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For the Erdsteins — longtime
members of Temple Emanu-El and
active Reform Jews — the wed-
ding, to say nothing of the pre-
liminaries, provided a firsthand
look at an altogether new face of
Bride and groom were not al-
lowed to see each other for seven
days before the wedding. They
had to fast for 24 hours before tak-
ing their vows. Brian and Karene
both dressed in white silk on the
day of their marriage.
Rabbi Leonardo Bitran of the
Shaarey Zedek B'nai Israel Cen-
ter in West Bloomfield explains
that such rituals are similar to
those undertaken in preparation
"But not in a morbid sense,"
he says. "(The traditions) make
you aware that the wedding is
important You want to enter into
a covenant as pure as you can
On March 15, Rabbi Bitran will
conduct the marriage ceremony
of Joel Rosenfeld and Amy Garon.
In this case, it is the groom who
wants to honor his Sephardic
"I think the (people in atten-
dance) will find it fascinating, be-
cause it's so uncommon. It should
be a beautiful ceremony," Mr.
While taking their vows, Joel
and Amy will stand under a chup-
pah. That's nothing out of the or-
dinary, but, as a less common
element, parents of the couple will
hold a tallis from Israel over their
The significance of the custom
— which is common among
Sephardim, but not exclusively
Sephardic — lies in the fact that
some Jewish men don't wear a
tallis before marriage. Rabbi Blinn
says that standing below a tails
during the wedding ceremony is
symbolic of mitzvot the man will
perform during hismarried life.
Mr. Rosenfeld also wanted the
wedding ceremony to include the
Shehechiyanu, the prayer thank-
ing God for allowing one to reach
a joyous occasion. Ashkenazic
weddings do not include the
recitation; neither do some
Rabbi Marc Angel of Congre-
gation Shearith Israel in New
York has written books on the va-
riety of customs within Sephardic
tradition. Many developed in far-
flung communities and were in-
fluenced by nearby gentile
"There's not one thing called
Sephardic — just as there's not
one thing called Ashkenazic," Rab-
bi Angel says.
For instance, weddings at
Shearith Israel (known as
the Spanish and Portuguese
Synagogue of New York) do not
include henna ceremonies. The
engaged couple doesn't fast.
The bridegroom doesn't wear a
kittel (white robe), doesn't put
ashes on his head and doesn't cir-
cle his betrothed beneath the
The ketubah, Rabbi Angel says,
is very simple and straightforward.
Nonetheless, certain other cus-
toms are performed without fail.
"We've been doing weddings
in our congregation a little over
340 years," Rabbi Angel says. "If
people want to get married with
us, they get married our way."
Whatever the differences,
most Jews would agree that the
messages underlying all Sephardic
— and Ashkenazic — weddings
are the same. Marriage is a
covenant between more than
"The Jewish wedding ceremo-
ny sees the couple as part of a vast
tradition." Rabbi Angel says. "The
bride and the groom have a rela-
tionship with God, with messian-
ic times and with the future of
Judaism as a whole." ❑
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