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Rabbis issue list of unseemly names

JERUSALEM — A group of Israeli rabbis has put together a list of names they say should be off-limits to Jewish children — including Ariel and Omri, the given names of Israel's prime minister and his eldest son.

Uttering the name Ariel is problematic because it could beckon an angel namesake instead, drawing down his wrath, they caution.

Omri — the name of an evil biblical king — should be taboo because of the highly negative connotation.

And naming children after dismantled Gaza settlements, like Katif, is another bad idea, they say, because of the controversy involved. Jewish settlers, who are predominantly religious, unsuccessfully opposed the withdrawal.

The rabbis' list, presented on an Internet site, www.moriya.org.il, also offers preferred names. (Note: This Web site is in Hebrew.)

Rabbis said they compiled the list in response to a flood of requests from parents concerned they may accidentally give their children names that could shame them for life. The rabbis have a significant following among Jews of Middle Eastern descent, who make up about half the Israeli population.

What other names raise rabbinical ire? All those that sound non-Jewish — such as Donna, Barr and Shirley. So do typically male names given to girls — like Roni and Danielle — as well as names that include the suffix or prefix "el," which means God in Hebrew.

But parents should be careful. Only those names with a very negative connotation, like Omri, should be changed so as not to risk traumatizing the children. Instead, parents can slightly alter their children's names to Hebraicize them, for example, changing Susie to Shoshi, which means "Rosie."

Concerned parents' questions also appear on the Web site.

"When my daughter was born, we called her Roni, but I was never comfortable with the name," wrote a woman who gave her name only as Liat. "Afterward I had a dream that it was not good to call her Roni. What should I do?"

"Change it," was the reply.

According to Judaism, names are very important and each person's soul has a designated name, the Web site explains. The names follow people into their afterlife and, while waiting at the gates of heaven, people must give their names.

Israel's Interior Ministry has barred the names God, Hitler and Bin Laden from being registered in its population files, said Sabine Haddad, a spokeswoman for the Census Bureau.