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Last Names

The newly released book “Remarkable Insights about Death and the Afterlife” is now available (as a paperback, hardcover and digitized version) for purchase and delivery on Amazon at or by sending an email to [email protected]Alternatively, you can call 054 849 5217 or 917 732 2371. This extensive and thought-provoking book addresses these questions and many more, providing transformative insights. With a collection comprising over 70 meticulously crafted essays, it eloquently articulates the Torah’s viewpoint regarding death and the afterlife. This work stands as an invaluable resource, facilitating readers in acquiring a deeper comprehension of this vital subject. It makes a great gift for friends, relatives, business associates and learning partners. Purchase it at

Some of the questions discussed in this book are the following.

What is the ultimate way to elevate the soul of one’s parents?
How does the death process rectify a person’s soul?
What profound life lessons can we learn from gravestones?
In what ways can the concept of reincarnation help us better understand life?
What is the idea behind davening at gravesites?
What will happen at the Resurrection of the Dead?

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לעילוי נשמת שמואל אביגדור בן יצחק מאיר

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

Please feel free to print some copies of this publication and distribute them in your local shul for the public, thereby having a hand in spreading Torah.

Last Names

For thousands of years, most Jews were called by their first name, then Ben (“son of”) for a male, or Bas (“daughter of”) for a female, plus the name of their father or mother. Jews are still referred to this way when they receive an aliya in shul, at weddings and when prayed for. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, Jewish last names started to become more widespread. Some wanted to recall the places their families had left. As family names became more popular across Europe in general, more and more Jews began to adopt them, often choosing names that referred to local landmarks or places. This process accelerated under the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II, who ruled much of Europe from 1765–1790 and forced all his subjects to adopt German surnames.


Here are some telling facts from Jewish last names. For example, כץ is an acronym for כהן צדק (“righteous priest”). Another common surname for a Kohen family is Kopshitz: Kop in Yiddish means “head” and shitz refers to the tzitz worn upon the Kohen Gadol’s head.


The last name סמוט, Samet is short for סור מרע ועשה טוב.[1] The family name בל, Ball, stands for בן לוי.


The Maharam Shik (1807–1879) remarked that he had a tradition that when his family left the dominion of the king of Estreich (Austria), they had to assume a family name. Since the family head was concerned about the problem with using a secular name (which the Kadmonim say), he chose as his family name the name שיק, as it is an acronym for the phrase שם ישראל קודש (“Jewish names are holy”).


Here are some other telling facts from Jewish family names. The last name גץ, Getz is an acronym for גבאי צדקה while מץ, Metz is short for מורה צדק. And the name זקהם, Zakheim is an acronym for זרע קודש המה while the name ישר (Yashar) stands for יחיה שנים רבות.[2]


Here is another interesting fact about Jewish last names: “-witz” is a German variation on a Slavic suffix “-vich,” “-vic,” “-wits,” “-witz,” or “-wicz,” which (-wicz being a Polish variation) means “son of,” “child of,” “family of,” “clan of,” etc. So, the last name Abramowitz means “son of (or “child, family, clan of”) Avraham” (with variations that include Abramovich, Abraham, Avraham, Abrahams, Abrams, Abramoff, Abramsky, Abramson, Abramzada and Ben Avraham), Itzkowitz (also Isaacs) means “son of Yitzchak,” and Jacobowitz translates into “son of Yaakov” (variations include Jacobs, Jacobson, and Jacoby). Of course, this means that Manishewitz translates as “son of Menashe” (the son of Yosef) and Horowitz as “son of Chur.”


[1] Tehillim 34:15.

[2] R’ Yechiel Michel Stern in his Otzar Hayedios, Volume 1, p. 204. Here are some interesting Hebrew roots to some anglicized first names: Suzannah (Sue, Suzy) from Shoshana; Elizabeth (Liz, Lisa, Beth, Betsy, Betty) from Elisheva; Anna, Helena, Hannah from Chana; Jessica from Yiska (the name of Sarah — Breishis 11:29, Rashi); Diana from Dina; John, Jonathan from Yonasan; Jeremy, Jerry and Gerold from Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah).


Writer of the weekly Fascinating Insights Torah sheet in Englishעברית ,אידיש and français
Author of Seven Books including the recently released “Remarkable Insights about Death and the Afterlife”

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