In Jewish families, who names a baby?

  • There are a number of opinions regarding who has the right to choose a name for a newborn child. According to many, including the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Radak and Alshich, the father chooses a name for the first child, the mother chooses for the second, the father for the third and so on. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was also of the opinion that if there is no established custom, people should follow this approach.
  • There are other opinions that state that the mother has the right to name the first child, the father the second, the mother the third and so on.

Who are Jewish babies named after?

  • In Ashkenazic Jewish circles, there is often a custom to name a newborn after a deceased individual or Rabbi. Sometimes people will give a name that is a combination of a deceased relative and a Rabbi.
  • In some Sephardic Jewish circles, it is considered a great honor to name a newborn baby after someone who is still living. This practice is completely unacceptable in Ashkenazic Jewish communities.
  • The amount of names given to a baby also varies- some people prefer to give their children just one name, others choose to give two, three, four or even more!
  • Regarding giving a child more than one name, when each name is after a different relative, there are a variety of opinions; some Rabbinic authorities permit such a practice, while others say it should not be done. In any case, if a child is called after two separate people, both names should be used so as to honor both people.

When are Jewish babies named?

  • Baby girls are named on days when the Torah is read in Synagogue (Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays). Therefore, a baby girl is named on the first of these days that occur after her birth.
  • Baby boys are given their names at their circumcisions. In the case of a baby boy who is ill and therefore can’t be circumcised, his name isn’t given until he is well enough to be circumcised.
  • In the case of a baby boy who is a firstborn and has not had his circumcision before the traditional “redeeming of the first son” ceremony (“pidyon haben” in Hebrew), he is given a name before the ceremony takes place.  In the case of a child who is ill and needs prayers on his behalf, a name is given right away so that prayers can be said using his name.