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channukah

By Hannah Katsman, A Mother in Israel

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah falls on Wednesday evening, November 27 in 2013–coinciding with the American Thanksgiving–and continues until nightfall on Thursday, December 5.

Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Jewish people, led by the Maccabee family, over the Greeks who had defiled the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. According to tradition, only one bottle of pure oil was found to light the menorah (candelabra), yet it miraculously lasted for eight nights. Hanukkah also commemorates the spiritual victory over the materialistic, Hellenistic culture.  Traditional foods include potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts, both fried in oil.

With eight nights of candle-lighting, we have eight chances to choose a terrific Hanukkah name.

In honor of the holiday, here are eight popular Israeli baby name ideas. The numbers reflect the popularity in Israel for boys or girls in 2012.

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jewish

In honor of Passover, we invited Israel-based Hannah Katsman to guest blog on Jewish baby names appropriate to this meaningful holiday, many of which are popular in Israel today.

Passover, which falls this year on March 25th to April 2nd, commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Passover is also the holiday of spring, and so provides parents with a wide variety of themes for naming babies.

Passover names fall into two groups—traditional names, including Biblical figures from the Passover story, and more modern names reflecting seasonal themes.

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Israeli Baby Names

israeli

To commemorate the Feast of Purim this weekend and the other major Jewish holidays coming up on the calendar, we turned to Israel-resident Hannah Katsman for an overview of current trends in Israeli baby names.

When Israelis are choosing names for their babies, they tend to focus on meaning as much as the sound of the name. And even though Israel has become more westernized, most parents continue to choose Hebrew names.

It’s true that most traditional biblical names like Rivka (Rebecca)  and Moshe (Moses) cannot be considered trendy except in the most religious circles. Yiddish and other ethnic names are out, as are the feminization of biblical names like Israela, Raphaela and Shimona or Simona–though Gavriella is one that is coming back.

The most popular Israeli baby names are short, rarely over two syllables, and they are often unisex.

There are differences among the various Jewish communities in Israel, with some names found only in secular communities and others only in religious ones. Secular Israelis don’t usually give middle names, while religious ones do. They might choose a modern name for the first name, and a more traditional one for the second name, after a relative.

Trends in Israeli baby  names include nature, weather words (boy—Sa’ar, storm), and Israeli place names (unisex—Yarden, Jordan). Other popular themes are water (unisex—Agam, lake), light, music (unisex—Tzlil, note), animals, and angels like Uriel. A few biblical names have made a comeback or stayed in style, including Daniel (unisex), Noa (girl), Rachel (girl), and Assaf (boy).

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