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Jan 20 2014

Need Some Naming Inspiration? Here Are the Top Israeli Baby Names

By at 11:51 am

shalom nametag

If you’re pregnant and looking for some baby name inspiration, or simply love crafting names for imaginary babies that live inside your head (not that we would know about that), take some tips from the Holy Land. The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics’s recently released their list of the most popular Israeli baby names of 2012 (yes, it’s currently 2014, but who are we to complain?).

While these names are obviously common in Israel, they can be unique and meaningful for a kid growing up in the United States. OK, maybe not Sarah and David, but you get the point.

Without further ado, here they are. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 7 2014

And We Thought “Aiven Gray” was Unique

By at 10:05 am

two aiven grays

Cara and her husband Alex thought they had chosen a unique and meaningful name for their son that no other kid in class would have. Turns out, after doing some Internet searches for “Aiven Gray,” they stumbled upon another baby with the same name. They tracked down Dina (the mama), and the below you’ll find the two musing on their naming coincidence. 

Cara’s Story

aiven gray

Around four years ago I threw out the birth control. My fiancée and I decided to leave it to chance, and while we played family roulette in the din of moonlight, we would throw potential baby names out into the universe. Alex’s family is from Argentina, so he would propose Latino names. I was not familiar with any of them and my frustration grew with each suggestion, which in turn frustrated him with my “cultural insensitivity.”

In truth, he and I wanted to honor our dearly departed family members by naming our children after them, so I think most of his suggestions were made in jest. My father passed away when I was 4 and Alex’s mother passed away when he was 7. We had also both lost our beloved grandmothers somewhat recently. But as much as we loved our bubbes, we thought it only fitting that we should honor our parents first: Alvin and Graciela. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 18 2013

How the Non-Jewish Mom Plans the Baby Naming Ceremony

By at 10:10 am

nametag with question mark

As if the holidays are not busy enough for our interfaith family, we have decided to do our daughters’ naming ceremonies in December.

When we had our first daughter we were undecided on how we were going to raise her and what sacraments/traditions she would practice. After our second daughter was born we decided to expose our daughters to both faiths. More specifically, we became members of a synagogue and we plan on having them attend Hebrew school when they are older.

At the age you would typically plan for a naming ceremony, my youngest was hospitalized with RSV. She continued to have some breathing issues for a few months, so we postponed the naming until her 1st birthday. Since my eldest never had a naming ceremony, we thought it would be nice to do one ceremony for both the girls. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 15 2013

Torah MOMentary: Let There Be Mama

By at 9:31 am

mama nametag

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Vayishlah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

“The earned name is worth much more than the given name.”

–Ecclesiastes Rabbah, 7:4

I didn’t change my name when I got married. I’d always thought sharing a name sounded romantic, but when the time came, I realized I would resent giving mine up. And besides, I was too busy (or lazy) to even think about getting a new passport, driver’s license, and credit cards, so I managed to live three and a half decades with the same name my parents gave me back when I was born. Until I had my baby.

Now I have a new name: Mama.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlah, Jacob wrestles with the angel. After a long night of struggle and a hip injury, the angel finally asks Jacob to let him go. And Jacob says, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” And the angel blesses him, not with riches or descendants, but with a new name: Israel, “One who struggles with God.”  It’s a complicated name, but fitting after Jacob’s all-night wrestling match. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 6 2012

I Was Embarrassed of My Hebrew Name

By at 11:35 am

a necklace“How do you pronounce it? Ah-vee-tle? Ah-vie-tle?”

“It’s pronounced Ah-vee-TAHL.”



“Oh…yeah. I get it. That’s pretty.”

I always dreaded the first day of class from ninth grade on. Because on that first day you had to sit through roll call–where they ran down the list, calling out students one at a time, checking off attendance and putting faces to names. It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. But my name? It always seemed to cause a stumbling block for folks, at least outside the Jewish community. Before entering the public school system, I attended a Schechter elementary and middle school where the name Avital never caused anyone to bat an eye. But once outside that comfortable Jewish space? There was no telling how my name would be butchered. Usually, teachers would mess it up a few times before I had to pipe up to correct them, drawing the stares of everyone in class. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 3 2012

How to Name a Child

By at 12:12 pm
Tamara Reese's Baby

Naming a Jewish child comes with much responsibility

Naming another human being is a tremendous obligation.

It is the first of many duties of a parent and the name you choose will grace your child from the moment they are born. It is how you as parents will come to know your baby and how his friends will eventually call to him on the playground.

Naming a Jewish child comes with added responsibility. A boy’s Hebrew name will be spoken by his parents during prayer and blessing. It is the name by which he will be called by the Rabbi to the bimah on his Bar Mitzvah and the one his wife will lovingly commit to under the chuppah. And, God wiling, after a long, fruitful life, that same name will be whispered in Yahrzeit by his children and grandchildren.

