It’s A Girl!!!
Parents frequently call me as a local Rabbi and Expert Mohel to find out information
regarding a Simchat Bat, or a baby girl’s baby naming. I have performed many “painless”
girl-baby naming ceremonies across the region. Although there is a fee for my service and
time I have traditionally had the parents make a charitable donation to the charity of my
choice thus giving the parents an opportunity to do a mitzva (good deed) in their baby’s
honor and get a tax deduction.
The ceremony consists of a few different parts and honors. In the first part I offer some
meaningful words of insight into the girl’s special Hebrew name as well as a blessing on
behalf of the family, friends, and community. The next part consists of the actual naming
ceremony along with a Grandparent’s prayer in Hebrew and English for everyone to
understand and appreciate. Last, and perhaps most important, the custom is to serve
refreshments or a meal for all the guests to enjoy! (What would a Jewish Simcha be without
I provide the family with a Baby Naming Certificate with all the proper Hebrew and English
names and dates. There is a tradition to name the baby girl in a synagogue followed by a
traditional Kiddush where the parents and/or Rabbi would express words of gratitude for
many blessings as well as the meaning of the name. Friends and family come to share in
the Simcha occasion. However, today many families are having more creative baby-naming
ceremonies for their newborn daughters in their homes. These ceremonies tend to be more
similar to the Bris (circumcision ceremony) of the baby boy, which often takes place in the
parents’ home. These ceremonies are often less formal than the traditional synagogue
naming events. But they are special times for family and friends to get together and share
in the parents’ joy and nachas.
Jewish Naming Guide
Naming ceremonies for girls include the Zeved Ha-Bat (Gift of a Daughter) ceremony which consists of a few verses from the Song of Songs, the naming prayer and Psalm 128. Alternatively, one might celebrate the birth of a girl with a Simchat Bat (Joy of a Daughter) ceremony. It is said that in ancient times one of the reasons the Jews were redeemed from Egypt was because they did not give up their Hebrew names. Ashkenazic Jews (usually of Eastern or Central European descent) traditionally name their sons after someone who has passed on, thereby honoring the memory of the departed; Sephardic Jews (usually of Western European or Middle Eastern descent) traditionally name their sons after living grandparents.
There are only a few rules (very strong customs and/or superstitions) that should be followed when naming a baby:
A father and son (mother and daughter) should not have the same Hebrew/Jewish name or be named after the same people.
Siblings should not have the same Hebrew/Jewish name or be named after the same people, also.
Others in your extended family may use the same Hebrew/Jewish name especially if you are naming after the same person. For example, first cousins may have the same Hebrew/Jewish name because you are naming after the same grandparent.
It is preferable to name a baby boy after a man and a baby girl after a woman and to use the original name be it Hebrew, Yiddish or Ladino. If you are naming your son after a woman, the Jewish name needs to be transposed to a male name/equivalent (and similarly if you’re naming your daughter after a man.)
It is preferable to name a baby after one person. (Today, with the lower birth rate and many more people to name after, this custom is more difficult to follow.)
A baby can have one, two or sometimes, three Jewish names. More than three names is not recommended.
The English name(s) and Hebrew/Jewish name(s) need not correspond. The Hebrew/Jewish name is the most significant. While an English name may be changed, once the Hebrew/Jewish name is announced at the Brit Milah or Baby Naming, it is permanent and may not be changed. Only in the case of a serious illness is a name added.
For example, the baby’s English name is Jacob Matthew. The parents like the name Jacob but are naming after someone whose name was Milton. The Hebrew/Jewish name the parents chose is Matan. They don’t need to name him Ya’akov Matan just to match the names. They are only naming after one person, therefore, he will have two English names and one Hebrew name.
If one is naming after someone who died at a young age, it is customary to add Alter* or Chaim (for a boy) or Alta or Chaya (for a girl).
Also, there is no “J” sound in Hebrew. Names that begin with a “J” in English will usually take a name that begins with “Y” in Hebrew. Similarly, Hebrew grammar does not permit a word to begin with an “F” sound. So if one is naming after a Francis, Frank or Fred, the choices are rather limited. In Hebrew, the closest sound-alike is Ephraim and in Yiddish, Fishel, Feitel, Feivish or Feivel could be used. There is no “W” sound in Hebrew; names that begin with a “W” in English will usually take a name that begins with “V” in Hebrew or Yiddish. For example, William, Will and Walter might be Velvel* or Volf*.
Among the most popular biblical Hebrew names for a boy are: Moshe, Chaim, Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Reuven, Daveed, Tzvi, Yosef and Shemuel.
Among the most popular biblical Hebrew names for a girl are: Sarah, Miriam, Chanah, Chaya, Esther, Leah, Rachel, Devorah, Yehudit and Rivka.
