The Great Cross-Cultural Interfaith Baby Name Divide


Deciding upon a name for your child can be one of the most fun and most stressful experiences parents-to-be can face during nine months of pregnancy.   Honoring family members, naming after favorite authors or television characters and the age old close-your-eyes-spin-three-times-and-point-to-a-name-in-the-baby-book are all perfectly good methods of deciding on the name of your child.

Even after all those discussions, you have to go through the obligatory fail-safe name rules:

“Nope, can’t use that as the middle name… look what the initials spell.”

“No, that name rhymes with a part of the anatomy I do not want associated with my sweet child.”

“Hannah Hannah Bo Bana… Fi Fy Fo Fanna, Hannah!”

On top of all this, we, as an interfaith couple, have had extra “rules” to follow. 

First, of course, our Jewish child should have a Hebrew name. Per my husband’s Ashkenazi side, the baby cannot be named after a living relative, but should honor a relative that has passed on.  Per my husband’s Sephardic side, we should name after a living relative so that person may enjoy the honor.  Per my husband’s Israeli family, our child should have a modern Israeli name.  Per my husband’s Orthodox family, only traditional names from the Torah are acceptable. 

Wait… what?!

Confused yet?  Then we have to take into account my husband’s particular sensitivity to names since he grew up with a very traditional Israeli name in the United States that turned out to be the name of a Disney character while he was in third grade… a girl Disney character. Poor guy. So since we plan on living in Israel and the United States during the child’s life, the name has to work in both Hebrew in English (sorry: Nimrod, Dudu and Moron are out!). 

Plus, my American family has to be able to pronounce this Hebrew name (not an easy task with Southern accents).

After months of searching, throwing out names, rediscussing names, arguing and maybe just a few pregnancy hormone induced tears, we finally have a name for our child!!  Baruch Hashem!  We happily share the name with our family. Yes, sharing the name before the brit milah is a big no-no, but I think we deserve a break on this one.  What do you know?  They hate it. 

Oy vey, what’s an interfaith family to do?

3 thoughts on “The Great Cross-Cultural Interfaith Baby Name Divide”

  • Thanks for your post – I had a great laugh as well. I went though all of the same rules, issues and arguments as you did.  My husband is Israeli and I am American – he insisted our childrens names had to be hebrew and I insisted they would not sound like you had to cough and spit to pronounce them! 

    We ended up agreeing first on Danielle (my judge is the lord) for our first blessing and Noa (daugher of Zelophehad -the first feminist) for our second.  We got lots of grief about the names we chose but once those angels were born – the names fit perfectly and we can not imagine they could have been named any other name.  Enjoy your blessings!  Happy New Year!

  • I had to laugh a little at this post! We went through similar restrictions (though not QUITE as many, I don’t think) when looking at names for our munchkin! My husband’s side is all Ashkenazic, and Danemans tend to beget Danemans, so we were sort of running out of boy names! We finally took our top three names to the hospital (two were Biblical, one was not) and waited till we met the little man. Then the decision was easy, and folks were so happy he had a name that nobody argued it! I’m sure they name you picked is lovely!

  • I totally undestand the name debate, we went through the same thing…we finally settled on a name, actually my husband picked one that i approved of.  But then by the time we meet Sprout, we may change our minds…

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