baby

How to Name a Child



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.

Our newborn son’s name is Gillen Azar (rhymes with “Dylan Laser”). We welcomed him into the Jewish community on his 8th day of life. We gave him a Hebrew name and an English name. His English name signifies the bond between his maternal and paternal lineage but also the importance of his individuality. The Hebrew name brings him into the life of Judaism and ties him to five generations of Jews before him.

His secular name, Gillen, is the maiden name of his maternal great-great-grandmother. Both Gillen and his brother were given Irish sir names of maternal lineage.

His Hebrew name is Gil Eleazar. Both of these names share a common thread with the secular names.

Gil, meaning “joy,” is a Hebrew derivative of his English name.

Eleazar, Hebrew meaning “God is my helper,” was the name of Gillen’s paternal great-great-great grandfather. We shortened it to Azar (Hebrew meaning “help”) for his secular name.

A Hebrew folk saying, “Like his name, so is he,” implies that a person’s name can illustrate his character. It is our hope that this name bestows upon our son a reflection of its meaning: to be a happy man who walks in the presence of God.

Both of our children’s secular and Hebrew names are uniquely intertwined to strengthen their ties to family and reinforce the historical continuity of the Jewish people. We are proud to add this name to our family tree in hopes that it will continue to be passed through generations to come.

How did you choose your child’s name?

Tamara Reese

Tamara Reese, MPH, CHES is a stay-at-home Mama and consultant in the field of Maternal and Child Health. She is a contributing editor to Kveller and her work has been published in academic journals, La Leche League USA, Brain, Child Magazine and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Tamara lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, two boys and ginger-baby daughter. Her passions include child injury prevention, gentle parenting, and breastfeeding advocacy. #YouAreAGoodMama

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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