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Tradition! (Image courtesy of The Film Sufi)

When you’re Jewish, but don’t hew particularly to either the Ashkenazic or Sephardic traditions (my rabbi grew up Azkenazi, his wife was a Sephardim), it can make some choices in your Jewish life a little odd.  And when your Dad was a Catholic rather than a Jew, it gets even weirder.  (How do you mourn your dad’s too-soon death, for example?)  Many Sephardic traditions are less stringent.  For example, during Passover, Sehpardim are allowed to eat corn, while Ashkenazi are not.  The differences aren’t huge, but they do exist.

I only mention this because I was plowing through my Twitter feed today, and saw that Chris Hayes of MSNBC has had another child, and named his new son David Emanuel.  Which struck me as a pretty solid Jewish name, and reminded me of the conundrum we faced when we adopted my son.

When Sami and I had a child, like every other overly-educated couple, we over-thought the whole “naming” issue.  Not for us is the Homer Simpson method of just checking to make sure there were no nasty nicknames possible with a particular name (and of course Homer hilariously stopped at “eart”, not getting to the “f” variant); we had to do research.  We had to think about the kid’s own feelings on the topic.  How about a name that had lots of diminutives, so she could choose one herself if she wanted?  Could we honor a relative somehow?  Would we insult some other relative if we did?  Etc.  Which got us to Megan Elizabeth “Maggie” Moran.  Lots of room to dodge around the nickname issue, plus the double-whammy of it “Elizabeth” being my mother-in-law’s, my grandmother’s, and a variant of my other grandmother’s name (“Isabelle”).  Plus we just loved the name “Maggie”.  Jackpot!

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Maggie O’Connell, of “Northern Exposure”

Then we adopted our son, and that brings us back to traditions.  When it comes to child naming, he Ashkenazi tradition is to use the name of a dead relative; the Sephardic tradition to use a living relative.  And both (naturally) consider it “bad luck” to do it the other way.  So in fine, American, “smear those traditions together!” style, we did both.  I’m lucky in that my Dad, while Catholic, was named Francis Joseph, but went by “Joe”–a good, solid, Torah-based name.  So our son is Joseph Isaac, after my dad, and my own Hebrew name.  Which also gives him the initials “J.I.M.”, which he could use as well, should he so desire.

How about you; what family name traditions do you have?  And what subjects do you way overthink?

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