Naming a baby is probably one of the hardest things for a new parent to do, especially considering it comprises a person’s identity and personality long before they can even walk and talk. For Jewish families, there are rules (which you can read here), but even with the traditions, there are so many options.
Recently, writer Lauren Collins, expecting her first baby, wrote an essay about how choosing a name is harder than you realize it’ll be–especially since everyone from your hairdresser to grandmother will give you advice, wanted or not.
Her piece, which is in The New Yorker, explains how having too much choice can actually make things worse:
“The downside of our freedom is that many of us are paralyzed by the tyranny of choice. In naming, as in other matters, anxiety runs particularly high among upper-middle-class parents, who, likely overestimating their own importance, seek to endow their children with supernames—the social equivalent of the superfoods that fill their lunchboxes—to power them through life.”
Because of this, Collins pointed out that grandparents are apparently giving incentives now:
“According to the Times, grandparents in the U.S. are increasingly offering things like family businesses and ten thousand dollars in exchange for the naming rights to their grandchildren.”
Throughout the rest of her post, she mused on various names from history and their meaning (like Pierre and Louis).
Because of Collins’ post and our baby-naming fascination here at Kveller, I was inspired to think of some of the best Jewish names from history, especially some of my favorite Jewish writers and other notable people and celebrities.
Here they are below (check out our Jewish baby name bank here for more inspiration.):
1. Lila. Lila is a Hebrew name meaning “night.”
Famous Lila’s: Diane Sawyer, Lila Karp
2. James/Jacob. James comes from the Hebrew name, Jacob, which means “to follow.” Jacob is the third patriarch in the Bible, and was father of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Famous James’: James Baldwin, James Taylor, James Franco
3. Johanna/Joanna. Joanna is a Hebrew name meaning “God is gracious.”
Famous Joanna’s: Joanna Shimkus, Joanna Angel, and the Bob Dylan song “Visions of Johanna”
4. Martha. Martha is an Aramaic name that means “the lady.” Matya is a similar sounding name in Hebrew that means “God’s gift.”
Famous Martha’s: Martha Stewart, Martha Wainwright
5. Elie/Eli. Elie means “my God” in Hebrew.
Famous Eli’s: Elie Wiesel, Eli Manning
6. Jonathan. Jonathan is Hebrew for “God has given.” Yonatan was the son of Saul who became the best friend of King David. Yonatan is the same name as Yehonatan.
Famous Jonathan’s: Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Adler
7. Sholem/Solomon. Solomon is a Hebrew name that means “peace.” In the Bible, King Solomon (Shlomo) built the First Temple in Jerusalem.
Famous Solomon’s: Sholem Aleichem, Solomon R. Guggenheim
8. Saul. Saul is Hebrew for “asked.” He was first king over Israel.
Famous Saul’s: Saul Williams, Saul Bellow
9. Emma. Emma, while not a typical Jewish name, was used by Jewish immigrants who came to America. The name means “entire,” ‘universal,” and “strength.”
Famous Emma’s: Emma Lazarus, Emma Watson
10. Lilith. Lilith is a figure in Jewish mythology; she was said to be the first woman who was rejected by Adam, who became a demon. The name is Hebrew meaning “night creatures.”
Famous Lilith’s: Lilith Nagar, Lilith Love and our friends at Lilith Magazine.
Check out our baby name guide for more Jewish names.