Tag Archives: names

Most popular girls names in Israel, by city, for 2014

Israel’s Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) released some statistics on names given to children in 2014. The report (in Hebrew) they released is a bit of a hodgepodge of information, giving the most popular Jewish boys names for the country in a table, but not giving that information for girls. There are some nice charts showing trending names. One interesting one is on the rising popularity of the girls names Adele and Romi:

trendingnames-adele and romi
That’s Adele in green, Romi in red, and Roni (maybe Ronni would be a better spelling) in blue. Roni is a name that has been around a long time, and I’m guessing they put it in to show the contrast to Romi, which twenty years ago basically didn’t exist, and is now becoming very popular. Adele is obviously skyrocketing in popularity, and it’s not hard to figure out why, considering the worldwide popularity of the singer by that name.

While there was no simple table of the most popular girls names (I assume that will be released soon), there was a fascinating chart of the most popular girls names broken down by city. I’ve reorganized the chart to make it a bit easier to read, and added the English versions of the names. When there is an established translation of the name I used it, if there is no English version I used the most popular or most logical spelling for the Hebrew name. Click on the table to see a larger version of it:

Popular Girls Names Israel by City, 2014
There are a few interesting things in the name lists. For example, I know that overall the most popular girls name is Noa, and yet in the 14 large cities they showed, only three of them have Noa in the top spot. The two cities that Noa doesn’t show up in are the two largest (in terms of births), Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Of course, the names may show up below the threshold used in this chart (the top eleven) and may even contribute more to the name’s popularity than the cities where Noa shows up as number one. This is because the number of girls given the 11th most popular name (Hanna) in Jerusalem was 132, while the number of people who received the number one name in Rehovot (Noa) was only 36. It’s possible that there were more than a hundred girls in Jerusalem that received the name Noa, which would be roughly three times the influence on the national result than Rehovot’s contribution, even if it was much further down the list.

One name that showed up several times is Agam. That name makes me think of the artist Yaacov Agam, famous for his 3D art, but it’s likely the name comes from the same place Yaacov Agam took it from (his original surname was Gipstein), which is the Hebrew word used for Lake (or pond, or pool). The word shows up once in the bible, in Psalm 114, used as part of the Hallel prayer recited on major holidays and on Rosh Chodesh (celebration of the new moon each month). In Psalm 114, the phrase is:
Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob; Who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters.
Without the full set of data, it’s not possible to glean so much information about the cities themselves, but you can get a sense of which cities have faster growing populations. One would guess from the fact that Bnei Brak has less than half the population of Tel Aviv (the two cities border each other), but has more births that is growing significantly faster. Of course, it is possible that the data is simply showing that in Bnei Brak people chose from a smaller pool of names, or that certain names were so popular there than they show up in larger numbers in these lists, but the overall birth numbers are not skewed as much. I suspect both are true (that Tel Aviv has a wider variety of names, and that there are more births-per-family in Bnei Brak which is more religious than Tel Aviv).

It will be interesting when the full dataset is released to see how some of the names fall out. What the report does show is that the top girls names overall were Noa, Tamar, Shira, Maya, Yael, Adele, Talia, Abigail, Ayala, and Sarah (just not in a nice table). Note that Noa is on the decline and Tamar on the rise, so if current trends coninue it’s likely Tamar will beat out Noa next year or soon thereafter.

I hope they release a similar breakdown of boys names by city, as in my experience the full datasets are only for the country, not broken down by city, so if they don’t release it in a similar report, there won’t be any way to figure it out.

[Update: I’ve created a chart for boys names using the same cities.]

Typical name distribution? A preview of my lecture on Monday.

The following is a slide from my lecture on Monday in Jerusalem at the 35th annual IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. My lecture is titled “Jewish Names, Red Herrings and Name Changes” and is taking place at 10am. This slide is about mid-way through my lecture, and takes a look at a family with confusing naming patterns (and is subject to change by Monday).

Typical Name Distribution 2
It’s a little hard to follow without some introduction in the previous slides, but in short there are two Taube Traurigs, including one who married a Schopf but was never named Taube Schopf.

There’s an actually Taube Schopf, whose father was a Wigdor Schopf. Her married name was Taube Engleberg, which is what the other Taube’s name should have been at birth (but wasn’t).

There are actually two Wigdor Schopfs, one married to a Taube, and one the father of a Taube.

The son of Taube Traurig and Wigdor Kessler was named Ephraim Engelberg. It all makes sense really.

Have your own confusing name stories? Share them in the comments.

Want to hear more and are in Israel? Come to my lecture on Monday. Details on the Facebook event page for the lecture. If you’re going to attend and use Facebook, please sign up on the event page.

Attending and have a question about Jewish names? Send me a message before Monday and I’ll try to include the answer in my lecture.

