These are the names

Aaron Demsky, professor emeritus of Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, has dedicated his professional life to the study of Jewish names.

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October 17, 2019 15:47
These are the names

A JEW in Iraqi Kurdistan, 1930s. Demsky notes that Jews from such places as Kurdistan, Yemen and India did not have hereditary family names at all until they immigrated to Israel.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Without any preamble, lead-in or introduction, the book bluntly begins by naming names: “Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt; each man and his household came with Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.” Accordingly, the second book of the Bible, called “Exodus” in English, is known in Hebrew as “Shemot,” or “Names.”

Aaron Demsky, professor emeritus of Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry, has dedicated his professional life to the study of Jewish names – given names, surnames, Biblical names, Second Temple period names, Diaspora names, and place names mentioned in the Bible. Unbeknown to most of us, the study of names itself has a name, “onomastics,” and Prof. Demsky has made Jewish onomastics a recognized and widely respected field of Jewish history and social studies.

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