Jewish Baby Names Chosen with Love

With each child, the world begins anew.

How do you choose Hebrew names?With all the buzz about the new prince’s birth, there’s lots of talk about baby names.

As part of this worldwide excitement, I found a list of the top 10 baby names for 2013. And it made me think about how my parents named my brother and me and what my husband and I named our children.

As with Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, choosing a name is a weighty decision in many traditions. (It’s official, btw. The royal baby’s name is George Alexander Louis.)

Choosing a Jewish baby name

Jewish naming customs vary. For instance, Ashkenazi Jews typically name for a relative who has passed away, while those of Sephardi backgrounds often name for a living relative.

There are decisions, too, about whether to give two names, a secular name and a Hebrew name (e.g., for when you are called up to the Torah).

Do you choose a name that sounds similar or starts with the same letter as the person you’re honoring? Or a name that reflects the spirit of that person? Jewish baby name lists can help you choose.

What’s behind the Hebrew baby name?

But my pondering today is about what we share with our children about the people for whom they are named.

What was the process you went through to choose a name for your precious little one?

  • Did you name your children for a family member?
  • Did you add a Hebrew name that sounds like the secular name?
  • If so, do your children know that person’s name and life story?

And — so important to your children now — do they know what you loved about their namesakes?

What I recently realized is that we never told our kids much about the people for whom they were named — the names that we chose with so much love.  Love for our babies and for the relatives now gone from this earth.

So today, I shared some wonderful qualities about the favorite, take-the-kids-fishing aunt for whom our younger daughter is named. And I will share stories with our older daughter, as well, about the beloved grandfather whose memory is carried forward in her.

Hebrew meanings of names

My Hebrew name, Shelom-Tsiyon, is in memory of  an uncle Shmuel, z’l – nicknamed Mooli — who was killed during World War II. It’s always felt like an honor to carry that name.

It means “peace in Zion.”

Of course, there aren’t many of us Shelom-Tsiyons around. Someone, I discovered through Googling, uses a variant, Shlomtsiyon, as her Twitter name. There’s Shelomtsiyon Hamalka street in Jerusalem (after Shelomtzion the queen, also called Salome Alexandra, who ruled from 76 to 67 B.C.E.). I discovered Shlomzion Jewelry (really beautiful!). And then there was a hilarious skit Jon Stewart did on The Daily Show about ShelomTsiyon.

(If you’re wondering whether I got teased in elementary school, the answer is absolutely! My girlfriends referred to me as Shlump-Along. But it has always seemed like a wonderful name to me.)

There are so many beautiful Hebrew names — from A to Z, like the new little  Ayelet (gazelle) in our family and Ariel (lion of God) to Zev (wolf) and Zohar (light or brilliance).

Our daughter’s Hebrew name is Ofira, which means “gold.” She’s a blondie, so it seemed perfect and it is a lovely Hebrew version of one of her secular names. But mostly, I love the name — the sense of light and brightness.

Top 10 list 

Among the top 10 list for boys and girls, there’s one name in each list that has strong Hebrew roots.

The #1 boy name for 2013 is Asher. Meaning fortunate, blessed, happy one.  Hebrew origin. Asher was the 8th son of Jacob. So talk about going traditional. “Asher hasn’t even been on the top 1000 most popular list since the 1890s, according to Nameberry.”

And the 7th most popular girl’s name is Seraphina, meaning ardent, fiery. Hebrew origin. Apparently this one was inspired by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s choice to name their second daughter Seraphina, referencing angels (seraphim) in the New and Old Testaments.

So how did you choose your child’s name?

Please tell us about your child’s name — and how you went about choosing it.

And feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested.


  1. says

    I really love some of the Hebrew traditions and this was really enlightening to read. Our family has never had naming traditions — unless you go back a few generations. Then — I”m not sure why– but many of my relatives were named Richard! Maybe that is why I married a Richard! Just stopping by from the GRAND Social Linky Party. Hope you get a chance to do the same!

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