I'm a Jewish woman, but I was never given a Hebrew name, and now I'm interested in getting one. How do I choose? (I do have some ideas, though, some biblical names I admire.) Do I need to confirm it with a rabbi or something?

How a name is given:

Traditionally, a Jewish name is given to a woman in a synagogue during the course of the public Torah reading. The rabbi, gabbai (beadle), or Torah reader recites a special prayer, wherein you are introduced with your new Jewish name. It is similar to the prayer said upon the birth and naming of a baby girl.

Your name is the channel through which your neshamah, soul, receives vitality from G‑d, and connects to the rest of the Jewish nation. It's not only a private thing for you, yourself, but rather, is of communal importance. Therefore, the name is given not in your own living room, but in a synagogue, in the presence of others. And since the Torah is the source of all G‑d's blessings, the name is given in front of the Torah, thus infusing the name with divine blessings.

I suggest contacting your local rabbi and explaining your situation to him. There should be no problem in giving you a Hebrew name. If you're not connected to any rabbi, click here to find the rabbi nearest you.

One more recommendation, if I may: receiving a Jewish name is a big step in your life. You will now become much more connected to your soul, whose powers will be expressed in the Hebrew letters of your new name. Now is an appropriate time to utilize this added energy by channeling it into the world of action. Choose a new mitzvah in which your soul can express itself. As a Jewish woman, I'd recommend starting with Shabbat Candle Lighting, a weekly act that brings light, spirituality and serentity into your home.

How to choose a name:

You are free to choose any Jewish name that you find meaningful and/or beautiful. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when searching for your name.

  • Is there someone special in your family or community whom you’d like to memorialize by being named after them? You can choose to honor a departed grandparent or family member bearing their name.
  • Was there someone in Jewish history whose legacy you find especial inspiring? You can express your wish that your life mirrors their (at least in some small way) by being named after them.
  • Do you like the ring of your existing (secular) name? You can find a Hebrew name that sounds similar, like Miriam for Marney, Kreina for Claire, etc.
  • You can also choose to find a Hebrew name whose meaning parallels that of your current name, taking Malka for Regina, since both mean “queen,” etc.
  • Another place to look is the time of year. Is your birthday or the time you are taking your name near a Jewish holiday or significant event in Jewish history? Perhaps you want to consider taking the name of the protagonists of that event.

Editor's note: To learn about a specific name, see Jewish boys' names and Jewish girls' names.