a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Hebrew Name Change?

Posted on: June 30, 2011

One of the things that converts to Judaism must decide on is a Hebrew name.  It is one of those awesome and unsettling things similar to the feeling of actually becoming Jewish.  There is a bright and wonderful future ahead of me.  When I look into the lens of my Jewish future I see connection to God, I see prayer and worship, I see children who will be Jews, I see my imprint on Judaism.  When I look to my past I see everything and everyone who made me into the woman that I am today.

Becoming Jewish doesn’t negate who I was but choosing a Hebrew name, while fun and exciting feels a bit foreign.  I never agreed with the idea of women changing their names when they got married because I think that it takes away from who they are, who their family is and instead takes on who their partner is and who that partner’s family is.  Yes, a marriage is the bringing together of two families with those two people but why should one slough off their name?

Even before I admitted I was gay, I always knew that when I got married my last name would remain the same or at most become hyphenated.  Adding a Hebrew name to my name will just make for a longer name and a multi-diminisional me.

Here are some names I’ve been looking at:

Adva אַדְוָה which means ripple

Amiya עַמִּיָה which means my people

Batel בַּת־אֵל  or Batyah בַּתְיָה which both means daughter of God

Dalia/Dalya  דַּלְיָה   which means branch

Datia/Datyah דַּתְיָה   which means God’s religion

Hasia/Hasya/Chasia  חַסְיָה which means take refuge or have mercy.  There’s a beautiful Psalm also attached to this name: The name may originate from the verb “לָחוּס” (lachus, “have mercy”) or “לַחֲסוֹת” (lachasot, “take refuge”). One of the psalms says: “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me, for my soul trusteth in thee (חָסָיָה), yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast” (Psalms 57, 1; verse 2 in the Hebrew version of the Bible).

Hodaya הוֹדָיָה which means thanksgiving

Tehiyya תחייה which means resurrection, rebirth, revival

Tehila   תְּהִלָּה which means praise

Yakira יַקִירָה which means precious

Zaharia   זַהֲרִירָה which is derived from the word Zohar and means light, brilliance, glow

or Zipporah צִפּוֹ רָה which means means bird.

I think this is my list…now to figure out which will be my name.

20 Responses to "Hebrew Name Change?"

I actually found it pretty easy to choose a Hebrew middle name. I may even change it legally, I haven’t decided. I also changed my name when I got married. I honestly just wasn’t that attached to the family name. I liked that I was the ONLY one of me but the family aspect wasn’t really important.

Do you intend to use your Hebrew name for anything outside of shul?

Really? I’m totally stuggling with picking something that sound pretty/something that sounds good with my name/something that has meaning/something that is meaningful to me and my experience as a convert…I’m leaning quite heavily towards a few over others but haven’t even thought of putting them with my own name..

Erika Zipporah Kristen
Erika Yakira Kristen
Erika Tehila Kristen…

I’m not sure how I’ll use it. I can’t imagine asking my friends and family to refer to me as Batyah when they’ve been calling me Erika for 31 years. How do you intend to use yours?

I really wouldn’t use it much either. Even if I change my name it would be my middle name so it’s not something I’d really use, you know? It would be there but most people wouldn’t even know it. My Rabbi says I can just tell people that’s my name without changing it legally but that seems odd to me. If I changed it, I would take out my current middle name entirely. I hesitate because it was my Grandmothers middle name. I hate it but it was given to be based on that fact.

If I were going to use Nechama on a regular basis I would have needed to choose something different because I can’t always pronounce it correctly! I wasn’t totally sure it sounded okay since I’ll I’ve found are women named “Nechama Dena” and none the other way around. I knew I wanted my given name in there since it’s already a Hebrew name and it’s already mine. My Rabbi says it sounds fine. So, I guess it’s fine?

I didn’t choose the name based on any particular meaning as far as conversion. I chose the name that jumped out at me and seemed right. Perhaps not the best way to choose but it worked 🙂 There are some others I like but I wanted to say those for future children.

