamah for a girl.
Or maybe not.
Today, some advice for finding the perfect Jewish name for your boy or girl. Many Jewish names come from Biblical sources. Lisa Katz points out that there are about 2,800 names mentioned in the Bible but only about 5% of those names are used today.
When selecting a name, parents are always walking a tightrope between choosing a unique moniker and one that has become too popular. (It seemed like when I was in grade two every other boy was named Mark/Moshe.) The U.S. Social Security Administration’s Get Ready for Baby page tracks baby naming trends so that you can check the popularity of the top thousand names going back to 1900.
In 2017, there were 306 “Chana’s” born, which put her in 883rd place. The 8,367 “Levi’s” born in 2017 meant that he claimed 37th place! (And as for me, “Mark” has seen a steady erosion from 79th place in 2000 to 203rd in 2017.)
Okay, it’s great to be able to look at what was popular in the past but what about the future? Kveller.com has been tracking trends and has gone out on a (bit of a) limb to predict the hottest Jewish baby names.
- Raziel. Hebrew for “God’s secret.”
- Solomon. Hebrew for “peace.” In the Bible, King Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem.
- Jeremiah. Hebrew for “God has uplifted.” He was also the prophet who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians.
- Asher. Asher means “happy” in Hebrew.
- Matthew. Matthew means “gift of God” in Hebrew.
Also: Benjamin, Ethan, Ezra, Uri, Omer, Ariel, Noam, Adam, Jonathan, Lavie, Elijah, Michael, Noah
- Elizabeth. A Hebrew name meaning “God is my oath.”
- Sadie. A nickname for Elizabeth.
- Eliza. Another nickname for Elizabeth.
- Lila. Hebrew name meaning “night.”
- Hannah. A classic Hebrew name meaning “grace.” She is also the biblical mother of the prophet Samuel.
Also: Ellie, Eliana, Abigail, Noa, Shira, Talia, Yael, Lia/Leah, Reyna, Kayla, Genesis, Hila, Layla, Ilana, Iris
Kveller has also done a great job pulling together info about popular Jewish baby names in Israel:
For Israeli boys: Joseph, David, Daniel, Uri, Omer, Ariel, Noam, Adam, Eitan, Itai
For Israeli girls: Tamar, Miriam, Sara/Sarah, Avigayil/Abigail, Noa, Shira, Talia, Yael, Lia/Leah, Esther
And in the everything-old-is-new-again department, here are some grandparents’ names that are due for a comeback: Gertrude, Harold, Hyman, Irving, Lucille, Melvin, Morton/Morty, Myron, Rhoda, Seymour, Sheldon and Shirley.
Which brings me to something that has always puzzled me. Why was it in the 20th century that some secular names like Milton and Sidney became almost de facto Jewish names? Ernest Maass explains that this wasn’t the first time this phenomenon occurred. “In pre-World War I Germany and the Austrian monarchy, a comparable development took place. Siegfried, Siegbert, Sigismund, and similar names also became ‘Jewish’ names and, for that reason, were eventually avoided by non-Jews.”
If you’re still stuck for a name, try the Baby Name Guide. Reformjudaism.org’s Jewish Baby Naming Tool provides lengthy lists that you can pore over – often with an explanation of the name. For example, Leora is “my light.” A shorter list from Chabad includes some traditional Yiddish girls’ and boys’ names and diminutives.
Finally, some advice from Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson. Many people spend a great deal of effort trying to find a non-Jewish equivalent to a Jewish name. Rabbi Artson urges parents to consider giving their children ONLY Hebrew names particularly when naming a baby after an honoured relative. “There are no English equivalents (to Hebrew names). A name is a name, and a translation is no longer the same. It is a matter of Jewish comfort and pride that we no longer have to mask our Jewish identities with a gentile name…. So please do seriously consider giving that gift of self-esteem and pride by having your child’s Jewish name be the only name.”