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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 21.2.2:
Naming: But my grandmother was named (insert old-fashioned out of use name here)? No one uses that name today? How do I name after that relative?

Answer:

There are a number of different approachs. Some take the first letter of the relatives name, and choose a different name beginning with the same letter. Unfortunately, this loses the original meaning of the name. Others choose an arbitrary English name, but retain the relative's Hebrew name. Kolach recommends choosing an English name with the name meaning as the Hebrew name. Consider the English name of Mildred. Mildred is either from the Latin, meaning "Sweet Singer", or from the Teutonic, meaning "Strength". It has Hebrew equivalents of Amtzaw, Gavreelaw, N'eemaw, Neevaw, Reenaw, Sheeraw, and T'heelaw. Thus, less-dated English equivalents might be Shira (Song), Valerie (Strong), Gabrielle (G-d is my Strength), Renana (Joy or Song), or Carol (Melody or Song).

One source asked this question of Rav Avigdor Neventzhal, the Rav of the Old City of Jerusalem. Rav Neventzhal said that while there is no requirement to name after somone, if there is a desire to attach the deceased relatives characteristics to the newborn and/or to tie one soul to the other (according to Kabalah) then the name must not be altered. According to this Rav, taking the first letter of name A and creating name B, thus, does not constitute naming after someone, and combining names from different people also does not result in "naming after" someone. So, the answer for those that consider Rav Neventzhal authoritative is that you can't change the name.

As usual: two Jews, multiple opinions.


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