I think Erika Yakira is the easiest to say out of the couple you listed. I like the “look” of Erika Tehila. I don’t know why it just looks right.

Erika Yakira sort of has a sing-songy feel to it, eh? I like what Tehila means too.

Batyah spoke to me at Pesach since it’s what Pharoah’s daughter named herself when she went with the Israelites when they left Egypt…

I know I don’t like Ruth, as obvious as it would be

I’ve never liked the name Ruth and it reminds me of some very strange people…and candy.

i am finding choosing a name really hard. i spent all my name-changing energy when i came out as trans the first time, in many ways. there are also so many considerations: what will i choose for my first name? a middle name? do i choose the traditional child of abraham/sarah or do i choose spiritual parents? if so, who would those be? how am i going to name myself in relation to these parents anyway (son/daughter/alternate)? what would any of those things mean in terms of whether or not and how i apply to rabbinical school in the future (not to mention ordination, b’h). it feels so laden with meaning in a way that is at once beautiful and awesome and at once so terrifying. what if i name myself WRONG?

that said, names that i consider (as personal or parental names) are: jonah, tamar, nachshon, vashti, yael. i would probably choose “bat” or “velad” (descendant of) to demarcate my relationship to spiritual parents. someone suggested “pri ha-beten” (from the belly of) which i think is nice, but perhaps toooo precious, if i chose jonah as a main name (which is likely).

YES! That’s where I’m at, Heath! What if I chose the wrong name! I haven’t even started to think of the decendents of daughter of situation but with rabbinical school in my future as well, clearly it’s another thought…I want my sister to name her new son Jonah or Jeremiah. Sometimes I think Hebrew male names are so much more interesting.

Yael has been my obsession name for years. I want it so badly but I want to name my daugther Yael.

Ha, me too. My husband said it’s okay so it went on the baby name list but as a middle name.

so! much! to! talk! about!!!

I know! Next Week, please, before shul, after shul…on a random wednesday.

yes, yes, yes 🙂

I already have a name picked out – Atarah. I was goig to use Elisheva but my that’s my roommate’s name ha. I fully intend to change my name, I love my given name but I hate the butchering of it. I’d still expect friends and family to call my by my first and middle name but I’d introduce myself as Atarah to anyone new.

Atarah was on my list, too. Clearly now I can’t have it because it will be your name 😉 It means crown, right?

Yep, means crown, wreath, among other things. Another option can be Kitra, that also means crown. But I’m totally sticking with Atarah. I wonder if we can pick two names? Hmmm.

Choosing one’s own name is a luxury that few people enjoy. I like your list.


there’s no like button here

I personally love the name Adva off that list, but I wouldn’t stress about it myself. I say, don’t look for your natural name, look for your natural name. Which feels right, regardless of meaning?

Counting my confirmation name, I’m Colleen Elizabeth Dawn _______. I got ‘dawn’ from my grandma who had died around the same time as the ceremony, and as great a sentiment as that is, it does and says nothing for me.

Lol. Why don’t we change that to ‘Don’t just look for a name you like, look for a natural name.’

Adva אַדְוָה which means ripple

Amiya עַמִּיָה which means my people

Batel בַּת־אֵל or Batyah בַּתְיָה which both means daughter of God

Dalia/Dalya דַּלְיָה which means branch

Datia/Datyah דַּתְיָה which means God’s religion

Hasia/Hasya/Chasia חַסְיָה which means take refuge or have mercy. There’s a beautiful Psalm also attached to this name: The name may originate from the verb “לָחוּס” (lachus, “have mercy”) or “לַחֲסוֹת” (lachasot, “take refuge”). One of the psalms says: “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me, for my soul trusteth in thee (חָסָיָה), yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast” (Psalms 57, 1; verse 2 in the Hebrew version of the Bible).

The new Narrowed Down List…

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