Donate

Why Traditional Jewish Women’s Names Don’t Derive from Hebrew

Among Jewish communities that had not yet experienced assimilation into their surrounding societies, most men had names of Hebrew or Aramaic origin. By contrast, a majority of women had names originating in some other language. As Alexander Beider explains, this had nothing to do with differences in how the sexes interacted with non-Jews:

There are over 2,700 male names in the Bible, but only about 50 female names. Try as we might, the names Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah, Esther, and Miriam are clearly insufficient to cover all Jewish women. It thus became necessary to use additional names, some of which appeared in the Middle Ages and were based on Hebrew: the names Ḥayah (life), M’nuḥah (calm), and Neḥamah (comfort) all took root among Jewish women from Central Europe. The name Simḥah (joy) was common in Spain, France, and Germany. But a large bulk of female names were based on vernacular languages.

Whatever country you examine, female names used by Jews have positive meanings. In northern France and England, whose Jewry originated in northern France, we find in sources from the 13th and 14th centuries names like Bellassez (very beautiful), Douce (sweet), and Fleur (flower). In Czech lands during the 14th through 16th centuries, Jewish women had names such as Dobra (good), Radochna (glad), and Vesela (joyful). In medieval Western Germany, Yiddish female names [were created], like Eydl (noble), Freyde (joy), Hinde (doe), Reyzl (rose), Sheyne (beautiful), and Zelde (happiness). . . . In both medieval Spain and in the Ottoman Empire after their 1492 expulsion, Sephardi women bore names such as Alegria (joy), Buena (good), Clara (light), Delicia (delight), and Esperanza (hope). Those Sephardi Jews who landed in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya adopted Arabic names, such as Aziza (beloved), Djamila (beautiful), Djohar (gem), and Zohra (flower).

In all of these communities and across disparate languages, female given names have meanings associated with the notions of beauty, luck, joy, light, and majesty. Certain names are derived from the words designating gems, flowers, or birds. A large majority of these names . . . were not created by Jews but borrowed by them from local Gentiles. For example, in medieval Europe, both Slavic and German non-Jewish women mainly received names from the same category. Yet, at the end of the Middle Ages, Christians of these regions underwent a major change [in their naming habits], abandoning names with pleasant meanings for names of Latin, Greek, Romance, and Hebrew origins with religious connotations, usually names of Christian saints or biblical figures.

Read more at Forward

More about: Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Jewish language, Names

 

America Is Right to Withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council

June 21 2018

Yesterday the U.S. announced its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which serves primarily as a forum for the worst human-rights abusers to condemn Israel while ignoring the atrocious behavior of tyrants. Anne Bayefsky writes:

Among the 47 UN states calling the shots on the organization’s top human-rights body are such human-rights paragons as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, . . . Qatar, and Venezuela. . . .

There is no doubt that the UN Human Rights Council is a productive tool for anti-Semites. Discrimination against the Jewish state is baked into its procedures . . . as well as its composition. The council reserves one permanent agenda item for every one of its regular sessions solely for condemning Israel. All other 192 UN member states are considered together under a separate item, if they are discussed at all.

The council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on earth, and nothing condemning almost 90 percent of the world’s states. The council has held more emergency special sessions on Israel than on any other country, including Syria—where at least 500,000 have died and up to 12 million have been displaced.

But even beyond the disturbing fact that anti-Semitism thrives at the United Nations under the guise of human rights is that the “human-rights” experts, the nongovernmental organizations and the academic entourage surrounding this whole apparatus, have the council’s back. For months, they have been flooding the airwaves and [the American ambassador to the UN Nikki] Haley and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s email inboxes begging the Trump administration to stay on the council. In a nutshell, they make one basic point: the demonization of Israel, even if undeserved, is peripheral to the common good. Pompeo and Haley have courageously decided to set them straight. Equal rights cannot be built on inequality for Jews and the Jewish state.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy, UNHRC, United Nations