By Chau Ngoc Mai, firstname.lastname@example.org
Allston-Brighton — 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 is 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 is 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 chuppah, 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 says: “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 hold high the plate, which is covered by a while cloth, and smash it.
Everyone gives a big cheer and wishes “mazel tov” (good luck) to the couple when the plate breaks in the third attempt.
“Now everybody, get ready for the chuppah,” the host said.
The chupah begins with a bedeken (veiling) ceremony, which is accompanied by light music in the background.
The bride sits on her special chair with her mother and mother-in-law by her sides.
Walking to his bride, the groom says: “I will cherish and respect you!” while lowering the veil over her face.
Following the bedeken is a procession down the carpet. The groom is escorted to the chupah first by his father and father-in-law. Then, flanked by her mother and mother-in-law, who are holding candles, the bridge is escorted. The escorts lock elbows with the bride and groom while leading them to the chupah in a slow moving melody.
When arriving in the chupah, the bride circles 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,” says Meyers, who organizes the mock wedding.
Like the tenaim ceremony, the chupah ceremony is also performed by a rabbi who recites a betrothal blessing for the couple before giving a cup of wine for them to sip. Then the groom gives a ring to his bride.
“With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel,” he says this in Hebrew while placing a ring on her finger.
An integral part of the chupah ceremony is the reading of ketubah (marriage contract), which the host says, is 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,” says the officiating rabbi who reads a short excerpt of the ketubah.
The chupah concludes with the groom breaking a glass. When the glass is broken, everybody exchanges hugs and dances together. A festive dinner follows the dance.
“This mock wedding is pretty much similar to the traditional Jewish wedding,” said Fine, who also directs 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.
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