Most Jewish parents choose Jewish names for their kids. But they don’t always realize that one fine day, their kids may choose to really use those names.
According to Jewish thought, your Jewish name describes your essence. When you want to name your child after a relative, you should really use the Hebrew name as closely as possible to the original. Identical is best. Starting with the same letter, in either Hebrew or English, is a distant second. It’s powerful for the memory and honor, but spiritually, the connectedness is in the actual name or the same meaning.
Rabbi Akiva Tatz, originally of South Africa, who did not grow up using his Hebrew name, and who did not grow up Orthodox, for that matter, describes how his parents chose the name “Kevin” for him. First, he says, they chose Akiva – after the person for whom he was named. Then they went about searching for a secular name that he could use to navigate in the “real world” that was as similar as possible to the actual (Hebrew) name. In other words, “Akiva” was the “real him” and Kevin was a distant nickname that replicated the real deal.
Many Jewish parents go about this the opposite way – first they choose an English name that they like or that’s after a loved one, then choose a Hebrew name based on other factors. But many young parents tell me they wished they had known, when they were naming their kids, how very powerful that Hebrew name is to the essence and the soul of their children. Many Jewish parents don’t remember their kids’ Hebrew names, if they’ve fallen into disuse.
Sometimes kids will start using their Hebrew names, whether at Sunday school, in Israel, or if they become more religiously-minded. So you might want to choose carefully.
So here I am, to tell you! And now you know.