Re: Alexander--and why it's not popular among Sefardim #general


In a message dated 9/9/2002 11:35:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
mpfreed@... writes:

<< The first name Alexander (usually in the Yiddish form of Sender),
after Alexander the Great, is not an uncommon Jewish first name.
Alexander lived in the 4th century BCE, before the division in the
Jewish world between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, yet, as far as I
know the name is only used by Ashkenazim. Can anyone explain this? >>

== Jewish tradition has it that after the victory of King Alexander
of Macedonia, the sons of all Kohanim born that year were given the
name Alexander.

Alexander Yannai (c. 126 - 76 B.C.E.) was a Hasmonean king (the
Hasmoneans were Kohanim). Alexander son of Aristobolus, d 49 BCE,
was one of the last Hasmonean (i.e. truly Jewish) kings of Judea.
Alexander (36 BCE - 7 BCE) was a son of Herod Roman king of Judea.
His father planned a number of times to have his son killed, and
Alexander was eventually executed at Herods order.

Alexander Lysimachus was a leader of the Jewish community of
Alexandria in the first century CE, father of Tiberius Julius
Alexander, procurator of Judea, and brother of Philo Judaeus of
Alexandria, philosopher and historian.

The so-called Sefardi-Ashkenazi "split" (actually, a very minor
divergence when compared to other splits in nations and religions)
originated with the Babylonian Diaspora, well before Babylon was
captured by Alexander of Macedonia. There were two ensuing sets of
tradition and custom, Bavli (Babylon) and Yerushalmi (Jerusalem).

Judea and Egypt followed the Yerushalmi tradition. The exiles >from
Judea took the Yerushalmi tradition to Europe and to Yemen. The Jews
of Iberia initially followed the Yerushalmi tradition but sent to
Babylon for their rabbis, teachers and sages, and so the Sephardim
(literally, "Jews of Spain") in the Western Mediterranean adopted
certain Babylonian customs. These were spread to the entire
Mediterranean basin with the 1492 expulsion of the Jews >from Spain.

Beider's first recorded Alexander as a Jewish personal name was in
the Rhineland, Germany, in 1096.

A few years ago someone in these pages suggested that Alexander and
its derivative Sander became popular among Jews in the Russian empire
at a certain point because a certain Czar by that name was relatively
less hostile to Jews than his fellow-czars. Possible!

As for why Sephardim don't call their sons Alexander . . . how many
Sephardim do you know who name their sons Irving or Sheldon? And how
many Ahkenazim call their sons Nissim? It's all a matter of taste
and tradition, I guess. . . . .

Michael Bernet, New York <mBernet@...>

WOLFF (Pfungstadt, Frankfurt/M, Koenigsberg, Amsterdam, N.Carolina);
(Schwabach, Hagenbach & Fuerth); KONIGSHOFER (anywhere); BERG, WOLF(F),
(Demmelsdorf & Zeckendorf); Shim`on GUTENSTEIN (Bad Homburg ca 1760);
FRENSDORF/ER (anywhere); MAINZER (Lorsch); anyone in Ermreuth or Floss;

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