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Choosing a Name For Our Jewish Baby

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Imagine this for a moment.

You are the creator of something completely new, special and unique. Your creation is about to come into the universe, and you are given the task of choosing the name. You have some ideas, but the moment to decide is rapidly approaching.

What do you do?

My heart skipped a beat just thinking back to the very first time I recall ever thinking of baby names. I was in second grade.

I was already over a year into a very serious relationship with a girl that I cared very deeply about and felt very close to (in case you were wondering, yes -- it was reciprocal). Anyway, we were so certain of a relationship lasting (spoiler alert: it didn't) that one day we were working on a list of baby names that we liked for our children.

It was an impressive list. On one side of the paper was a list of girls' names, in purple or pink, and the other side had boys' names, drawn in blue. I don't recall all the names on the list, but it grew over time, with her and I exchanging the list between each other like a secret note. I smile remembering how she would pass me in the classroom and, on occasion, whisper something like, "I like Jacob," just to remind me which way she was leaning if it was going to be a boy.

Those were the days. It wasn't so hard back then to think of great Jewish names for children. Playing House is playing House, but as a husband and a father-to-be, it was not as I had imagined it as a second grade kid.

When my wife, Ashley, and I were considering names for our daughter-to-be, we were faced with that big decision for the first time. We had talked about it a lot over the course of our relationship and discovered a lot about what names mean to both of us. We both shared deep connections with loved ones who had passed, but now that having our daughter was imminent, the question was whether or not we could come to an agreement.

Early on, Ashley was not shy to point out that there was also the child's Hebrew name to consider, which she said she was more than happy to defer to me if she could choose the English name.

Nice try, hun.

Of course she was only joking, but she knew this was going to be a big deal for both of us, and it was nice that she respected what value the Hebrew name would bring to our child. We also wanted to enjoy the experience and savor the journey we were taking together. So, we did like any good Jewish parents would do and started going through every Jewish baby name book our parents gave us, while adding our favorites along the way, Jewish or not. 

We zoomed across countless websites that poured over every detail and described every back story and origin for the name you could possibly think of. We talked to everyone, and I mean everyone -- I even polled my then-third grade class for their favorites.

Now, figuring out how Ashley and I were going to come together to make this decision was another challenge. After soliciting more advice, we went with an idea where we started in separate rooms and each wrote our own lists. Then we exchanged lists in the same room and circled the ones we loved, crossed out the ones we absolutely could not negotiate, and left the rest as options.

I confess that it took me much longer to draft my list than Ashley, because I think she already had her list in her head for a long time, but the plan worked. When we swapped lists, it was astonishing how close we were to agreement, and there wasn't one name that both of us agreed we had to have. So we went back and forth on a handful of names, all the way through our move out to the suburbs weeks before the delivery, even into July 4th weekend, which was more than a week before the due date. At that point, the only thing we were both in agreement over was to not decide until we met her -- whatever felt right among the choices we both liked would win.

Well, she couldn't wait to get her name, because on July 5, 2014, our daughter came into the universe healthy and with eyes wide open. In time (about 10 minutes later), we looked at each other, then at our daughter, and knew in our hearts what she would be called.

We introduced her to our families as Emma Bayla, named after my grandfathers Edward Silver and Samuel Edward Moffic, and Ashley's grandmother Barbara. Her Hebrew name, which we also chose together, is Adiya, meaning "G-d's Jewel." We couldn't be prouder and happier with our decision, though in a way, we believe she chose it for herself. This weekend she turns 20 months old, and happily squeals her name loud and proud, "Emma! Emma!"

As for our son coming in April -- well, that's a whole other blog.

Until next time, L'Chaim!

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