One of the special privileges and responsibilities of becoming a convert to Judaism is that you get to select a Hebrew name for yourself. Many Jews are given a Hebrew name at birth in addition to their English name, some use the simple Hebrew equivalent of their English name, and some were never given a Hebrew name at all.

Choosing a name for yourself can be both exciting and moving, and can also feel overwhelming and scary. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to you in making this decision:

  • What is a Hebrew name?

    A Hebrew name is one that has its roots in Jewish Tradition and the Hebrew language. What this means is that over time the list of names considered “Hebrew” or “Jewish” names has evolved-- much as the list of common American names has as well.

    Some Hebrew names are extremely old-- names like Sarah, Rebecca, Abraham, and Moshe, date back to the time of the Bible. Others have become part of the canon of Jewish names much more recently with the rebirth of the State of Israel-- names like Noam, Ari, Shira, and Maayan. There is no clearly defined list of all Hebrew names and the collection is ever growing-- so you have a lot of flexibility to pick a name that resonates with you.

    With that in mind, ideally your Hebrew name will be a reflection of who you are, your decision to embrace Judaism, and will contribute to your feeling of being wholly a member of the Jewish People.

  • How do I pick?

    There are a number of ways to select a Hebrew name:

    • You can choose to translate your English name into Hebrew. Examples: Michael becomes Micha'el, Eve becomes Chava.
    • If there is not a precise Hebrew translation, you might pick something that sounds similar or even just shares the same first letter. Examples: Diana could become Dina or Mary could become Maya
    • You can choose the name of a Biblical character, or a figure from Jewish history: Examples: Ruth, David, Moshe, Rachel
    • You can choose a name whose meaning carries a special personal significance: Examples: Eliana means “God has answered,” Shira means “song”, Shalom means “peace.”
    • You can choose to honor a family member (your own or your partner’s) by taking their name.
    • In the Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European) tradition, you should choose the name of someone who is no longer living.
    • In the Sephardic and Mizrahi (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern) traditions, you may either choose the name of someone who is still living or someone who has died.
  • More to know

    In formal settings, like when called to the Torah or in one’s ketubah, Jews are referred to not just by their own Hebrew name, but also with the name of their parents. A male will be called “So-and-so” ben (meaning, son of) “So-and-so” and “So-and-so”. A female will be called “So-and-so” bat (meaning, daughter of) “So-and-so” and “So-and-so”.

    For people who are born Jewish, their names include the names of their birth-parents; for those who are adopted by Jews, they use the names of their adoptive parents.

    For those who become Jews by Choice, they are formally referred to as the children of Abraham and Sarah, our first Patriarch and Matriarch. Maimonides, the famous 12th century rabbi, explains that since Abraham and Sarah were the first Jews, and they took on the responsibility to convert themselves and their household, they serve as spiritual parents of all those in the future who convert. This definitely does NOT mean that your parents are being rejected or that they are no longer considered your parents (god-forbid); rather, it is a way of honoring the fact that your Jewish heritage didn’t come from them, but instead came from your own choice to enter into the Jewish covenant.
     

  • 25 Male Names to Start Your Search

    Aaron           
    Ariel*               
    Baruch                
    Binyamin      
    Daniel          
    David           
    Dov
    Eitan
    Eli
    Gavriel
    Hayim
    Ilan
    Lior
    Michael
    Moshe
    Nachshon
    Noah*
    Noam
    Rafael
    Shalom
    Tal*
    Yaakov
    Yonatan
    Yosef
    Zachariah

    * Name is gender-neutral

  • 25 Female Names to Start Your Search

    Ariella
    Avital
    Ayelet
    Batya
    Chava
    Dalia
    Devora
    Eliana
    Esther
    Gavriela
    Hannah
    Keren
    Laila
    Leah
    Liora
    Maayan*
    Michal
    Miriam
    Or*
    Rachel
    Rena
    Rivka
    Ruth
    Shira
    Tikvah


    * Name is gender-neutral