Letter & Spirit: Importance of a Jewish Surname

In this week’s edition of Letter & Spirit, in honor of Pesach, we present a letter from the Rebbe in which he underlines the importance of a Jewish name, and its fundamental role in our redemption from Mitzrayim. The Rebbe implies that having a Jewish surname is of significance as well. The letter was written through the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel, and was made available by the latter’s son-in-law, Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro.

This weekly feature is made possible by a collaboration between CrownHeights.info and Nissan Mindel Publications. Once a week we publish a unique letter of the Rebbe that was written originally in the English language, as dictated by the Rebbe to Rabbi Mindel.


                                                                                                                                By the Grace of G-d

2nd of Shevat, 5740

Brooklyn, N.Y.


Warwick Grove

London E.5 9LT, England

Greeting and Blessing:

This is in reply to your letter in which you write that you would like to change your surname to Davidson.

As you surely know, from the viewpoint of the Shulchan Aruch, there is a special significance to the given Hebrew name, but not to the surname, which could therefore be changed if desired. Especially in your case where you wish to change it in a way that would emphasize the Jewish aspect of it. Therefore, it is quite in order and may it be in a happy and auspicious hour.

The above has a special relevance to the Sidras which we have been reading lately, dealing with the golus and Yetzias Mitzrayim. For, as you surely know, our Sages declare that one of the merits of the Jewish people to make them worthy of the deliverance form Egypt was the fact that they did not change their Hebrew names, since thereby they not only preserved their Jewish identity, but also proclaimed it proudly.

There is no need to add that the essential thing is the everyday life and conduct in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch and I trust that your personal names, as well as your adopted surname, will always remind you of your obligations as well as privileges of being a Jew, a true son of our forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov.

With blessing,


The above letter is from a forthcoming volume of The Letter and the Spirit Series, two volumes of which have been published to date, with volume three coming out shortly, IYH. The letters are from the archives of Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, a personal secretary to the Previous Rebbe and The Rebbe, whose responsibilities included the Rebbe’s correspondence in English.

We thank Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro, director of Nissan Mindel Publications and the one entrusted by Rabbi Mindel, his father-in-law, with his archives, for making these letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.

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