Naming After Relatives
You might have heard that Jews do not name their babies for living people. While this is true in most communities of Ashkenazic Jews (Jews of Central and Eastern European origin), the opposite is the case among Sephardic Jews (Jews of Iberian or Middle-Eastern origin), who often choose to name children after living relatives.
In fact, many Sephardic grandparents look forward to being honored with grandchildren who bear their own names while they are still alive to see it.
Among both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, there is a custom to name a child after someone, usually a family member, who has died. The usual explanation for this practice is that the parents hope that in receiving the name of an admired family member, the child will emulate in life the virtues of the deceased namesake. To a certain extent, too, it is believed that the soul of the loved one lives on in the child who now bears his name. Indeed, learning about the people for whom they are named is an excellent way for children to identify with the history of their own Jewish families and, by extension, with the history of the whole Jewish people.
Naming After — With a Twist
While you might be happy to give your daughter the Yiddish name Shaindel, which belonged to your beloved grandmother, some parents today choose to modernize, or at least tweak, the original name of the person they’re honoring. Here are some of the more popular practices: