New Hebrew Names for Jewish Mothers Visiting the Holy Land

“And the nations shall see thy triumph, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Hashem shall mark out.” Isaiah 62:2 (The Israel Bible™)

In four moving ceremonies in May, Jewish women visiting the Holy Land will receive Hebrew names they have chosen for themselves. The women are mothers from across the globe who are participating in a “MOMentum” trip under the auspices of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. The Hebrew name ceremony, which is part of a larger program, is a particularly emotional event with long-reaching effects on the participants.

The goal of the eight-day “MOMentom” tour is to instill in participants pride in their Jewish heritage, an increased understanding and love for the Jewish homeland, and the motivation to work on connecting the next generation of diaspora Jews to their religious and cultural identities.

Each group of mothers will visit historical, religious and tourist sites throughout the Holy Land. They will also visit an IDF army base and spend a traditional Shabbat together near the Western Wall. One of the highlights of the trip will be the naming ceremony, when the women, who did not receive Hebrew names as children, will take that additional step towards affirming their connection to their roots and the language of the Bible.

To date over 10,000 Jewish mothers from 26 countries have participated in this inspiring program. The May “MOMentom” groups will include 40 women who have chosen their Hebrew names and are eagerly awaiting the moment when the names will truly be their own. The naming ceremonies will take at an ecological desert campsite in the Judean desert, between the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. The site is called “Eretz Bereshit”, which means “Genesis Land”, and the scenery devoid of modern comforts and conveniences brings to mind the inspiring Biblical figures who lived in the Holy Land thousands of years ago.

“People worldwide have always named their children after Biblical figures but this has lessened in recent years,” explained Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, a online language academy, to Breaking Israel News. “Today, Hebrew names are once again becoming popular among people of all religions. There are traditional names from the Bible and more modern names that are both attractive and meaningful. What many don’t realize is that while names in other languages are often chosen merely for the way they sound, every Hebrew name has a meaning which is believed to have an influence on a person’s character development.”

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Jewish tradition holds that a person’s name is the channel through which Divine energy reaches the body. The Talmud states that a man’s destiny is determined by his name. Therefore, Judaism places great significance on the name parents choose for their children.

Baby boys are named during their brit milah – the circumcision ceremony which takes place eight days after birth. Baby girls are traditionally named on days when the Torah is read in synagogue, on the Shabbat, Monday, or Thursday after their birth. Many Jews name their infants after living or deceased beloved relatives or, alternatively, after illustrious rabbis or Torah scholars. It is hoped that a child will acquire some of the good character traits of his namesake and, therefore, Jews have traditionally avoided naming their offspring after Biblical personalities with negative or evil traits.

The names of the righteous patriarchs and matriarchs have historically been popular choices, such as Avraham (Abraham), Yitzchak (Isaac), Yaakov (Jacob), Sarah, Rivka (Rebecca), Rachel and Leah as well as names of other Biblical role models such as Moshe (Moses), David, Shlomo (King Solomon), Esther (from the Purim story), Tzipporah (Moses’s wife), and Devorah (the prophetess).  

“The Bible credits the Israelites in Egypt for maintaining their identities during 210 years of slavery in the merit of preserving their Hebrew language, their modest Jewish way of dress and their Hebrew names,” Segal continued. “By adopting a Hebrew name, a person acknowledges his connection to and pride in his ancestors who refused to give up their own names even while slaves in a foreign country.”

For the women on the “MOMentum” trip who are first receiving their Hebrew names, this will be both a form a closure from this lack in their lives and new beginning with their Jewish identities.

To learn more about the Hebrew language, please visit here.