Determining Relative’s Hebrew Name
Our father passed away recently and we want to determine his Hebrew name for his tombstone. He was entirely secular and none of us know if he even had a Hebrew name. What should we do?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
I’m sorry firstly for the loss of your father. May the entire family be consoled over the terrible loss.
In terms of his Hebrew name, here are some of the best avenues to research:
(1) Ketubah: If your parents had a Jewish wedding, your mother should have had a marriage document which would record your parents’ Hebrew names. See if that can be located.
(2) Synagogue membership: If he or his parents were ever members of a synagogue, it might be possible to find membership records – and possibly even old birth or Bar Mitzvah announcements.
(3) Circumcision records: Usually a mohel (circumciser) keeps records of all his past circumcisions. If your father was circumcised once upon a time, it might be possible to contact the descendants of the mohel and see if his records still exist. Assuming you know the neighborhood he grew up in, it may still be known who were the mohels in those days.
If after research you are not able to turn up anything, then your father’s secular name, the one he used day-to-day, was his name for all practical purposes. That should be used for all matters of Jewish law – such as for his burial and for the marriage contracts of the children (Aruch HaShulchan E.H. 129:61).
I’m sorry again for your loss. See also this site if you need someone to say Kaddish for your departed father.