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.

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

Hamas’s Plan to Take Over the West Bank

Dec. 17 2018

Last week, terrorists from the West Bank—at the apparent direction of Hamas—carried out multiple attacks that left at least three Israelis dead. These attacks follow on the heels of an Egypt-brokered cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza, as part of which the terrorist group received millions of dollars from Qatar. Khaled Abu Toameh comments:

Hamas and its allies are openly encouraging the eruption of a new anti-Israel uprising in the West Bank; [furthermore], Hamas and its friends have been emboldened by the recent failure of the UN General Assembly to adopt a U.S.-sponsored resolution condemning Hamas and other Palestinian groups for firing rockets at Israel and inciting violence. . . .

Every dollar and every concession made to Hamas will only increase its appetite to . . . extend its control beyond the Gaza Strip. From Hamas’s point of view, its plan has won legitimacy from the UN and important players in the region such as Qatar and Egypt. So long as Hamas feels that it is marching in the right direction, we are likely to see an increase in armed attacks and other forms of violence in the West Bank.

Now that Hamas is getting what it wants in the Gaza Strip—millions of dollars and no war with Israel—it is seeking to shift its attention to the West Bank, all with the help of its friends in Tehran. This [policy] has a threefold goal: to undermine or overthrow Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, inflict heavy casualties on Israel, and thwart any peace plan brought forward by the U.S. administration. In other words, Hamas and Iran now have their sights set on the West Bank, and this is reason not only for Israel to worry, but for Abbas to worry as well.

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More about: Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror, Qatar, West Bank