October 20, 2018

Naming rites

What do you think of the name Esther? How about Lazar? Or maybe Yael? Or Noah?

My wife and I are expecting our first child soon. We’ve perused baby-name books and clicked through numerous websites and mommy blogs, all to find just the right name that’s unique but not too weird, traditional but modern — and maybe a little Jewish.

We’ve asked friends and family members for feedback. I have a list of possible names on my phone I pull up for anyone willing to scroll through it. We don’t always like what we hear. People associate names with people they’ve known. Maybe they had a high school crush on a Gabriel, so they like that name. Or they think Chaim is too hard for Americans to say (which is probably true).

There are thousands of names to give a child, which makes it that much harder to pick the right one. 

Growing up in the suburbs in New Hampshire with a name like Avishay Artsy, I know how a name can make you stand out. I wasn’t teased too much, but people did come up with nicknames: Ashtray. Aftershave. One substitute teacher even called me “Alf” — but that’s because I wore sweatshirts to school featuring the whimsical TV alien.

My name means “gift of God” or “gift of my father” (in Hebrew), but it’s also a reference to my father’s name, Yeshayahu (Isaiah in English). I was also born on the 17th day of the month of Av, which is written in Hebrew using the letters alef and vet for the month, and yud and zayin for the day — spelling Avizay. They liked Avishay better. The point being my parents put a lot of thought into my name, as well as those of my siblings.

Stumped and looking for expert advice, I called Mallory Moss, co-founder of