Ivanka, not Yael

Converts should be persuaded to change name, but if they refuse, court must convert without stipulating conversion on name change.

Mordechai Sones,

Ivanka Trump praying at Western Wall
Ivanka Trump praying at Western Wall
צילום: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

"There is no obligation to change the name of the convert in the conversion process," says Rabbi Yair Rosenfeld in an article he published in the yearly Techumin #37, published by the Tzomet Institute.

In the article, the rabbi presents proof that although changing the convert's name is rooted in ancient precedent originating from the time of the Bible, yet even during this period we find converts whose name was not changed, for example, Ruth the Moabite.

Similarly in the time of the Sages, they changed to a Hebrew name following their conversion, but also like the biblical period, there were those whose name was not changed, for example Queen Helleni, Onkelos the Ger, Antoninus, and more. From this it may be deduced that while the custom to change the name is ancient, it did not take root among the people of Israel as an absolute and binding practice.

The practice of changing the name of the stranger does not appear in the regular halakhah as part of the conversion process. This fact also supports the conclusion that we are dealing here only with a "tradition," and not with a binding halakhic custom.

Therefore, Rabbi Rosenfeld states that whoever converts to Judaism should be persuaded to change his name, but if he refuses, the rabbinical court must convert him without stipulating his conversion on changing his name.

This year for the first time on the occasion of the 37th issue of Techumin, the annual publication of Torah, Society, and State published by the Tzomet Institute will be available as a digital file on the Tzomet Institute website. More than 60 articles will be open to anyone who purchases an annual subscription to the site, granting access to all articles published until today.