New American Reform Responsa

117. Name of a Teenage Convert

QUESTION: The son of a Christian father and a mother who is about to convert to Judaism also wishes to convert to Judaism. When a Hebrew name is given to him what are the alternatives? Should he be treated simply as a convert or should the name of the parent, now Jewish, be included? (Rabbi Elyse M. Goldstein, Randolph MA)

ANSWER: Let me refer you for some of the references to a portion of this matter to, "A Hebrew Name for a Child with One Jewish Parent" (W. Jacob Contemporary American Reform Responsa #34). In that situation, however, we were dealing with a newborn child of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father; the status of that child was that of a potential Jew not a convert. In this instance, as the mother has converted to Judaism already and her son wishes to follow her, we should honor the relationship between mother and son by using the mother's Hebrew name. We cannot designate the natural father as he is not Jewish and so might mention no father at all. That is the path followed for example in a mi sheberakh recited for someone who is ill. Of course, this prayer is recited at a time of crisis. The other possibility would be to use the mother's name and then designate Abraham (ben Avraham) as the spiritual father as is customary with most converts. This would certainly be appropriate and should not be offensive to the father.

We should also consider the possibility of the father's later conversion in order to join the religious community of the rest of his family. If that is judged likely then it would be wise to simply use the mother's name and later add the father's name on occasions when the Hebrew name is used. In this way an even stronger family bond would be forged.

June 1988

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.