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As dawn broke, the angels urged Lot on, saying, ‘Up, take your wife and your two remaining daughters, lest you be swept away because of the iniquity of the city.’

Still he delayed. So the angels seized his hand, and the hands of his wife and his two daughters – in God’s mercy – and brought him out and left him outside the city.

When they had brought them outside, one said to Lot, ‘Flee for your life! Do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away!’

But Lot argued with the angel, ‘Evil may take hold of me if I flee to the hills,’ he said. ‘Look — there is a small town nearby. Let me go there and save my life!’ The angel relented. ‘Go quickly,’ the angel said, ‘for I can do nothing until you get there.’

As the brimstone and fire then rained out of the heavens onto Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife looked behind him and became a pillar of salt.
(Genesis 19:15-26)

I confess, I have always had a certain affection for the woman in the Bible we know only as “Lot’s wife.” Any way you look at it, she got the raw end of a really raw deal.

For starters, she was married to a dolt — and even that descriptor is too generous when you look at just how incompetent Lot really was.

First, in Genesis 19:8, he offers his two virgin daughters to the men of the town to “do with as you please.” It is only thanks to the intervention of the angels that the young women are saved. Then, in verse 20, when the angels urge Lot to take his family and flee the city before it’s too late, he dilly dallies so long, the angels have to physically take his hand and lead them out of town.

Once outside, the angels urge him again to flee, and what does Lot do? He stands his ground and argues with them! “It’s too far!” he complains. “Can’t I just go to that town over there instead!?!” The angels acquiesce again, holding back the brimstone and fire until the family has reached safety.

Then, in a final act of irresponsibility, Lot fails to tell his wife and daughters the warning one of the angels had given him in verse 17 — that crucial piece of information about how, if they look back at the destruction, they too will be swept away. The text states clearly that the angels warned him — “al tavit achareycha” — in the masculine singular. These crucial words of warning were only spoken to Lot, not to the rest of his family. And Lot, being the kind of guy Lot was, never relayed them. We all know how this tragic series of events ends. Lot’s wife looks behind them and turns into a pillar of salt.

The question that has been occupying rabbinic commentators ever since is: Why did she look? Some have answered generously.

Writing in 12th century Egypt, Maimonides said Lot’s wife was looking behind her husband to see who might be following him, acting as a rear guard for all his household, who were hurrying to be saved.

The  late 14th century agaddic collection Midrash ha-Gadol says she felt concern for her married daughters, whom they had left behind, and she was turning to see if they were following.

Other commentators, overlooking the crucial fact that she had never heard the angels’ warning, concoct far more damning explanations. The 3rd century midrashic collection B’reishit Rabba said she had once refused to give salt to a poor person, so being turned into salt was a punishment ‘measure for measure.’

Jacob Chinitz, rabbi emeritus of Beth Ami Congregation in Philadelphia, now living in Israel, imagines that she looked back only to delight in the destruction of her townspeople. “She could not resist enjoying their failure and her success even though it was only her good fortune to be married to Abraham’s nephew,” the USCJ explains.

Good fortune!?!? Being married to this schlemiel was good fortune!?!

To my thinking, the question isn’t why did Lot’s wife look back — it’s why wouldn’t she!?

Here she is, the world literally raining down on her in flames, and her future, her fate is entirely dependent on this man who has proven himself paralyzed by indecision. And when he finally does make decisions, they are disastrously bad ones!

Lot’s wife may very well have been looking back out of concern for her other daughters, or out of sorrow at the destruction of the people she knew. We can never know because the text doesn’t give a clue about her inner life.

But what I do know is that I would have looked back — if for no other reason that to make sure we were on a safe path, that we weren’t being pursued, that flame and fire were not lapping at our heels. I would have not only looked back, I would have looked forwards and sideways too, to check, and recheck, that this course of action was the right one. To make sure my inept husband was not leading us into disaster.

When you are tethered, without recourse, to an unfortunate man, you can never be too careful.

I respect Lot’s wife for not following her husband blindly. I admire her for being cautious in a perilous situation in which she had no power. I love the woman depicted by 20th century American poet Shirley Kaufman, who offered this to say about a person so brave and so resolute, whom our history-writers never saw fit to even name:

But it was right that she
looked back. Not to be
curious, some lumpy
reaching of the mind
that turns all shapes to pillars.
But to be only who she was
apart from them, the place
exploding, and herself
defined. Seeing them melt
to slag heaps and the flames
slide into their mouths.
Testing her own lips then,
the coolness, till
she could taste the salt.

