Was Ira Jewish? #general


MBernet@...
 

In a message dated 8/2/2003 9:55:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
sallybru@... very gracious acknowledged an unfortunate
misunderstanding, in a previous message

<< Well, I learned something today. I have extracted many Polish and
Lithuanian records for different towns and had never seen the name Ira.
I didn't know it was a Yiddish name or a Hebrew name as various people
have pointed out-or that it was in the Bible.

She continues with:
However, it was certainly not a common Hebrew/Yiddish name in the areas
I am familiar with, and I would stick by the point of my previous
posting:
it was probably an 'American' version of some more common
Hebrew/Yiddish name made up for someone who never was in the US. >>

No, Ira has never been as popular a name among Jews as Isaac or Jacob.
Anyone not fully aware of the genealogy and history of that area can
certainly be excused for not knowing that it was recorded in the areas of
greater Russia (incl Poland and Podolia) as early at 1765.

Sally's last assumption that Ira "was probably an 'American' version"
is difficult to support. True, there was Ira Gershwin in America, but he
was Jewish. There have been some 19th century non-Jews named Ira who were
born in the USA, notably Ira Remsen, co-inventor of saccharine, and Ira
Frederick Aldridge, a Black actor famous for tragic roles--but he lived
mostly in Europe (and, coincidence? died in Lodz).

Ira became an "American" name only after it became popular with the
influx of Jewish immigrants >from Eastern Europe.

The Random House Dictionary lists Ira as "a male given name: >from a
Hebrew word meaning 'watchful'. That would be spelled with an initial
`ayin, not with the initial aleph as is the East European Jewish name
derived >from Uri. (Beider also gives an Ira with the `ayin initial.)

To claim that a Jew in Eastern Europe who was called Ira, and never came
to the USA, actually had a different name in the old country and that an
American relative simply "Americanized" his name to Ira, would be akin to
claiming that Michael could not be a Jew and is really an Irishman living
in Dublin, or that Sally's name must have been imposed on her
retroactively by a relative living in Salonika.

Ira was a Jewish name in Europe in the 18th and 19th century. There can
be no doubt about that. There is no need or reason to suppose it was
really an American name imposed retroactively on his ancestor by some
Jewish immigrant in the USA who couldn't think of a better name.

Michael Bernet, New York

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