JRJ, Fall 1988, 71-72


Question: What parental names should be used at the berit, naming, or later Jewish life-cycle events for an individual who has one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent and is to be raised as a Jew? (Rabbi Constance Abramson Memphis, TN)

Answer: On initial reflection we might turn for guidance to the analogy of the asufi and shetuki—foundlings whose parents are unknown or whose father is unknown. A family of an asufi or shetuki would use only his/her own name, and no name of a father would be used in any document which he/she might be called upon to issue Aruch, Even ha-Ezer 129.9; Solomon ben Adret, Responsa). This has been generally followed, but it would also be appropriate procedure to use the name of the maternal grandfather (Isserles to Shut- chan Aruch, Orach Chayim 139.3). If the name of that grandfather is not known, then the individual could simply be called ben Av- raha—as we are all children of Abraham (Isserles to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 139.3). Peri Megadim asserted that we are careful to call such a boy the son of Abraham, our father, but not the son of Abraham the proselyte.

These citations are, however, not helpful as they take it for granted that the father is missing or unknown, and that he is presumed to be Jewish. In our instance, it is clear that the father or mother is not Jewish.

Let us look at the possibility of using only the mother’s name. This practice is sometimes followed in the sheberach of the Torah service recited for someone who is sick. This was based by the Zohar on Psalms 86:16, and on the notion that God would have mercy (rachamim) upon a child because he/she had come from the mother’s womb (rechem) (see Otsar Dinim uMinhagim, “Mi Shebarach.” I am indebted to my colleague, Louis A. Rieser, for this reference.)

This presents a precedent for using a Jewish mother’s name alone, although it comes from a crisis situation rather than the normal course of events.

We, therefore, need to augment this solution. The most appro- priate path would be to utilize only the name of the Jewish parent. It would be wrong to assign a Hebrew name to the non-Jewish parent; that would further blur the lines of identity. Of course, if the non- Jewish partner converts, then a Hebrew name can be inserted into any existing document.

It would, therefore, be appropriate that the name of the Jewish partner be used, and that name alone.

Walter Jacob, Chairman CCAR Responsa Committee