Original artwork by Charles Dickinson.


What has risen is the total number of Jews. Pew counted 6.3 million Jews this year. It also offers a second possible figure, 6.7 million, which includes children who are being raised Jewish “and something else.” This causes some confusion. Adults of Jewish parentage who practice Judaism “and something else” — usually Christianity, occasionally Buddhism — aren’t included in the Jewish population.

But kids — hey, you never know how they’ll turn out, right? So you can’t just write them off statistically. Experience shows that some will grow up to be Jewish.

It makes sense to use a working total somewhere in the middle, around 6.5 million. Up from 5.5 million. That’s an 18% increase in a quarter-century when America’s population grew 26%. We were supposed to be declining.

Here is an article that just came out in the Jewish Daily Forward (October 2013). Think it’s worth sharing!

Published Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pew Survey About Jewish America Got It All Wrong

With Flawed Comparisons, Study Reached Faulty Conclusions

By J.J. Goldberg

If you’ve been following the news about that new survey of American Jews from the folks at the Pew Research Center, you’ve probably heard the basics. The New York Times summed it up nicely: “a significant rise in those who are not religious, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish.”

There’s one more thing you need to know: It’s not true. None of it.

A “rise in those who are not religious”? Wrong. More Jews marrying “outside the faith”? Wrong. More Jews “not raising their children Jewish”? Wrong.

No, not wrong as in “I think there’s a better way to interpret those numbers.” Wrong as in “incorrect.” Erroneous. Whoops.

Mind you, most of what’s in the study seems solid, from what this reasonably informed layman can tell. It just so happens that Pew made an honest mistake in one highly visible spot, and that  is what grabbed the headlines. Then the reporters made a few mistakes reading the material. The result was what you saw: a dark portent of doom.

Take away the errors, and you get a very different narrative. It would go something like this: Despite decades of warnings that American Jewry is dissolving in the face of assimilation and intermarriage, a major new survey by one of America’s most respected social research organizations depicts a Jewish community that is growing more robustly than even the optimists expected.

Over the past quarter-century (it continues), the data show a community that has grown in number. Intermarriage leveled off in the late 1990s after rising steadily through much of the 20th century, and has remained stable for the past 15 years.

By some measures, Jews appear to be increasing overall levels of Jewish practice and engagement. Most surprising, significant numbers of children of intermarriage have grown up to become Jewish adults, far exceeding even their own parents’ intentions.

If things are so good, why do they look so bad? Simple. After calculating its data, Pew compared its findings with an earlier survey to see where things were headed.

Unfortunately, they picked the so-called National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, best remembered as a multimillion-dollar botch job. Its release had been delayed two years to allow two separate reviews by outside experts. The confidential reviews were devastating. This was not a useful data point.

A critical misstep in 2000 was a decision to set aside interviewees with “weak Jewish connections” and not bother asking them detailed questions about Jewish identity. One result was a falsely upbeat picture of Jewish commitment and practice. Another was the disappearance of most Jews who claimed “no religion.” You can guess the rest.

When Pew compared its findings with NJPS 2000-01, researchers were shocked to discover a huge increase in Jews answering “none” for religion. Pew’s total in 2013 was 22%. The records from 2000 turned up 7%. Conclusion: Jews were abandoning religion.

That should have rung an alarm. Fifteen percent of a highly visible and vocal religious community, three-quarters of a million people, quietly losing their religious faith inside a decade? How could that happen?

The answer is, it didn’t. For a reality check, go back to an earlier survey, NJPS 1990, which was highly regarded in most respects. Of 5.5 million Jews it found, 20% chose “none” for religion. Given a 3% margin of error, that’s the same as 22%. There’s been no rise. None.

What has risen is the total number of Jews. Pew counted 6.3 million Jews this year. It also offers a second possible figure, 6.7 million, which includes children who are being raised Jewish “and something else.” This causes some confusion. Adults of Jewish parentage who practice Judaism “and something else” — usually Christianity, occasionally Buddhism — aren’t included in the Jewish population.

But kids — hey, you never know how they’ll turn out, right? So you can’t just write them off statistically. Experience shows that some will grow up to be Jewish.

It makes sense to use a working total somewhere in the middle, around 6.5 million. Up from 5.5 million. That’s an 18% increase in a quarter-century when America’s population grew 26%. We were supposed to be declining.

Also increased, surprisingly, are rates of Passover Seder attendance, fasting on Yom Kippur, Sabbath candle-lighting and kosher food observance. Some of the increase can be explained by the growth of the Orthodox population, from 7% to 10%. But that covers less than half the rise.