One of the main sources of inspiration we use when naming our children, for both their Hebrew and English (secular) names, is a family tree. My husband and I both come from diverse backgrounds and we feel compelled to give our children meaningful names that reflect what we have passed on both historically and genetically. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2012

Choosing a Name: Celebrity vs. Normal People Edition

By at 11:23 am

jessica simpson maxwell drew

I’m no celebrity, so there is no pressure on me to come up with something overly cute or different or otherwise conversation-provoking to name my baby (hello, Maxwell Drew, Penelope Scotland, Aleph, and Apple). But there is pressure. I think naming a child is one of the biggest pains in my pregnancy-expanded ass.

You know those girls who dream of their wedding dresses and act out ceremonies? Yeah, that wasn’t me. But I did stick dolls under my dress and dream of one day getting to name a baby. Until I got pregnant. Choosing and disclosing the name for my daughter brought me more grief than the first post-C-section poop. Let’s just say that the response from certain people in my inner circle was not the one I had hoped for. Read the rest of this entry →

May 4 2012

Choosing a Name: Too Goyish vs. Too… Biblical

By at 9:35 am

Figuring out a name took us a while...

Now that we’re nearing the sixth month of our pregnancy, my husband and I finally feel safe enough to try to settle on a name. I had suffered a miscarriage with my last pregnancy and didn’t want to do ANYTHING prematurely this time around. So, around month four, we started thinking about names for both boys and girls.

First came the issue of whether or not we were going to give the baby a Jewish name. We’re an interfaith couple, but my husband has no strong ties to any religion and 99% of the time defers to Judaism when it comes to life law, at least as long as we’ve been together (10+ years). That pretty much means that he’s never been a regular church-goer in his childhood, and always comes with me to High Holy Days, Passover, and the occasional Shabbat service. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 28 2012

Fighting Over Baby Names

By at 4:40 pm

hello my name is blankI had to laugh when I read Ariel’s post from yesterday about not finding out the gender of their child. Similarly, we are also very superstitious and waited until over 17 weeks to announce our pregnancy with my firstborn and over 14 weeks with this one. We don’t tell anyone what we’re naming our children before they are born and never refer to the unborn child by said name. Those are pretty much the only secrets I’ve ever kept in my entire life. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 16 2012

How Martin Luther King Helped Name My Daughter

By at 9:01 am

martin luther kingIt took my husband and I under a minute to pick a name for our oldest son.

I said, “Adam?”

He said, “Adam!”

That was easy. My husband noted, “People will think we wanted a Jewish name, opened the Bible to the first page and said: There, good enough.”

It took us until I was actually filling out the birth certificate at the hospital to pick a name for our second son.

Gregory. (Hebrew name: Barak.)

Ultimately, he turned out to be so different in temperament from his brother that we wonder why we even bothered giving him his own moniker. Within minutes of meeting him, people are wont to burst out, “He’s certainly Not Adam!”

We should have just called him that.

With my daughter, the naming process was complicated by the fact that, for the first twenty weeks, I was sure I was having another boy. And for the second, by my conviction that she’d be born early.

My oldest was born four weeks ahead of schedule. His brother two weeks. I felt certain their baby sister would not be born on her due date: Martin Luther King Day. In fact, I had a sneaking suspicion I’d be delivering on Christmas, all alone in a staff-free hospital with tumbleweeds blowing by to add to the ghost-town effect. (As we were finally walking to the hospital on that very cold day in January, I told my husband, “This is the most pregnant I’ve ever been in my life!”)

We went through a whole list of girls’ names–and by we, I mean, me; my husband did not offer forth suggestions, he merely systematically vetoed mine.

For a while there, we seemed to have settled on Scarlett. But, I’ll admit, I pulled the plug on that one. At the last minute, I just didn’t have the balls to saddle a little African-American girl with the name Scarlett. (Though, subsequently, I did learn that, these days, it’s much more likely to invoke Johansson, than O’Hara.)

So there we were, at the hospital with our newborn, nameless baby daughter. On Martin Luther King Day.

It was my brother (also named Martin, and a mythology buff) who made a comment about the name Martin coming from Mars, the Roman god of war. And that Mars’ Greek equivalent was Ares.

Cue the epiphany!

“Ares?” I looked at my husband.


But, then we took it a step further. We’d agreed from the start that the baby’s middle name would be Camille, after my husband’s late grandmother.

So: Ares Camille.

Put it together and you get: Arielle, her Hebrew name. (I know, it’s a long, winding way to get there. Believe me, I know.)

Which is how, five years ago, my family ended up with a little girl named after the god of war… and a man of peace.

I figured if he could overcome the contradiction, so could she.


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