Recently a couple came to me saying they were getting married in a short period of time and asked if I could do the wedding. He was an Israeli-born man, living in New York and not affiliated with any synagogue. His wife to be was from California but lived many places in the world including a four-year stint in South Korea where she taught English. She was brought up in the Christian religion but did not practice. They had tried to find a rabbi to marry them but most had turned them down due to the interfaith nature of the marriage. They then chose the Ethical Culture Society in New York City which embodied their values to hold the service.
I worked with them, at home in my New York apartment to fashion the service and found out that the bride’s parents and relatives had embraced Fundamentalist Christianity. She said that they were really signed on to Judaism as the “Old Testament,” the Torah, was very important to them. They were familiar with all the stories and history of the matriarchs and patriarchs of Judaism. I thought this would be interesting to have Christian people so involved with some of the prayers I would speak about on the wedding day.
The groom had arranged for an amazing traditional Jewish ceremony that could harken back to the European small villages throughout the centuries. When guests arrived a Klezmer band was playing all the traditional Yiddish melodies. He had selected the family of the bride to be the carriers of the chuppah – one on each side of the four poles. They were grateful to have this honor. The Israeli family who flew in from Israel for the wedding did the Kiddish, Sheckyanu and the Seven wedding blessings. The mother of the bride delivered a Christian prayer and all were under the chuppah together.
The bride’s niece spoke to me before the service, a lovely girl of eight, who was all dressed up. She explained this was her first wedding, and a Jewish wedding was something she never expected to attend. She asked me who I was and I said I was the rabbi. She said “Where is your black coat?” I explained that was the tradition of very religious Jews and only men wore them. She was very excited to actually meet a rabbi and told me that she was going home in a day or two and was going to write an essay about what a wonderful experience she had at this wedding. Out of the mouths of babes sometimes comes amazing truths and questions!
I thought how beautifully the two families got along and I wished life could be seamlessly connected among different religions. I guess we have to settle for a few moments of beauty.