One of the biggest surprises in the Pew survey is how many children of intermarriage actually grew up to be Jewish. In the 1990 survey, 28% of intermarried couples said they were raising their children as Jews.

In 2013, a generation later, at least 43% of those children grew up to be Jewish anyway. And why not? In a world where half-Jews like Gwyneth Paltrow, Ryan Braun, Scarlett Johannson and Drake proudly identify as Jews, Jewish is cool.

It would be a mistake to see the picture as entirely rosy. Adult children of intermarriage who identify as Jews are split roughly evenly between Jews by religion and Jews of no religion. By contrast, adults with two Jewish parents identify with religion by a 7-to-1 margin.

This is significant for several reasons. Non-religious Jews tend to have a far more ambivalent tie to Jewish identity. They’re only half as likely to say that being Jewish is important in their lives, that they feel themselves to be part of a Jewish community or that they feel a special obligation to other Jews in need. Only one-third of those with children say they’re raising them as Jews.

On the other hand, if we know anything about the future, it’s that we can’t know the future. Back in 1990, only 28% of half-Jewish children were supposed to end up Jewish, yet nearly half did. Will the children of today’s non-religious Jews turn out the same way? Who knows?

Besides, we know a great deal about what non-religious Jews don’t do or believe, but very little about what they do. Nearly all the survey tools for measuring Jewish behavior describe religious rituals. Non-religious Jews obviously score low.

But we get hints, and they’re intriguing. For example: We know that as interfaith marriages grow in raw numbers, their children increase as a proportion of both religious and especially non-religious Jewry. That should increase the downward pull of non-religious Jews’ ties. And yet the proportion of non-religious Jews who fast on Yom Kippur has more than doubled since 1990, from 10% to 22%.

The lead technical advisor on the 1990 survey, the distinguished Brown University sociologist Sidney Goldstein, wrote in the 1992 American Jewish Year Book that with low birthrate, aging, high intermarriage and few intermarried couples raising Jewish children, “there seems little prospect that the total core Jewish population of the United States will rise above 5.5 million.”

In fact, he wrote, it’s “more likely that the core population will decline toward 5.0 million and possibly even below it in the early decades of the 21st century.”

Like I said: Whoops.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish New Year is upon us, making the time ripe for a wistful reflection on all those beautiful, stunning, heart-felt vow exchanges I had the pleasure of officiating and witnessing this past year in metropolitan Philly.

Do you have wedding coming ahead in the 2014 calendar year? If so, here are a few of my Favorites, for all things related to weddings. By the way, none of these places or businesses are giving me any “kickbacks” for endorsing them — they are, quite simply, my favorite sites and sounds for weddings in Philadelphia!

Drop me a line at Joysa@aol.com if you’d like information on hiring me to be your officiant. I specialize in Jewish and interfaith weddings, as well as secular/nontheistic weddings for couples coming out of any religious tradition.

#1: Best Philly Wedding Venue: Sweet Water Farms in Glen Mills takes the cake as most elegant. sophisticated, and yet tuned-into-nature venue of anywhere in metro Philly.

The former summer home of the infamous Grace Kelly, Sweet Water farm today acts as a winery, a small-scale B&B, and a rustic venue replete with an old-time wooden water well, a two-story farm house decked out in twinkly white lights, and rolling views overlooking horses, wild flowers, and a heated pool and jacuzzi.

The 50–acre historic estate features 14 guest rooms: three in the original 1734 Quaker farmhouse wing and four in the 1815 Georgian wing.  The original carriage house, greenhouse and caretaker’s cottage have all been transformed into seven guest cottages, five of which are pet– and child–friendly.

Other amenities for a perfect getaway are a swimming pool, outdoor hot tub, golf chipping range, nine-hole disc golf course, private massage room, fitness room, walking trail and a friendly family of horses, sheep and goats.

Check out their online photo gallery here, to get a complete picture of this beautiful property!: http://sweetwaterfarmbb.gracewinery.com/property/property.php

#2 Best Wedding Dress Shopping Online: BHLDN.

When it comes to shopping for that perfect wedding dress, you can’t do better than BHLDN. Their beautiful, flowing — and most important of all — UNIQUE gowns flatter every body size and can work with nearly every budget.

When it comes to wedding dresses, BHLDN has captured my soul. This Kauai wedding dress costs only $800 and is probably one of the most unique, imaginative dresses I’ve ever imagined walking down the aisle in!

