Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post
ACCORDING TO A MIDRASH, THE JEWS WERE redeemed from bondage in Egypt because they retained their Hebrew names. These days, Jewish kids outside Israel aren’t given Hebrew names in addition to their Bradleys or Brittneys as a matter of course, as they were once – unless, of course, they’re called something like David, Joshua or Rachel instead of Shawn or Ashley.
And even kids who do get an Avraham, Sarah or Hayah early on don’t have a clue as to what it is: The name exists in the memory of some elderly relative, on a piece of paper, or in a drawer next to other “important” family documents.
At a recent American bar mitzvah, the mother related that James was named for film character James Bond and singer James Taylor; she only noted in passing the boy’s Hebrew name (I forget what it is, but James could be Ya’akov, or Jacob).
Some parents, of course, care dearly about giving Hebrew names. Today, in addition to advice and wisdom from family members, expecting or new parents can surf for a name. For advice on baby namings in interfaith families, and links to lists of names, visit http://www.jewishbabynames.net For example, it suggests Batyah or Bruriyah for Bettina, and Dov for Dylan.
For helpful hints on naming your Jewish baby, with sections on ancient Biblical and modern Israeli names, try http://judaism.about.com
At http://www.tricityjcc.org the user-friendly JCC of Tempe, Arizona site, there’s a section on “look up a Hebrew name” and a search engine to find names starting with each English letter. At http://www.ritualwell.org ritual.html?docid=164, the “ceremonies for Jewish living” website, you can learn about birth and naming symbols (henna, for one), and reasons for giving tzedakah at a baby naming.
And how do you make sure your Bradley and Brittney will never forget their Hebrew names? You can write it down in the front of a family Bible, or at http://www.jewishbabynames.net you can order “The Hebrew Birth Plate: a unique birth certificate on ceramic, carrying your baby’s Hebrew name and Hebrew birth date inscribed on a lifelong keepsake,” for $25.90-$35.90, depending on size.
Unfortunately, there is always the chance the name will not match the child’s personality. For a hilarious look at this problem, check out the new children’s book “Shemot Muzarim” (Strange Names) by Shari Dash Greenspan (with illustrations by The Report’s Avi Katz) by following the link to Children’s Books from http://www.urimpublications.com If you can’t read the original Hebrew, there’s a translation, at http://www.jbooks.com where you’ll meet Keshet (Rainbow) who only loves black, Binyamin (Son of My Right Hand) who’s a southpaw, and an entire kindergarten class with names that couldn’t fit less.