Re: The Hebrew name Sara and the Yiddish name Sura #ukraine

Prof. G. L. Esterson <jerry@...>

Joseph Laden posted as follows on the Ukraine mailing list:

"I'm sorry that you feel that my premise is in error
but experience shows otherwise. With just a basic
familiarity of Jewish naming practices one only has to
spend five minutes looking through photocopies of
original ships' manifests to see what I'm saying. I
invite you to do that. BTW, the name Sara can be
pronounced, as my grandmother did, Soo-rah, with a
slight variance on the "r". The point I made was that
Sure is also a possible phonetic spelling, but not one
that we would ordinarily expect to see, yet that was
the way she was listed on the manifest. Spelling
variations need to be considered when searching for
relatives. That's why the Soundex search with the
Ellis Island data is so useful."

There is a basic difference between names like Sara and Sura (both
transliterated >from the names written originally in Hebrew letters). Sara
is a Hebrew name, originally coming >from the Jewish Bible and is considered
to be a holy name, since it was written in the holy Bible itself. On the
other hand, the name Sura is a Yiddish name (written in Hebrew characters,
just as was the Hebrew name Sara) which Jews consider to be a secular name
-- and therefor NOT a holy name.

The language Yiddish, while very beautiful and expressive (called Mama
Lashon (Mother Language) in Yiddish) has never been considered to be a holy
language, but just another secular language like German, Russian,
Lithuanian, and other European languages (but it was OUR secular
language!). By Jewish law and custom, the Hebrew name Sara may never be
written in Hebrew in any form except the one found in the Jewish Bible,
while Jewish law has no limitations on how Yiddish names may be spelled
when written down -- they may be spelled or miss-spelled as you will.

And in fact, the Yiddish name Sura was a name which was used considerably
in Europe, and particularly in the Ukraine by Jews. In fact, this name was
a Yiddish name used with statistical significance in Ukraine, while the
similarly-pronounced Russian version of the name Sara was also widely used
(i.e., statistically significant) in Ukraine, as well as in Russia
itself. There are logical explanations for why we find certain name
spellings used extensively in archival records, and in the case of Sura, it
turns out that it *is* a name that we should expect to find in Ukrainian
archival data bases.

Thus, the *pronunciation* "Sura" could come >from several different
sources. This includes its having been written down by a Ukrainian or
Russian civil servant who *heard* the Yiddish name pronounced that way, but
wrote it down in Ukrainian or Russian letters, i.e., in
transliteration; this did not make it a Ukrainian or Russian name, but
rather a transliterated Yiddish name. Just as the Given Names Data Bases
provide Jewish given names in transliteration to English characters, civil
servants in European countries also used that procedure to make Yiddish
names more accessible to readers of the archival document which they were

I suggest that persons interested in exploring the above thoughts
themselves, should visit the JewishGen Given Names Data Bases web site and
search for the name "Sara" (without the quotation marks), using Global Text
Search, at the following web site:

< >

The inclusion (or non-inclusion) of entries in the GNDBs was based on
statistical analysis of the frequencies of occurrence of the names in the
European countries.

Professor G. L. Esterson, Ra'anana, Israel

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