Which Parents’ Names are Included in Their Child’s Hebrew Name?

By InterfaithFamily

August 25, 2014


InterfaithFamily/Your Community worked together on this project to gather information about the ritual policies of synagogues in the IFF/Your Community regions of PhiladelphiaChicago, Boston and San Francisco Bay Area. All rabbis were asked the same question, below, and their responses follow. The opinions expressed do not reflect a policy of InterfaithFamily, but are meant to be an educational resource to be shared and discussed with the greater Jewish community.

Becoming a Bar Mitzvah

Synagogues have different policies for how to express the Hebrew name of a child who has a parent that is not Jewish.

When a child of an interfaith couple is being called for an aliyah or otherwise being referred to by his or her Hebrew name, are both parents’ names included in the Hebrew name or just the Jewish parent’s? Is the name of the parent that is not Jewish included (in English, or by creating a Hebrew name) in the child’s Hebrew name?

Both Parents Included

Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation of Lincolnshire, IL (Humanistic)

All parents should be equally honored and included in special celebrations in a child’s life. Whether it is welcoming parents who are not Jewish to stand under a chuppah [wedding canopy], inviting them onto a bima [synagogue platform] for a mitzvah celebration, or noting them in a Hebrew name, young adults should never have to choose between including a parent who is not Jewish and celebrating their Jewishness. The more we say “no” to them, the more they will say “no” to us because love of family will win. We have no written policy on this question because of our comprehensive approach to inclusion: As they choose to, parents of any background may fully participate in both congregational life and in their children’s Jewish life cycle events.

Rabbi Adam Chalom

The Jewish Parent in Hebrew

Congregation Beth Am of Los Altos Hills, CA (Reform)

When there is one Jewish parent, the student’s Hebrew name reflects as such (“Moshe son of So-and-So”). However, we do want to acknowledge that the child is of both parents, so on our B’nai Mitzvah certificates, we give the Hebrew name (with just the Jewish parent) but list both parents in English.

Rabbi Sarah Weissman

Transliterate English to Hebrew

Congregation Solel of Highland Park, IL (Reform)

We always include both parents’ names. For the parent who is not Jewish, we typically transliterate the English name into Hebrew. This policy reflects our belief in an unequivocal welcoming of all people into our community.

Rabbi Evan Moffic

English and Hebrew

Kol Tzedek Synagogue of West Philadelphia (Reconstructionist)

When I call up a person for an aliyah at Kol Tzedek, I use the names of both parents as part of their child’s Hebrew name. If both parents have Hebrew names, then I use their Hebrew names (for example, Miriam bat Rivka v’Yakov). If a parent does not have a Hebrew name, then I use that parent’s English name (for example, Miriam bat Rivka v’Jack). I believe that each parent, regardless of whether they are Jewish or not, deserve recognition of the role they play in their child’s personal and spiritual development. It is also important to recognize the complexity of identity in today’s times by acknowledging a person’s full background and identity.

Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann

Standing Together

Temple Ner Tamid of Peabody, MA (Conservative)

When a child of interfaith parents is called to the Torah, we use a Hebrew name that acknowledges the Jewish parent (ie. Ploni ben Moshe or Ploni ben Sarah). I then offer a special Bar Mitzvah blessing in Hebrew and English: In Hebrew I use the child’s Hebrew name with the Jewish parent, and then in English I use their regular English name (i.e. Joe Smith) with neither parent’s name. However, when the child has their aliya and receives their blessing, both parents stand beside him or her.

-Rabbi Deborah Zuker

Have a question regarding synagogue rituals that you’d like us to have answered in this column? Share your question in the comments below!


About InterfaithFamily

InterfaithFamily is the premier resource supporting interfaith couples exploring Jewish life and inclusive Jewish communities. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy and other program providers; and our new Rukin Rabbinic Fellowship will provide offerings for couples in cities nationwide. If you have suggestions, please contact network@interfaithfamily.com.