A Jewish Rose by Any Other Name: Thoughts on the Regulation of Jewish Women’s Personal Names

Omi (Naomi) Morgenstern Leissner


Even as individuals are granted the right to name and be named, they are acting in the context of a given society, each with its own cultural and political designs. It follows that societies are wont to regulate the area of personal names. They do so by means, such as fashion and social pressure. In addition, as this article argues, the institution of law is intimately, if not always obviously, tied up with personal names and naming. Here the argument is made in conjunction with the naming of Jewish girls. In this regard, centuries of Jewish history have produced exceedingly similar findings: compared to men’s names, which tend to line-up in long, ongoing patrilineal formation, women’s names are somewhat fickle, changing from time to time, from place to place, discontinuing each other, if they are lucky enough to receive a mention at all. This article suggest that one of the reasons for the aforementioned “nominal” gender discrepancy is that the law has consistently considered only men’s names to be of importance, hence the dispensing of the shaping of women’s names to the more fleeting forces of fashion and so on, rather than the more enduring forces of tradition and inter-generational continuity, for example. In other words, it could be suggested that would the law had attributed more to Jewish women’s names, there might have been more to them. 

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