Jewish names around the world

Sunday, June 2

USA 12:00 pm PT / 3:00 pm ET

UK 8:00 pm / France 9:00 pm / Israel 10:00 pm

The talk will last approximately 90 minutes

About this talk

What makes a family name Jewish? How did Jewish family names originate in different periods? Why were specific surnames given to, or chosen by, Jews in Central Europe, Italy, the Middle East, the Ottoman and Russian Empires? Why did Jews in North America, Hungary, Israel, and elsewhere change their surnames, and why are new generations reclaiming them back?

This session answers these and many more questions about Jewish first and last names. Participants will learn about patronymic (father-based) surnames like Abramovitch, Isaacs, and Yaghobian; geographic names like Ashkenazi, Dardashti, and Shapiro; and profession names like Hakim, Melamed, and Fingerhut. They will learn about traditions of naming babies after honorees and using biblical and local sources. And they will hear about names Jews select for their dogs, cats, and other pets.

About Sarah

Sarah Bunin Benor is Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (Los Angeles campus) and Adjunct Professor in the University of Southern California Linguistics Department. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Linguistics in 2004. She has published and lectured widely about Jewish languages, linguistics, Yiddish, American Jews, and Orthodox Jews.

Her books include Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism (Rutgers, 2012), Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps (Rutgers, 2020), and Languages in Jewish Communities, Past and Present (edited volume, De Gruyter, 2018). Dr. Benor co-edits the Journal of Jewish Languages (Brill) and directs the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, which features the Jewish Language Website and the Jewish English Lexicon.

With your contribution, you will also be donating to the Jewish Language Project of the Hebrew Union College.