Transposed Names (Girls to Boys): Bat-Tziyon (Ben-Tziyon), Davida (Daveed) , Elana (Elan), Malka (Melech), Meira (Meir), Shelomit (Shelomo), Shemuela (Shemuel), Yaakova (Ya’akov), Yehudit, (Yehudah), Yisraela (Yisrael), Yosefa (Yosef)
- Abby: Avigayil (father’s joy), Aviva (spring)
- Alexa: Alexandra–Alexandra (defender of men)
- Alison, Allison, Allysa, Allisa: Elisha (Alisha-G-d is salvation), Elianna (my G-d has answered)
- Alana: Elana (Alana, tree)
- Amanda: Amalia (work of the Lord)
- Ann, Anne, Anna: Chana (grace)
- Ariel: Ariella (lioness of G-d)
- Ashley: Adina (slender), Atara (crown), Ahuva (beloved), Aviva (spring)
- Beth, Bettina: Batya (daughter of G-d), Batsheva (daughter of an oath), Bat-Tziyon (daughter of Zion)
- Bailey, Blake: Baila* ( Bat-sheva-Basha*, Basya*- daughter of an oath)
- Brooke: Bracha (blessed), Bruriah (chosen by G-d)
- Caitlin, Cameron, Carly, Carleigh, Caroline, Casey: Kayla* (grey eyed), Kineret (harp), Carmella (garden), Clara* (clean), Cochava (star)
- Charlotte: Zlote* (strong)
- Diana: Dina (judged)
- Danielle: Daniella (G-d’s judge)
- Ella: Ella (Elisheva-oath to G-d), Etta* (Ora-light)
- Elissa, Elyse, Elizabeth: Elka* (Elisheva-oath to G-d)
- Eliza: Aliza (joyous)
- Emma: Emma, Emunah (faith)
- Emily: Amalia (work of the Lord)
- Faye, Faith: Faiga*, Faigel* (bird), Fruma* (pious)
- Gabrielle: Gavriella (G-d is my strength)
- Haley: Hadassah (myrtle), Hodel* (majesty)
- Isabel: Elana (tree), Iris (name of a flower), Soibel* (sustaining)
- Jade: Yocheved (glory of G-d)
- Jessica: Yiska (covering)
- Julie, Julia, Jillian: Yehudit (praised), Yisraela (Israel), Ya’el (mountain goat)
- Kate, Kaitlin: Kady* (pure)
- Kelly, Kaila, Kayla: Kayla* (gray eyed)
- Kyra: Kinneret (harp)
- Lauren, Louise: Leah (wearied), Levana (moon), Leeba*, Libby* (beloved), Liza (joy)
- Lily: Lili (name of a flower)
- Madeleine: Mindel* (Miriam)
- Max: Matana (gift), Masha* (brave)
- Mariah: Meira (light), Marnina (sing), Miriam (Mirka*, Mirtza*, Minna*, Mindel*-Moses’ sister)
- Morgan: Margalit (pearl)
- Michelle: Michal (small brook), Malkah (queen)
- Natalie: Netanya (G-d has given)
- Nicole, Nikki: Na’amah (pleasant), Nava (beautiful), Nurit (light)
- Nina: Nina (great-granddaughter)
- Olivia: Ora (light) , Orna (cedar), Ophrah (duet)
- Paige: Peninah (Perel*, Pessa*, Pessia*-pearl), Perachia (flowered), Priva* (Peri-fruit)
- Raina: Reina* (clean), Rina (song, joy)
- Rose: Raizel*, Shoshana (rose)
- Samantha, Samara: Sarah (princess), Smadar (berry), Shemuela
- Skyler, Schuyler: Silka* (Sarah)
- Sophie, Sophy: Sarah (princess), Tzipora (bird)
- Stephanie: Sima (treasure), Simcha (joy)
- Sylvia, Sylvie: Silka* (Sarah), Tzilla (protection)
- Sydney: Shaindel* (Yaffa-beautiful),
- Tess: Tehilla (praise), Tikva (hope), Tova (goodness), Tirtza (pleasantness)
- Victoria: Vitka* (Chaya), Victoria (Sephardic), Varda (rose), Nili (Israel’s triumph shall not fail)
- Zoe: Zahava (golden), Ziva (splendor), Zelda* (rare), Chaya (life)
- Combination Names:
Menachem Mendel, Tzvi Hirsh, Aryeh Leib, Shraga Feivel, Shneur Zalman, Zev Volf,
- Names That Can Be Used For Boys or Girls:
Ariel, Chana, Elisha, Simcha, Yonah
- Girls Names That are Tough to Transpose:
Esther–Eliezer, Ephraim, Elan
Sarah–Sar, Yisrael, Sar-el
Popular Sephardic Girls’ Names:
Ada, Ayala, Esther, Gila, Hadassah, Levana, Matana, Mazal, Mazal Tov, Ophrah, Perachia, Rahel, Ruchama, Ruth, Sarah, Segulah, Temimah, Toba, Victoria
“During nursing school, I observed dozens of circumcisions and Rabbi Rappaport’s procedure on our son was the most relaxed and least traumatic one I have ever seen.”
“I am happy to recommend Rabbi Avraham Rappaport with whom I have worked jointly with performing complex ritual and non-ritual circumcisions. I am impressed with his professionalism, technical abilities and rabbinic expertise.”
“Rabbi Avraham Rappaport did a wonderful job at each of our 3 son’s Bris’s. His pleasant smile, kind words, and quick hand made us nervous parents at ease. We recommend him to all rookie and veteran parents!”
18681 Queen Elizabeth Drive,
Brookeville, MD 20833