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Friday, October 5, 2018

Name Given to Baby When the Father is Not Jewish

When a baby is born to a Jewish woman who has no man in her life (ie through IVF), or to a Jewish woman who is in a union with a non-Jewish man, the child is Jewish and is required to have a Bris Milah.

At the Bris, he is given a Jewish name - which is often a Hebrew or Yiddish name - and that name might be the same as (or very similar to) the name put on his birth certificate.

However, there is an added component when it comes to the Jewish name, and that is - as made quite famous from the Dwarves in "The Lord of the Rings" - a Jewish person is called by name, son of his father, on Jewish documents (such as a marriage Ketubah) and when called to the Torah. He is referred to as name, son of his mother, when we pray for him for whatever reason or purpose.

In an IVF case, the baby's father's identity is not known (it might be known within certain files, but his identity will likely never be known to "his" child). When the father is present, but not Jewish, he does not pass on Jewishness to his son. (For ADOPTION and SURROGATE cases, see the end)

So what "fatherly" name is given to this Jewish child?

Here are a few options (please note the Hebrew word "ben" means "son of":
1. None. He will be known as the son of his mother for all matters Jewish.
2. Sefer Minhagei Fiorda (quoted in Otzar HaBris Volume 1, in the footnote on page 360) - he can be called ____ ben Avraham, or ____ ben Yitzchak, or ____ ben Yaakov.  (A convert is typically referred to as "____ ben Avraham" or "____ ben Avraham Avinu" - but this child is not a convert, so he can be referred to as the son of any of the forefathers)
3. Alternatively (same source) he can be called ____ ben (his Jewish grandfather) - if the grandfather agrees.
4. The first time I did a bris on an IVF baby, the rabbi who was present told the mom she could give the baby a name from her ancestry - so she named him _____ son of (her deceased grandfather)

In Judaism we have a principle that "bnei banim harei hem k'banim" - that grandchildren are like children. Being an ancestor means you are like a "father" to this child.


In the case of surrogacy, if it is the father's genetic material, I don't think anyone would argue against the child being named with his genetic father's name.

There is a principle in Judaism that the (Jewish) father who raises a child who is not his natural child is considered as if he had fathered the child.

Therefore in both cases - adoption and surrogacy - the Jewish father who is raising the child can be the fatherly name given to the child at the time of his bris.

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