We (and when I say ‘we’ I mean myself and my wife Nadia Lipes) have been asked for lots of times about the possibility to determine by the Family name of a person his attitude to Jews. Usually people ask us like this: «The Family name like…and here you can put any surname you wish… is it really Jewish? » And it makes us frustrated for a while. By differentreasons:
We are starting to deep to our memory and trying to find there if we really met this Family name in our researches. Sometimes it is easy. Because in some regions some surnames are common-wide and they are constantly in our mind. But sometimes it is hard to remember. Because we see so many Jewish Family names day-by-day while working with documents (sometimes each of us check up to 1000 Jewish Family names by day, because of making our own database) and if any person ask us some rare Family name it is quite hard to immediately say: Yes. It is definately Jewish.
To determine if any Family name is really Jewish, we need to know HOW the Family names were given to Jews, especially at the territory of modern Ukraine (yes, I know, it was Russian Empire long time ago)). We have done such an article already about Jewish Family names, and their origin and meaning. And if you read it, you’ll understand that the hardest thing is to give the right determination to the term Jewish Family Name. In fact, any surname could be Jewish.
So, today, I want to provide you some example. Everybody knows Putin. What? You do not know him? OK)) This is the President and Prime Minister (in other words, Tsar) of the modern Russia. And he is definitely non-Jew. None of his family or none of his ancestors were Jewish. And we understand that the origin of the surname Putin is non-Jewish ( in other words, it does not related to Jewish origin at all)
But, the fact is, that in Chernigov gubernia (Chernigov district of Russian Empire) there were Jews who had this Family name at the beginning of 20th century.. And the proof of it you can see on the picture, attached to this blog-post. On the picture is written:
«Putin Leyba Avramov Zelikov (son of Avram Zelik) — meshchanin (bourgeous, townsman) of Starodubov city…»
And in the next lines there is a list of a whole of his family, including wife and children.
So, in conclusion, it is worth to say, that of course, sometimes it is much more easy to understand if a person Jewish or not only because of his Family name. But this rule does not work constantly and you need to be very careful to determine this. Even because there is another problem (as it is called — from another side…) there are lots of the people with definately Jewish family names, but they are non-Jewish at all. But abotu this thing, I think, it would be better to say next time))