Jewish Dopers: Is my family overly superstitious, or what?

Okay. Here’s the backstory, for those who stay out of MPSIMS and chat.

Airman Doors (who isn’t Jewish) and I are expecting a baby this summer. We know the baby’s a boy from the mid-term ultrasound.

After some deliberation, Airman and I came up with the name Aaron Jacob. My mother had a bit of a senior moment and told my grandmother that the baby’s name was Aaron Justin (the Justin being my late grandfather’s middle name). Not a problem.

My first son was named Andrew Joseph. After contracting an infection during labor, he died at 39 days of age. Aaron shares his older half-brother’s initials. Suffice it to say, my parents and brother are aghast. I know that it’s against tradition to name a child after living relatives and relatives who have not lived a long, healthy life.

So, my question is this: Does this tradition extend to initials as well? Or is my family just being overly superstitious? Any input is welcome.


I can’t add anything to the discussion, so I’ll simply say “Mazeltov!” and move on.

One minor nit to pick, since I’m wondering:

Um, which is it? :slight_smile:

I grew up in a Reform household, married a Conservative girl, and have been fairly cognizant of Conservative practices during the last 100 years of our marriage. Our son is two and we never encountered anything at all about initials–names to honor the deceased yes, but initials no. Nothing authoritative here, just my experience. . .

I’ve never heard of prejudice against initials, particularly against the English initials. (Andrew isn’t a Hebrew name, and I’ve got no idea how you’d spell it in Hebrew. Jacob and Joseph do have the same Hebrew initial, the letter corresponding to Y.) FWIW, I’m Orthodox (from birth), but this might depend on your family’s customs.
Some don’t name after relatives who died young; my family isn’t one of them (I’ve got two cousins named after another cousin who died in his early thirties). Only Ashkenazim (Eastern/Central European extraction) don’t name after the living. Sefardim (pretty much everybody else - Spanish, Arab world, etc.) consider it an honor to the person named after, and it’s pretty common. A good friend of mine (descended from Egyptian Jews) has the same name as his grandfather, since he’s the eldest sons in a family that alternates names by generations - he’s Avraham son of Shmuel son of Avraham son of Shmuel…

StephenG: The baby’s name is Aaron Justin. Airman and I decided to change it because my mother’s flub came fairly soon after the name had been chosen, and we weren’t exactly married to Jacob. Aaron is for no one in particular; we both like the name, and it’s not a common name in either family.


There is a custom not to name a baby after someone who died young and/or childless. However, it appears in this case that you’re not naming your new baby after your previous child, but just after the same people whom the first one was named after. So, IMHO, not a prob.

(And since we’re talking about expecting babies and superstition…)

StephenG, the traditional “congratulations” for an expectant mother is b’sha’ah tovah (literally: in a good time). We save the Mazel Tovs for after the baby is born. :slight_smile:

Zev Steinhardt

Just be happy that your family agrees on a name. My father was somewhat upset that my oldest was not named after a certain relative. Of course, he didn’t know what the name would be until after we actually named her, and by then it was too late. (Observant Jews do not refer to a baby by name until it’s named at the bris (for a boy), or until the baby is named during services (for a girl).

He’s cool with it now, though.

First of all, Mazel Tov.

Second of all, I’ve never heard that the naming issue extends to initials. In fact, regarding naming after relatives who died young, it’s common to give that name and add another name to it so that the name isn’t exactly the same. My first son’s name came about just this way.

<< So, my question is this: Does this tradition extend to initials as well? Or is my family just being overly superstitious? >>

It may not even be “superstitious”… it may just be a distaste at having the new baby named similar to the deceased baby.

I agree with zev and cmkeller, never heard of intials as a superstition…

I find this whole situation to be amusing, myself. Maddening, but amusing.

There’s been more than a few harsh words exchanged over this. It’s more a case of showing us who’s in chage than anything else. She thinks she’s in charge (my soon to be mother in law, that is). :rolleyes:

Nope. We be the boss in this situation, and she doesn’t like that one bit.

Oh well. You live, you learn. I’ve learned one thing from all this-why people always talk about shooting their mother in law. :wink:

Okay, here’s my take:

In my family, the tradition is, indeed, to use initials. For example, I am named Lauren after my grandfather Leo, nothing but the “L” in common.

However, I think that though in my family, we use names with the same initials, it doesn’t go both ways. You child is named after who you want to name it after, and is not named after anyone else.

MsRobyn -

Although there is no specific rule regarding initials, I bet I can tell how this whole thing got started.

There is a tradition that Jewish children are named after deceased relatives. But in the U.S. in particular, there has also been a historic reluctance to use names that could be easily identified as Jewish, especially among Reform and more assimilated Jews. Combine this with a desire to give children names that are trendy or that the parents like, and you end up with a lot of kids named “in honor” of deceased relatives by being given the same initials. I myself am an example of this – I am named after a great-grandmother, but I only have her initial, not her whole name. I have cousins who were named the same way.

So, for example Grandpa Benjamin and Grandma Rachel beget children named Braden and Robin. I know many people who will give their name origin that way (“I’m Tiffany, I was named after my Aunt Talia,” etc.) Over time, some people have come to believe that the original tradition was to give the children the same initials, rather than the whole names, of the deceased relatives. And from there, it’s not a big jump to apply the rules about naming (don’t name after the living or those who died young), to initials along with whole names.

If your family is of the more assimilated variety, I’d say this is how the whole mess came about. Go ahead and name the kid whatever you like!

BTW, I’ve been following the two of you (three of you) on the boards forever, and I’d like to add my best wishes to all of the others.

Thanks, y’all. I do feel a lot better.

I am, however, reminded of a story that my mother told me about my own name. My great-grandmother’s name was Rose, and she was alive when I was born. My grandparents threw a fit when they found out my mom wanted to name me Robin. Same initial, and all, y’know.

That inconsistency, and the associated melodrama are what motivated me to ask the question in the first place. Of course, my mother doesn’t get to sign the birth certificate, I do! :smiley:


Zoikes! I think SpoilerVirgin is right on as to how your family may have gotten this misconception. (And yes, I am named Elizabeth for my great-grandmother Eva.) If we didn’t want to give our kid a name with the same initial as a living relative, we’d be stuck naming him Xavier or Q-bert or something.

For a while, we were toying with Fleance…


For a while, we were toying with Fleance…