Mind Your 'Manners'
Judith Martin provides the rules of etiquette
for weddings and other simchot.
ALICE BURDICK SCHWEIGER
Special to the Jewish News
udith Martin, better known as
Miss Manners, has been giving
etiquette advice for years.
In her latest book, Star
Spangled Manners (WW. Norton &
Company; $24.95), Martin recounts
how American manners have developed
since the days of the Founding Fathers,
based on the premise that "all men are
She also points out how these 18th-
century gentleman rebelled against the
European power structure, and made
the decision "to condemn hierarchical
Martin, who was born in Washington,
D.C., and mostly raised there, became
interested in manners at a young age.
book looks at
"My parents were history buffs and said
if you wanted to know what a certain soci-
ety was doing at a certain time, look at
their rules, so I started looking at eti-
quette," says Martin, daughter of an econ-
omist father and teacher mother.
"I was exposed to manners of other cultures because my
family lived abroad when I was in junior high and high
school. There is nothing like the contrast of cultures to help
you understand the behavior of your own society."
Martin's own culture includes Judaism, although she
describes her family as "cultural, not religious, Jews with an
interest in Jewish literature and song."
After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in
English, the etiquette specialist, who is married to scientist
and playwright Robert Martin and has two children, landed a
job at the Washington Post.
She has remained there for the past 25 years as a feature
writer, reporter and critic. The author of more than a dozen
books and a writer of a syndicated newspaper column on eti-
quette (which appears in the Detroit Free Press), Martin is
presently working on a book about Venice.
She recently talked to the Detroit Jewish News about eti-
quette for Jewish occasions and more.
Brownstein does not stop her narrative
at the times when wedding guests depart
the celebrations. There are considerations
beyond the weddings she deems impor-
tant to address.
"Love and Intimacy" reviews Jewish
doctrines related to sexuality. "The Week
of Sheva Brachas" explores the time when
a couple is treated to parties and dinners
before leaving for the honeymoon.
Mezuzot, kosher kitchens and memento
displays also are covered.
A glossary of Jewish terms, a list of
resources and a compilation of references
round out the book.
"I'm hoping that many of the old cus-
toms become new again," says
Brownstein, now working with a manu-
facturer to create her own line of Judaica.
"I find them very beautiful and won-
derful and are among the reasons I love
going to weddings and experiencing the
excitement of each
The fourth annual Bridal Open
House, presented by the
Community House in
Birmingham, provides prospective
brides the opportunity to meet
with bridal merchants and wed-
ding specialists 1-4 p.m. Saturday,
Feb. 22. Reservations required:
A comprehensive wedding
planner, "Jewish Weddings" is
illustrated with more than 200
color and black-and-white
Author Rita Milos Brownstein:
Xs you celebrate your special
day" she writes, "pa realize its
not yours alone. The customs and
rituals are part of the unbroken
chain of tradition that is the
Brownstein describes the
custom of "breaking the plate."
The plate is smashed by both
mothers-in-law to symbolize
the breaks in their relationships
with their children. The
mothers retain a piece for
themselves for good luck and
distribute the broken pieces to
unmarried women as a wish
that they may have a joyous
The book features the details
of several Jewish weddings,
including that of New Yorkers
Jared Fischer and Robyn
Finkelstein, a University of
Michigan graduate. Here,
Finkelstein is surrounded by her
bridesmaids, Amy Gallatin, Sara
Kleban, Jennifer Fischer, Emily
Nadler and Alissa Mark.
JN: Are there specific rules involving Jewish rituals? For
example, what if you are kosher and you're invited to a non-
kosher home for dinner?
JM: Someone's house isn't an airline where you can order a
kosher meal. Your family and close friends know you are
kosher and aren't about to put a ham on the table.
But you cannot order meals when you dine out at someone's
home. If you think you will have difficulty eating, eat before
you go and sit there and play with the food a little bit so it
JN: What kind of etiquette surrounds an interfaith wedding?
JM: It depends on the particular faith practices. If the couple
want both religions represented and they can find clergy that
will participate, that's what they should do.
As for the wedding invitations, I wouldn't put little crosses
and Stars of David on them.
`MANNERS' on page 73