New light on the Selection of Jewish Children’s Names

In 1932 the Central Conference of American Rabbis published a learned and comprehen? sive article by Rabbi J. Z. Lauterbach entitled, ‘The Naming of Children in Jewish Folklore, Ritual and Practice’.

There are four reasons why I feel justified in reopening the subject. First, since 1932 Pro? fessor Gershom Scholem’s achievement in unravelling the tangled history of Jewish mysticism has changed the historical perspec? tive.1 Secondly, I think I can add some more information concerning Sephardi naming cus? toms. Thirdly, naming a posthumous son after his father deserves attention as a distinct custom. Finally, it now seems possible to trace the history of the Ashkenazi custom of ‘naming after the dead’ back a little further towards its source.


Our problem is to discover and describe each of the principal customs governing the choice of Jewish children’s names and then to try to discern the ideas which

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