If a person's parents names do not have a Hebrew equivalent, then what do you do when reciting a Mi Shebeirach for them?

1.) Let's suppose the parents are still alive. Would you ask them what they want their Hebrew name to be?

2.) The parents are not alive, and so they can't even make up a Hebrew name for themselves.

  • 4
    Why not just transliterate? English-sounding names are names too.
    – Double AA
    Aug 22 '17 at 21:54
  • 1
    Regarding Mi Sheberach, using the English name isn't a problem, according to what my rav has told me. The rav gives me the names and I put them in a database and read them off the list every few days. Occasionally, we get non-Jewish names so there is no "ben / bat". But, fairly often, even Jewish names have no "ben or bat" as we have no Hebrew name for anyone. So, sometimes we just use "Gertrude Lubowenthalenwitzenbergerman."
    – DanF
    Aug 24 '17 at 15:13
  • Why can’t you just use their secular name (if it’s all they have)? That’s the practice in Gittin; you use the given [and known] name. It’s no different than Rafram ben Papa, Yehuda ben Klonymus or Zipporah bat Carol.
    – Oliver
    Feb 13 '19 at 16:24

Rabbi J. David Bleich has a yutorah mp3 on this. If the parent never had a Hebrew name, there are four opinions about the child going by "son-of-[new Hebrew name]" now:

A.) Yes

B.) No

C.) Only if the parent is alive

D.) Only if the parent is dead

So he concludes the best move -- certainly for a Ketubah -- is just use the parent's English name. (And in written form, transliterate it.) He mentions that at the first wedding he actually officiated, the bride's father was "Stephen", but the family started arguing as to whether his Hebrew name was "Shlomo" or "Shmuel." In the end, Rabbi Bleich simply wrote: "bat Steven."

I realize there may be more leeway in how someone is called to the Torah than how they're identified in a legal document, but this seems to be the formal method. He also mentions a Russian Jew (two of them, actually) who signed as a witness on a Ketubah and wrote "ben Avraham"; he had a Jewish father with no Hebrew name ... "and the old men in synagogue said to call me up as Chaim ben Avraham." Rabbi Bleich told him to sign "Chaim ben Vladimir."

  • Is there some diyuk Stephen vs. Steven or was that a mistake?
    – Heshy
    Aug 24 '17 at 23:55
  • 1
    @Heshy bingo! We transliterate names as pronounced, not written. So the father's name was spelled "Stephen" but pronounced STEVE-en [not STEFF-en], therefore it's spelled in Hebrew with a vav not a fei. Rabbi Bleich spelled that out in his lecture.
    – Shalom
    Aug 25 '17 at 10:55

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