Racism and Commonality as Reasons for Name Changes

Back in May 2011 I discussed a book Petitions for Name Changes in New York City 1848-1899 as part of a broader article on the myth of Ellis Island name changes. The book transcribes 890 name change petitions that were made in New York City in the 52 years between 1848 and 1899. In my original article, I discuss many of the reasons people changed their names. In this post I want to go back to take a look from a slightly different perspective.

That names changed due to racism and antisemitism is not hard to show. While not every name change says it explicitly, without a doubt many of the name changes that are for ‘pecuniary benefit’ or similar reasons are due to the petitioners believing (perhaps rightly for the time) that their names were too ethnic sounding to allow them to flourish without discrimination.

Some, however, were explicit. Indeed, the first two petitions listed in the book are:

Petition (11 July 1892) of William Abraham, aged over 21, residing at 323 E. 3rd St., unmarried. His father, Morris Rogozinski, came to the U.S. in 1866 from Russia and assumed the name Abraham. Petitioner’s father is dead. His mother’s name is Sarah. He states that as the name Rogozinski and Abraham are of Semitic origin, it will be to his material and pecuniary advantage to bear a name that will not be so distinctive. He wishes to assume legally the name William Abraham Rodgers.

Petition (25 Mar. 1891) of Joseph Abrahamson, age 21 on 2 Nov. 1890, residing at 2093 Third Ave. He was employed about 8 years by one Russak, now deceased, who had 3 other Josephs in his employ and called the petitioner Edson. The petitioner has become a Christian and is about to marry an Episcopalian young lady. He and his bride desire that ‘all semblance of a Jewish surname shall be removed from the petitioner.’ He wishes to assume legally the name Joseph Abraham Edson.

Looking at patterns in the names, however, we can learn some more. For example, which names were changed the most?

It may not surprise anyone to know that the most commonly changed name is also the most common name in the United States, Smith. Consider for a moment over a hundred years ago how people found each other. New York City had city directories, pre-cursors to phone books, which listed people by name – but what happened when there were 50 other John Smiths? What if 10 of those John Smiths were in the same business as you? It’s not hard to see why someone with the name Smith might want to change their name to something more unique. According to the 2000 US Census, there were 2,376,206 people in the US with the last name Smith. I don’t know how many people in the US, or even just New York City, had the name Smith in the years covered in this book, but there is no question even then it was a very common name. Take a look at the following chart that looks at the name changes from Smith, and the reasons given for each change:

Name changes from Smith, with reasons. (Click to enlarge)

Note that more than half of the petitions were due to commonality of the name, and even more were probably for that reason (although not explicitly shown in the petitions). The next most often petitioned names, however, were not among the most common US surnames, but rather of the most obviously Jewish surnames – Levy and Cohen. I’ve created charts of the name changes from Levy and Cohen (with Cohn) that illustrate the changes made, and why the changes were made:


Name changes from Levy, with reasons. (Click to enlarge)

Among the people who changed their names from Levy, while none explicitly point out the removal of ‘Semitic origin’ like the example above, it is implicit in almost all of them (one says it is because the name is too common).


Name change from Cohen and Cohn, with reasons. (Click to enlarge)

In the changes from Cohen and Cohn, there is a similar implicit pattern. Only two petitions list commonality as a reason (the Keene and Spahn petitions). Compare that to Smith where more than half of the name changes are attributed to the commonness of the name.

Clearly something else is going on that causes these name changes to occur, and if we can’t know that the names changed for the reasons in the first two petitions from the book, we can certainly infer that the reasons are fairly similar. The desire to ‘not be so distinctive’ was strong among many immigrants, and changing ones name to fit in better was an easy way to remove distinctiveness.

The reasons behind these name changes are very different from some of the other reasons I’ve discussed in the past, such as children having to take their mother’s surnames because it was difficult for Jews to be civilly married in places like Austria in the 19th century. While the circumstances are very different, it’s no less complicated for family members try to research their family when names change. Moreover, the circumstances, while different, still emanate from racism. In the case of mother’s surnames, discrimination against Jewish families in the civil registration process, and in the case of these NYC name changes, discrimination that causes the petitioners to want to change their surnames to fit in better.

Interestingly, the fact that many Jews did not have surnames until just over 200 years ago probably contributes to the lack of commonness as a reason for changing one’s surname. Other reasons are more common, however, such as changing a name that was derogatory (assigned by antisemitic bureaucrats) when possible, changing from a mother’s surname to a father’s surname (common when coming to the US where name changes were easier), and changes to try to prevent discrimination. Name changes of Jewish immigrants to Israel is a whole different topic, but encompassed a whole different set of reasons, including a desire to Hebraize one’s surname – in some cases this was not a choice but a requirement if the person worked in the government or military in Israel.

What interesting name change stories do you have in your family?