While the form flows free, elegant details like intricate embroidery, an asymmetrical hem, and a slender braided neck ribbon with crystal button closure ensure this dress is anything but ordinary. Can’t you just picture it on a seashore wedding, walking barefoot in the sand?

This Lita Gown (below right) sells for a bit pricier at $2,400. But it is made of pearly beads that trim the edges of a gauzy, attached coverlet above a sleek dress of luminous silk charmeuse. Though not pictured here, a thin, self-tie string of silk at the nape of the neck ensures sleeves won’t slip off your shoulders.

The gown has underwire and bust cups, silk tulle and silk charmeuse shell, as well as a silk charmeuse lining.

*****

The company sells all sorts of other keepsakes useful for a wedding. For example, check out these beautiful, antique-looking gifts for the bridal party, as well as picture holders that could be used to decorate tables in a reception room.

This beautifully articulated  shining scallop opens to reveal a single pearl to hold the wedding bands. Handmade from silver, nickel-plated brass and pearl, they measure 1.5”H, 2.75”W, 2.75”L.

More decors can be viewed here: www.bhldn.com/the-shop-decor-keepsakes/.

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

For you unaffiliated students who do not have a synagogue home, there are numerous synagogues of many tastes and flavors that offer free or near-free services. Please don’t use “I’m not a member!” as an excuse to miss out on some of the most beautiful services and rituals of our tradition!

Putting on multi-day-long religious services is VERY expensive, especially when choirs are hired and they are paid respectable living wages. If you attend a free service, please consider writing a personal thank you note to the congregation that hosted you, and making a donation — however little or much you can afford — to help them offset their expenses.

 

 

Synagogues and High Holiday Ticket Availability for Students

Germantown Jewish Centre (Mt. Airy, PA) — www.germantownjewishcentre.org
GJC warmly welcomes students to share the High Holidays. For full-time students beyond college age, our suggested donation is $36 per person, but students can also make arrangements to pay what works for their household. Contact Nina Peskin (director@germantownjewishcentre.org). There will be four davenning options within GJC: Dorshei Derekh Reconstructionist Minyan; the main sanctuary service (“Charry” service); Minyan Masorti; as well as a “Kol D’mama” contemplative service.


Kol Tzedek (West Philadelphia) — www.kol-tzedek.org
All students are welcome to come to Kol Tzedek for services. There is no cost for tickets but donations are suggested/requested. There will be an opportunity for online donations.


Mishkan Shalom (Philadelphia/Manyunk, PA) – www.mishkan.org
All students are welcome to come to High Holiday services at Mishkan Shalom. There is no fee and no tickets required; you can just show up. Of course, donations are welcome and accepted!


Pnai Or  (Mt. Airy, PA)– www.pnaior-phila.org/find-us-contact-us
Pnai Or is the Jewish Renewal community located in Mt. Airy. Students are welcome for High Holidays! No tickets required. As R. Marica Prager, Pnai Or’s spiritual leader told me, “just show up with open hearts and an inclination to celebration.” The schedule and details for services will be on their website.


Or Hadash Reconstructionist Synagogue (Ft. Washington, PA) — www.orhadash.com
All students are welcome to attend High Holiday services free of charge. Call or e-mail Laurie at 215-283-0276 or Office@OrHadash.com.


Congregation Beth Israel (Media, PA) – http://bethisraelmedia.org
Congregation Beth Israel is happy to welcome students for its High Holiday services. There is no cost for students but donations are requested.


New – Tikkun Olam Havurah
All students are welcome to participate in these services. This is a new/emerging havurah that will be led by Rabbi Linda Holtzman (RRC ’79). There will be services on both Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. For more details go to their facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Tikkun-Olam-Chavurah/175989759247342 or email Rabbi Linda at rabbilinda18@gmail.com


Congregation Shireinu (Gladwyn, PA) — www.shireinu.com
Students are welcome any time, including for High Holiday services. No tickets or money is required!


This is the world’s greatest wedding engagement! Wouldn’t it be fun to work this directly into the ceremony itself, have the crowds separate to reveal an entire banquet area, chuppah, officiant waiting under a chuppah, the works? Engagement and wedding all in one!

It was would a lot of work to execute, and you’d need to have a pretty laid back couple and in-laws, but it sure would be fun!


imagesA few times a year, I am contacted by a couple looking to find two officiants to marry them, usually a rabbi, and a priest or minister of some stripe. The idea is such a complicated and multi-faceted one, I have written this blog post as a way of offering a fuller, “all you could ever want to know” on this topic.

