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I'd seen some poster that said it's horribly wrong to ever give your kid a non-Jewish/non-Hebrew name. Is that the norm?

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Do you mean in addition to a Hebrew name or instead of one? I've wondered about the latter case for a while. Some generally-accepted "Hebrew" names (yours, for example!) express nice values. But others are just words, and may not even be Hebrew. Some are Yiddish, Slavic, or Greek, for example. The Bible and the Talmud are full of respected people having names that have nothing to do with Hebrew. So, I've always wondered why we particularly need nowadays to have a special "Hebrew" name. –  Isaac Moses Dec 16 '09 at 15:14
Some Hebrew names are based on non-jewish sources: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7686/… –  Shmuel Brin Jul 12 '11 at 0:33
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3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

For plenty of good Jews, their English name is the English cognate of their Hebrew name (Solomon/Shlomo, Avraham/Abraham, etc.). The letterhead of ultra-right-wing Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum of Satmar read "Joel Teitelbaum." If someone is Solomon/Shlomo, no matter which they go by, that just goes into a Halachic document as "Shlomo"; Solomon doesn't even need to be mentioned.

Plenty of good Jews go their entire lives by a Hebrew name, but have an English (non-Biblical) name on their legal documents, for convenience. There's a very famous American rabbi "Moshe" today who's legally "Max."

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein says it's preferable, but not absolutely required, to give some sort of Jewish name. When people named their kids "Alexander" out of respect to Alexander the Great (just Alexander, no Hebrew name or anything), they overrode a preference, but not a law.

He also says that the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt needed to keep their Hebrew names, as before Judaic Law was handed down at Sinai, all they had was Hebraic culture. Once the law came around, we have that instead.

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Interesting stuff! Could use some citations, when you get a chance, especially for your first point. –  Isaac Moses Dec 16 '09 at 15:48
Isaac, you mean more citations about going by Joshua/Yehoshua, Solomon/Shlomo, etc.? Rabbi J. David Bleich has a shiur on YUTorah where he says you'd just write the Hebrew name in a Get. Furthermore, even if someone was "Solomon" his whole life and never, ever, not even in synagogue at his Bar Mitzvah or anything, was called "Shlomo", Rabbi Bleich quotes Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin that it would be acceptable to write "Shlomo" in a Get. We could probably do some history research as to what various rabbis went by in non-Hebrew documents; the question is what name they used personally. –  Shalom Dec 18 '09 at 14:39
Clarification: "Alexander", according to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, is now treated as a bona-fide Hebrew name. The preference-override was a one-time thing in the time of Alexander the Great. –  Shalom Dec 18 '09 at 14:45
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I think it is more important to give a child a name that is socially Jewish than linguistically Hebrew. For example, one of the greatest sages mentioned in the Mishna is Antignos, who clearly had a Greek name, but presumably that name was culturally Jewish.

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In Ashkenaz (Germany-France) there was a ceremony called Chol Kreish which was for giving a baby its non-Jewish name.

So it can't be horribly wrong.

As an aside, the Jewish and secular names did not always match, with people being called (for example) Nathan as their Jewish name, and Joseph as their secular name (as was the case with my great grandfather.)

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