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Archive for July, 2012


One of my small daily delights is reading an email called Jewdayo that comes out each morning by Jewish Currents editor Lawrence Bush. In it, he writes a brief summary of a person or event significant in Jewish history, that has a connection to this particular day. He usually closes with a quotation.

This morning, for example, I learned the origins of that famous song Jerusalem of God (Yerushalyim Shel Zahav). Surely you know it … the soft, almost mournful song about that majestic white city up on a hill. It turns out it was written by a famous Israeli songwriter named Naomi Shemer. She was born on this date in the Galilee in 1930.

What I especially love is Naomi’s explanation of how she wrote the song:

“The idea I started with was the Talmudic legend I remembered from my school days about Rabbi Akiva, who lived in poverty, in a hayloft with his beloved wife Rahel, who had been disowned by her father. As he plucked the hay out of her hair, he promised her that one day he would become wealthy and buy her a Jerusalem of Gold [a tiara]. . . . The phrase ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ suddenly shone in my memory as if to say, ‘Here I am,’ and I realized it would be the cornerstone of my song.” — Naomi Shemer

JEWDAYO, the Book, a date book with entries for every day of the year and lots of interesting illustrations, is available at the Jewish Currents Marketplace for $21.95, shipping included. Comment or read past Jewdayo entries at the Jewdayo Archive.  Or you can Subscribe to Jewish Currents.

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Here is a fun piece of news I came across today by the Israel Project, a nonprofit educational organization based in Washington DC and Jerusalem:

Within hours of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, U.S. gymnast Alexandra “Aly” Raisman already has attracted international attention because of the music she’s using for her floor routine: the classic Hebrew folk song Hava Nagila.

More often associated with bar mitzvahs and Jewish weddings, the 18-year-old from Needham, Mass. chose the piece to pay homage to her Jewish heritage and showcase her playful spirit.

Raisman’s powerhouse tumbling and technical skills led her to win the top spot at the Olympic trials July 1 and clinch one of only five spots on the women’s Olympic gymnastics team, alongside Olympic veterans such as Jordyn Wieber and Alicia Sacramone.

– By Dena Weiss, TIP Media Fellow

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(This is a continuing article from the blog post above.)

Here are some simple words of advice as you shop wedding officiants:

●    Never hire someone to officiate your wedding if you don’t like them as a person. Make come calls, and check your chemistry – and your gut! Do you like them? Do they seem intelligent and sincere? This is a wedding officiant; not an auto mechanic. Chemistry does matter.

●      I know you have questions for the officiant, but do you like the questions the officiant is asking you? I recently officiated a wedding for a couple who had met with another rabbi for the first time, to discuss their wedding. This rabbi apparently only had two questions for them in their meeting: A) How much money do you have? (Obstensibly because the No. 1 problem in marriages is money) and then B) How is your sex life? (That’s just so wrong … I don’t even know where to start. Save my incredulity for another blog post, I guess.)

●      Does the officiant treat your liturgical requests like something they genuinely want to provide? Or do they have the attitude that you are bugging them by asking them to depart from what they usually do, or act disapproving that you are departing from “tradition?” (Personally, I think life is too short and weddings are too important to get into all this.)

●     Will the officiant be able to communicate well with your guests, and in particular your parents, who probably care a lot about who their kids’ wedding officiant is?

●      Check the person’s references. I have a ton posted on my web page, and I’m always happy to give out email addresses of previous clients to anyone who asks.

Other Ways to Save on Your Budget

No one becomes a rabbi or a minister because they want to be rich. More than anything, we love working with people and helping them honor the major milestones in their lives.

At the same time, we also have to make a living. Ours is a precarious career that does not afford the protections many jobs provide: health insurance, retirement plans, paid sick leave.

If you find an officiant you like, but are hesitating over the price, take a simple look at your larger wedding budget and see if it is as “fixed” as you think it is. Here are two simple cost-saving ideas:

  • You can buy a hand-held chuppah for $250 versus renting a free-standing chuppah for $800-$1000. You can pay for the cost of your officiant just by using a less-expensive chuppah (and the hand-held ones, by the way, are beautiful!) Alternately, if your venue has an arch with flowers build into the décor somewhere, that can count as an arch, and that would come at no extra cost!
  • Reconsider your venue. There are beautiful venues out in Glen Mills that can be rented for $3000. That’s a far cry from the $6000 or $10,000 routinely charged in Center City. In fact, some of the most beautiful weddings I have attended have been the lower-budget varieties, including a few that were held in the backyards of friends’ homes.

I’m sure you can find more great budget advice out there, too. Those are just two easy ones that come to mind.

Good luck on your search. As we say in Hebrew, Hazak, hazak, hanithazek: May we all go from strength to strength!

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For more on Jewish weddings, please see some of my other posts:

“How can I make my Jewish or interfaith wedding unique, funny or even funky?”

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