If you are thinking you want two officiants for your wedding, let me start by asking a question back. Why? Why do you want TWO officiants? Your reasons matter, because they determine whether it is really worth the extra effort and expense of having two officiants.

A few things to consider:

* Hiring two officiants is going to cost you double the price of hiring one officiant. Why? Because you are hiring the time of two people, not one. Unless Daddy Warbucks is financing your wedding, this probably means you are going to try to negotiate prices with both of your officiants that is considerably less than what he or she would be earning if they were doing the ceremony on there own.

* From the officiant’s perspective, this creates a quandary, for both of them! Leading half of a wedding is actually MORE work, not LESS work, because it involves trying to coordinate with an unknown other person who may or may not be easy to work with. The officiant’s travel time is the same and their monthly marketing costs are unchanged. (Mine are over $300 a month, in case you were wondering!) It especially creates a dilemma if your wedding date is in a busy month, like May.

If, for example, I were to accept a co-officiation gig for May 8, at half my normal fee because I’m one of two clergy — and then I get a call for a typical one-officiant wedding on the same day — I’ve suddenly missed out on hundreds of dollars! This is very painful for your officiant because weddings are a hugely cyclical business. There are about 6 months out of the year when we don’t officiate any weddings at all (but we’re still having to pay our website advertising fees.)

* Fortunately for me, I don’t truly have this dilemma because the rabbinical assembly I belong to does not allow me to co-officiate. So, my short answer when people call and ask me to co-officiate is to say: “Sorry, I can’t. I’m not allowed to.” You will find this is true for a majority of rabbinical school graduates. This is why people often have a hard time finding the rabbi-half of a co-officiation equation.

Rabbis ordained in the Reconstructionist, Reform or Conservative movements are prohibited by their rabbinical assembles from co-officiating. (The reasons for that decision are another story). Such grads make up perhaps 80% of all rabbis in America. Orthodox rabbis make up another 15%, and they definitely won’t co-officiate (they won’t even allow intermarriage.) That leaves you with about 5% of ordained rabbis who even have the permission of their ordaining institutions to consider your request (regardless of their personal feelings on the matter).

Also, buyer beware. Every “rabbi” is not created alike. There are handful of rabbinical groups out there that are not respected in the field. They aren’t quite as bad as “Internet ordination” but their programs demand about 2% of what a traditional rabbinical college demands of its students.

Legitimate rabbinical programs to look for (which DO allow co-officiation) are Aleph (Renewal movement) and IISHJ (International Institute for the Society of Humanistic Judaism). Aleph and IISHJ grads are allowed to co-officiate and I can personally vouch for the legitimacy of their training programs. Contact the colleges and ask for a list of their graduates and their locations.

***chuppah2

Let me pause here and clarify a few terms: Co-officiation means having two clergy of two different faiths jointly conduct the ceremony. This is different from a simple interfaith ceremony, which has only one person officiating, but has both faiths being honored and incorporated in some way. Only about 5% of all ordained rabbis are allowed to co-officiate.

But many many more can officiate an interfaith ceremony (as the solo clergy member). Conservative rabbis still cannot officiate interfaith ceremonies (weddings with a Jew and a non-Jew), but Reform and Reconstructionist, Renewal, and Secular Humanist rabbis all can do so (their rabbinical assemblies leave it up to the individual rabbi).

So, in other words, you have many more rabbis to choose from if you are looking for a straight interfaith ceremony with only one officiant, versus trying to orchestrate a co-officiated two-clergy-person ceremony.

***

All that said, let’s get back to what you said you want: co-officiation. Let’s say you DO find a rabbi you like, willing to co-officiate. Now let’s get back to my question: Why do you need two people? If the goal is to have some Jewish elements in your wedding, then a savvy minister or priest, educated in pluralistic values, can create a genuinely interfaith ceremony w/o a Jewish clergy present. Alternately, if your goal is to just have a Jewish “figure” as part of your wedding, you can invite an elderly grandparent, for example, to come up and recite the Kiddush over wine. He would delighted by the honor, and you don’t have to pay him anything.

It works the same way in reverse. If you hire a rabbi to do your interfaith wedding, the right rabbi knows all the things to do to make the service comfortable and meaningful to both Christians and Jews. And, to compensate for the “official Christian presence” issue, you can invite a family member to come up and do a reading from Apostle Paul, Book of Corinthians, for example, to add a specifically theistically Christian flavor to your event, if that matters.

