New York, Nu York: Sunday Weddings in Manhattan
I have not been to a wedding in a while, so when I heard that everyone and anyone was being invited to a triple wedding at Manhattan’s august Temple Emanu-El, I was eager to attend. Not the I knew any of the people who were “getting hitched” and not that I have a strong connection to Temple Emanu-El, a gorgeous, cathedral-like presence on 5th Avenue at East 65th Street, across from Central Park. I registered to attend because I had read about this wedding trifecta and was plain curious.
These were three couples, two of whom would not be permitted to have a Jewish wedding in a the state of Israel, and another couple that was dissatisfied with the monopoly of Orthodox Jewry over life-cycle rituals. Thus these six people came to New York City in order to have a public Jewish wedding ceremony.
One couple was a traditional but not Orthodox Jewish couple, Gali and Alon. One was a lesbian couple. Alona and Ori; the third couple was of two people who had been born in the former Soviet Union, Elizabetha and Valentine, and one of them had been questioned about her Jewish heritage. So they came to Manhattan and the general public was invited to be witnesses and join in the festivities.
This took place on Sunday, December 3rd from 11AM to about 12:30PM, and was preceded by speeches (fortunately not too lengthy) by a few people, including Rabbi Uri Regev of Hiddush, Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall, Rabbi Rick Jacobs of Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Aaron Picken of Hebrew Union College. I have been an admirer of Ms Hoffman for some time, and was glad to hear from her. In addition, six rabbis from Reform and Conservative synagogues throughout New York City officiated.
The ceremony itself was very nice. It began with a group of violinists who played an enchanting version of “Sunrise, Sunset” and then the Hebrew song “Erev Shel Shoshanim.” Then the three couples walked down the aisles of the sanctuary, headed to the bimah where one couple stood under a chuppah named “Equality,” another named “Justice,” and the third “Love.” (I suppose a play on the historical “equality, liberty, fraternity”.)
The couples read vows to each other and there were variations on this. The most touching was Elizabetha, who kept choking up (“I need a tissue, please” was her adorable statement) and then after the Mazal tovs were cheered on,, a small band played at the front.
And as we all filed out of the synagogue, we each received a lovely vanilla cupcake in a box– with a plastic diamond ring stuck in the center! What an unexpected treat and a wonderful cap to an unusual morning’s event. Now, I know there will be people who snicker at this wedding ceremony, and others who think it an outrage, a political stunt. They are entitled to their opinions. But I, as a curious onlooker, found it tasteful and intriguing.
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