Shaloh House: a mock wedding at campBy Chau Ngoc Mai Allston/Brighton TAB Posted Aug 10, 2012 @ 06:16 AM
In her white bridal gown, Sara Yanovsk stood out among dozens of girls at the Shaloh House in Brighton. Everyone looked excited. Many of the campers tried to take a photo with the “bride” Sara and the “groom” Mariana Gubert before their grand wedding celebration started.
Sara, 8, and Mariana, 10, played the bride and groom during the annual mock Jewish wedding held by the Shaloh House as one of the ongoing activities for summer campers.
The cast was all girls between 3 and 12 years old, according to Rabbi Ilan Meyers, the Shaloh House’s camp director.
“The main purpose of this mock traditional wedding is to instill into young children the idea of family values and wedding customs,” Meyers said.
He said no one was getting married today but, “We need to tell children about the importance of having a family. The wedding marks a time in your life that you’re caring for somebody else, build a family and have children.”
The Jewish wedding, Meyers said, has many traditional customs and practices that were included in the mock wedding.
“We want to give them excitement, to make them happy about when they will get married,” Meyers said.
Rabbi Dan Rodkin, the Shaloh House’s executive director, stressed the teaching of Jewish customs and practices in the mock wedding.
That was also what Sara, Mariana and their fellow campers expected to learn from the event.
“We want to learn about wedding customs and laws,” the “groom” Marianna said.
As the wedding time approached, all the attendees sat quietly on the ground along a grand red carpet leading to the wedding canopy or chupah, in Hebrew.
“Today in the Jewish calendar is the 15th of Av. Today is a very special day in the Hebrew calendar because a lot of marriages take place,” said the wedding host Marion Fine at the opening of the mock ceremony.
“Boys get together and decide which lovely girl they want to marry. And the girls get together and decide which lovely, kind boys they’re going to marry. Today we have a special wedding here,” said Fine.
Following the introduction of the bride and the groom, the host revealed that the couple got together thanks to a matchmaker, who stood a few steps away from the groom. The matchmaker told how she set up the bride with the groom and arranged their marriage.
In Jewish culture, the host said, a tenaim (“conditions,” in Hebrew) ceremony, which represents a mutual agreement between the bride and groom’s parents, is held much before the wedding, but sometimes held on the day of the ceremony.
Officiated by a rabbi, the tenaim ceremony features the signing and reading of a tenaim and the breaking of a plate by the future mothers-in-law, which symbolizes the impending breaks in their relationships with their children, who will soon take responsibility for each others’ physical needs.
“This chosson [the groom] promises to look after his kallah [bride.] Now please mothers, come break the plate,” the rabbi said.
The bride’s mother said: “Just as the breaking of the plate is irreversible.”
“So should the marriage be an everlasting one!” the groom’s mother said.
The two mothers held high the plate, which was covered by a while cloth, and smashed it.
Everyone gave a big cheer and wishes “mazel tov” (good luck) to the couple when the plate broke in the third attempt.
“Now everybody, get ready for the chuppah,” the host said.
The chupah began with a bedeken (veiling) ceremony, which was accompanied by light music in the background.
The bride sat on her special chair with her mother and mother-in-law by her sides.
Walking to his bride, the groom said: “I will cherish and respect you!” while lowering the veil over her face.
Following the bedeken was a procession down the carpet. The groom was escorted to the chupah first by his father and father-in-law. Then, flanked by her mother and mother-in-law, who were holding candles, the bridge was escorted. The escorts locked elbows with the bride and groom while leading them to the chupah in a slow moving melody.
When arriving in the chupah, the bride circled her groom seven times before standing on his right side.
“Seven means completion, like the seven days of creation. Just as the seventh day of creation was the Shabbat, the completion of the world, so do the seven circles signify the couple’s completed quest for each other,” said Meyers, who organized the mock wedding.
Like the tenaim ceremony, the chupah ceremony was also performed by a rabbi who recited a betrothal blessing for the couple before giving a cup of wine for them to sip. Then the groom gave a ring to his bride.
“With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel,” he said this in Hebrew while placing a ring on her finger.
An integral part of the chupah ceremony was the reading of ketubah (marriage contract), which the host said, was a very long document.
“This chosson promises that he will work for, honor, provide for and support his wife just like a good Jewish husband should,” said the officiating rabbi who read a short excerpt of the ketubah.
The chupah concluded with the groom breaking a glass. When the glass was broken, everybody exchanged hugs and dances together. A festive dinner followed the dance.
“This mock wedding is pretty much similar to the traditional Jewish wedding,” said Fine, who also directed the event.
She said the kids come from a variety of Jewish backgrounds. Some are knowledgeable about the Jewish customs while others aren’t.
“We just want them to see what a whole Jewish wedding looks like,” said Fine, who teaches English and drama at Torah Academy, an orthodox elementary and middle school in Brookline.
This year, Gan Israel gathered more than 250 campers from Boston area in the four-week camp at the Shaloh House. They’ve built and launched model rockets, designed and programmed robots from Lego pieces, and competed in a fencing tournament after a week of intense training.