The branch of Hasidic Judaism called “Chabad Lubavitch” was founded in the Russian Empire (in the town of Lyubavichi) in the 1770s. After World War II broke out, the center of the movement was moved to the United States — to New York City specifically.
The last official leader of the movement was popular rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose wife was the equally beloved Chaya Moussia “Mushka” Schneerson.
When Chaya Mushka passed away in 1988, hundreds of Hasidic parents — most located in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn — named their daughters “Chaya Mushka” (or some variation thereof).
According to he U.S. baby name data, the baby name Chaya, which means “life” in Hebrew, saw a jump in usage in 1988:
- 1990: 214 baby girls named Chaya [ranked 896th]
- 1989: 232 baby girls named Chaya [ranked 819th]
- 1988: 213 baby girls named Chaya [ranked 845th]
- 1987: 144 baby girls named Chaya
- 1986: 142 baby girls named Chaya
The same year, the rare name Mushka made its very first appearance in the data:
- 1990: 17 baby girls named Mushka
- 1989: 20 baby girls named Mushka
- 1988: 18 baby girls named Mushka [debut]
- 1987: unlisted
- 1986: unlisted
Here are some extra details about the usage of Chaya and Mushka from a 2011 article in the Jewish publication Forward:
- In New York City, “the popularity of the name “Chaya” surged shortly after the rebbetzin died, from about 100 girls annually during the mid-1980s to 150 girls annually during the early 1990s. It peaked in 2005 and 2006, with almost 200 girls named “Chaya” in each year.”
- One Chaya Mushka (b. 1988) mentioned that, at her Beth Rivkah school in Brooklyn, about 75 of the 120 girls in her grade were called Chaya Mushka.
- A Crown Heights matchmaker said that, currently, “almost one-third of the 200 women on her list of eligible brides are Chaya Mushkas.”
The Crown Heights matchmaker also mentioned that the name Menachem Mendel became extremely popular for boys after Chaya Mushka’s husband Menachem Mendel Schneerson passed away a few years later, in 1994. “In my son’s class, I would say about 90% [of the boys] are called Mendy.”
Indeed, the U.S. data reveals that Menachem both entered the top 1,000 for the first time and saw peak (relative) usage in 1994:
- 1996: 138 baby boys named Menachem [ranked 944th]
- 1995: 142 baby boys named Menachem [ranked 933rd]
- 1994: 164 baby boys named Menachem [ranked 834th]
- 1993: 83 baby boys named Menachem
- 1992: 105 baby boys named Menachem
P.S. Here’s a video about the many girls named Chaya Mushka:
[Latest Update: Aug. 2021]