Contemporary American Reform Responsa

32. The Changing of a Jewish Name

QUESTION: A woman with two children has been divorced. She has now married another man. Her first husband takes no interest in her children, nor does he support them. The second husband has already formally adopted the children. Their last name has been changed to the new family name. Can the Jewish name also be changed to reflect the role of their new adoptive father? (Rabbi J. Salkin, Doylestown, PA)

ANSWER: This kind of a question arose frequently in the past when orphaned children were raised in a new household . They were considered legally part of the household (Isserles to Shulhan Arukh Hoshen Mishpat 42.15). Appropriate changes in legal documents, of course, had to be made in order for them to inherit from their new household. They had the right to say qaddish for their adoptive parents as well as their natural parents. The name of their adoptive father could be used in all documents (Isserles to Shulhan Arukh Even Haezer 129), although it is equally appropriate to use the name of the natural father. Occasionally a question has been raised about using the name of the adoptive father in a get; bediavad this was always accepted (Teshuvat Yehuda; Shulhan Arukh Even Haezer 129.9). Even the strictest authority simply added the word "hamgadlo" to the adoptive father's name whenever an occasion demanded its use (Nahalat Shiva 12.15). It is, therefore, clear that nothing would stand in the way of changing the name of the children to that of the adoptive father.

April 1984

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.