Jewish Women's Family Names: A Feminist Legal Analysis

Israel Law Review, Vol. 34, p. 560, 2000

40 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2006


As such, naming and the power of law must inevitably be intertwined. Moreover, matronymics were a popular choice of surname among certain Jewish communities, such as the Jews of the Pale of Settlement in the early nineteenth century. In addition, in most cases, the occasional matronymic surname did not entirely serve to entrench the name of a mother or wife in a generational family name. This article discusses the ways in which the Western patrilineal naming system worked to the nominal detriment of Jewish women. The family name, as we know it - hereditary through the male line - was born soon after the turn of the first millennium, in Europe. The article discusses the regulation of Jews' names by foreign rulers in the 18th and 19th centuries, pointing out their imposition of the system of patrilineal transmission of family names on Jewish women. The nominal experiences of Jewish women and non-Jewish women in modern Ashkenaz could not converge even as they became subject to the same naming laws. Note, for example, the effect of the (initial) institution of the patrilineal system of family name transmission on the Jews of Austria.

Keywords: Jewish Women, Feminist Analysis, Family Names

JEL Classification: K3, K39

Suggested Citation

Morgenstern Leissner, Omi, Jewish Women's Family Names: A Feminist Legal Analysis. Israel Law Review, Vol. 34, p. 560, 2000, Available at SSRN:

Omi Morgenstern Leissner (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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