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Video lectures

Purim 2024

The Jewish Origins of Vehicle Names

A spoof lecture by Sarah Bunin Benor

We all know the Jewish origins of Nissan and Rav4. But did you know that Kia, Ford, Volvo, and BMW also have Jewish origins? Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, Director of the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, offers definitive linguistic evidence in this spoof lecture. For actual information on Jewish languages past and present, see For actual information on Jewish names and name changing, see this site.

September 11, 2022

​From Rachel and David to Maya and Ezra:

Trends in American Jewish Personal Names

This panel explores the results of a new study of American Jewish Personal Names, based on a survey with over 11,000 responses. Which names do Jews and non-Jews associate most with Jews? How do Jews of different ages, ancestries, and religious orientations vary in the names they select for their children and their pets? How have American Jews’ names changed over time? Who names their children after living relatives, and who has a “Starbucks name”? At this event, the researchers present their findings, followed by commentary from experts on names and American Jewish culture.


Sarah Bunin Benor and Alicia B. Chandler, authors of “American Jewish Personal Names: Results from A National Survey”



Aaron Demsky, Professor Emeritus of Biblical History, Bar Ilan University, author of These Are the Names - Studies in Jewish Onomastics

Rachel B. Gross, Assistant Professor of American Jewish Studies, San Francisco State University, author of Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice

Laura Wattenberg, Name Expert and Entrepreneur, author of The Baby Name Wizard

Event Co-sponsors:

HUC-JIR Jewish Language ProjectJudaism UnboundKveller, The Sholem Aleichem Institute, and Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry (ASSJ)

May 14, 2020

Jewish Surnames and Name Changing Around the World: Diversity and Unity

Sarah Bunin Benor

What makes a family name Jewish? Did immigrants change their names at Ellis Island? This session answers these and many more questions about Jewish family names. Participants will learn the origins and meanings of patronymic (father-based) surnames like Abramovitch, Isaacs, and Yaghobian; geographic names like Ashkenazi, Dardashti, and Shapiro; and profession names like Hakim, Melamed, and Fingerhut. They will learn about Jews changing their family names in the 20th century, especially in the United States. They will come away with an understanding of the cultural diversity and unity of the Jewish Diaspora.

Co-sponsored by HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project and JewishLive.

Esther Hadassah Starbucks name.jpg

May 21, 2020

Jewish Personal Names Around the World: Tradition and Creativity

Sarah Bunin Benor

From ancient to present times, Jews have given their babies Hebrew and/or local names, demonstrating both their Jewish distinctiveness and their integration into local societies. This lecture offers a glimpse into this history, from the ancient Middle East to medieval Cairo, from Renaissance Rome to modern Poland. Then participants will learn how these trends continue among contemporary American Jews. When Jews today select names for their babies, they are sending a message about their specific type of Jewish American identity. The lecture ends with an (adorable) foray into American Jewish pets’ names. When Jews give their dogs and cats names like Babka, Rashi, Ketzele, and Golda Meow, they highlight some aspects of Jewishness that are important to them.

Co-sponsored by HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project and JewishLive.

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