Why is Co-Officiating Difficult?

chuppahCo-officiating a ritual is tricky because you basically have two people trying to jockey the job of one person.  It is the role of the officiant to meet with the couple, present you with a variety of readings and ritual options, and then to let you, the couple, come back with your decisions. The variety of readings and options that I, for example, would give you to review contain BOTH Christian and Jewish traditions — as well as many secular readings on love and life. This is standard practice for any interfaith officiant who knows what she is doing.

In the end, this is what you are paying for when you hire an officiant — you are paying for someone who has combed the world’s literature and can offer you a wide range of options; you are hiring someone’s expertise and experience working in interfaith groups. You’re hiring a person who will be able to make every person in the room, no matter their faith tradition, feel “heard” and “represented”.

By adding another chef in the fire, you then have two people basically playing tug-of-war over who writes what section, who reads what section, etc.

* What happens if one clergy wants to do or say something that the other clergy believes will make part of the audience uncomfortable?

* What if one of the pair refuses to show their half of the ceremony to the other officiant?

* Who gets the final “read” or “say” on the whole ceremony? Do you really want to get involved in that, and NOT have the words and blessings of the ritual be fresh and be a surprise on your wedding day? (Most couples like that element of surprise and mystery.)

* If you ask each officiant to do a part, how do you ensure it flows together? How can you be sure that the ritual has a range of quiet, speaking and ritual, and that it doesn’t come across like chopsticks, words and rituals just piled on top of each other?

Conducting a wedding is like conducting a theater show. Would you hire a director to do Act I and another director to do Act II? Of course not. That would be just … odd. It could potentially be disjointed and jerky. … That’s often what it’s like to have two ceremony officiants.

Yes, a wedding can be done with two people and, sometimes it works, depending on the officiants involved. And, I’ll be honest, I’ve heard stories. Sometimes, it’s a nightmare.

Let me leave you with two ideas, which may or may not be provocative to you:

1) Trying to hire two people for a job that can easily be done by one person might be an indication that you don’t have faith or confidence in any one person you spoke with to do it right. If that rings true to you, then I encourage you to keep looking. There are people out there who are masters at weaving multi-faith ceremonies; I’ve seen it done, and I’ve done it myself.

2) Your desire for two officiants could also be an indication that you two, as a couple, have not fully processed how you are going to live a blended faith home together. If any part of that idea rings true to you, I implore you to go back and start talking about it, perhaps with a clergy person or a couple’s therapist, to facilitate the conversation. Your feelings need to be aired NOW, before the wedding day, and before the first baby comes! If you are both really solid and confident about how your family is going to blend your faith traditions, then I think you will feel much more comfortable hiring just one officiant.

More Than Just the Officiantpisa cake

One final thought to consider: Interfaith weddings are about much more than just who does the officiating.

When I get a call asking me to co-officiate — and then I find out the wedding venue is in a CHURCH, I confess, it leaves me slack-jawwed. A church? Are you kidding? Could you really not find a more neutral wedding venue than that?!? If your wedding is in a church, you’ve made the decision that your family’s primary religious identity (as a unit) is Christian — which is fine — but it also means you should hire a Christian to officiate your wedding.

The same thing applies to a synagogue. If you goal is to create an interfaith home, you should avoid having it at a synagogue. If you book in a synagogue, I would say your goal is not to raise an interfaith family. Your goal is to raise a mainly Jewish one, maybe with a few Christian holidays sprinkled in here and there that “Daddy” (or whomever) is technically celebrating. That’s OK, that’s your choice, but be courageous and acknowledge it from the get-go by hiring a rabbi to officiate! Don’t begin your married life with a bunch of mixed, contradictory messages.

Create a wedding ritual and wedding day that reflects the future home you intend to build together.

Here’s another way of framing the question: Are you sending your future children to Hebrew school or Sunday school? Because they both happen on Sundays, and you can only chose one. How you answer that question might help you answer what kind of officiant you hire for your wedding.

I hope some of this helps! Good luck!

And, if you have any questions, I’m always happy to talk these ideas over with people (at no charge), so just drop me a line.


Prince-William-Kate-Middleton-Preparing-Baby-BirthOh I so love this creative wedding processional, with all the bridal party dressed up to look like the different members of the royal wedding. Can you spot Pippa? Prince Harry?

What a fun way to get a marriage started! Do you have the guts to totally cut-up during your wedding processional?

Oh, lest we all get too hopeful, it turns out the whole thing was staged as a T-Mobile production. But hey, I’m still waiting for that cool, gutzy innovative couple to come to me and say “Ya! Let’s ROCK that processional line!”