I am passing along a query on behalf of a friend who is researching the history of Jews in a town in Baden (Germany).
They have come across the following report: "Salomon Levy starb vor der Geburt seines jüngsten Sohnes am 22. November 1870. ... Der Knabe erhielt den Vornamen seines Vaters: Salomon ha-Levy." Translation: “Salomon Levy died before the birth of his youngest son on November 22, 1870 . . . . The boy received the first name of his father: Salomon ha-Levy.”
My friend believes that in the case of Salomon Levy, Levy would have been a surname, citing the circumstance that German Jews received surnames as of 1810. My friend is wondering: what is the significance of the “ha-“ being added to the name Levy? Why did the son receive “ha-Levy” instead of “Levy” as a surname? Is there a general difference between “Levy” and “ha-Levy” as a surname? Is there a reason why the article “ha-“ would have been added to the surname in order to commemorate the father?
Dana Hollander (McMaster University)