My Most Famous Baseball Wedding

What would you say about a Muslim Turkish bride marrying an orthodox Jewish groom on the balcony overlooking Mets stadium? Only in New York folks, only in New York as the New York Post loves to say. Beyhan the bride had come here to study for her MBA and worked at Starbucks to support herself. There she meets Michael the manager of the Starbucks and they start a relationship. He was most admiring of her independence to leave all her friends and family in Turkey and come here by herself to embark on a new life. He was also impressed with her beauty- both outside and in.

He had grown up in Long Island playing baseball and talking sports with his friends from the time he could speak. The first thing he did when he came home from school was log on to the Mets website to get the latest stats, scores or trades. As he grew older he and his friends followed the team to such cities as Pittsburgh and San Diego. This is one zealous fan. He decided he wanted to be married on the balcony overlooking Citifield and Beyhan agreed.

We wrote the service together, the three of us and one of Beyhan’s friends who is Ecuadorian, walked her down the aisle. Michael used a family Kiddish cup and all parts of the Jewish wedding ceremony were included. We found a wedding poem by the Arab poet Rumi that spoke about creation and Jacob and Joseph. Amazing what commonality one can find in different religious traditions.

They hoped for a picture perfect sunny day but it was windswept and rainy instead. That did not dampen anyone’s spirits and prior to breaking the glass we all yelled”Play Ball.”

My Most Famous Legal Wedding

What would you say if you were asked by the brother of the bride and groom to co-officiate with me? He is a lawyer as is the bride and her father. The answer was yes, you can, most definitely. I am of the mind that as an independent rabbi I will integrate those things that are most personal and important to the couple using a Jewish ceremony as the basic structure. A corporate lawyer used to standing up in front of a courtroom transferring his speaking skills. What a concept.

The bride’s brother had a good knowledge of Hebrew and was a natural in front of people. This involved much planning with all three of them and myself. I did not have an ego and felt great that this participation by the brother could make the service very intimate and meaningful to all in attendance.

First meeting involved the couple and myself- the groom having the most beautiful smiling eyes I had ever seen. The second meeting in a small corporate board room of a high-powered law firm atop a skyscraper in Manhattan. Besides the Sheckyanu the blessing commemorating significant first events in life, he wanted to recite the Kiddish, the prayer over the wine. What was most unusual was what the brother came up with for the Sheva Brachot or Seven Wedding Blessings. He wrote a modern interpretation of these blessings in English relating them to his sister and soon to be brother in law. That was truly imaginative. We met twice more in the corporate office and I wrote the ceremony up after that.

Tragically my husband of 30 years had gone into the hospital two weeks before the wedding for a heart valve replacement and ended up with double bypass surgery that he never came out of. The date of his death was the Thursday before the Saturday of the wedding. A good friend and colleague of mine covered for me but the groom wanted to come to the hospital and see me. He picked up the service I had prepared, hugged me and starting crying. I was so touched and have stayed friends with them to this day, almost a year after they were married.

My Favorite Greek Jewish Wedding

As an independent rabbi, I not only officiate at weddings of two Jewish individuals but interfaith couples as well. One wedding ceremony was an unusual and beautiful blend of two great traditions- Jewish and Greek. The bride from a family steeped in Judaism and the groom 1st generation Greek orthodox. The goal was to try and meld together the two backgrounds into one glorious ceremony. And it worked. I co- officiated with an interfaith minister who learned Greek prayers including the Greek equivalent of Mazel Tov.

It turns out that the Jewish ceremony honors the bride and groom as if they were a king and queen for the day. In the older Eastern European Shetls townsfolk would carry the bride from her home on a chair to the outdoor square where the marriage usually took place. She was treated as royalty and that is where the “chair tradition” comes from. The Greek, orthodox tradition which the couple did involves “crowning”- the bride and groom buy crowns filled with garlands. This stephana or wreath signifies mastery of the bride and groom’s home. The flowers represent romance and life’s sweet blessings. As they were crowned at our ceremony they are forever united as King and Queen.

The sharing of a cup of wine during the Kiddish with the bride’s family’s kiddish cup is another tradition common to both religions as wine is looked upon by Greek and Jewish people as a symbol of the joy and richness of life and the sweetness of love.

I would also like to share the ending of the ceremony which has commonality as well. My co- officiant offered the bride and groom honey and walnuts on a silver spoon signifying sweetness and fertility. Because the walnut can break into 4 parts it also represents the bride, groom and their 2 families. Under the Chupah or wedding canopy according to the Jewish religion the parents of the couple stand and witness the whole ceremony. This was a great honor for both families. And at the end of the ceremony the groom broke the glass which marks the beginning of the wedding celebration. It is a time to shout “Mazel Tov” and to appreciate the “sweetness” of this transformational moment. I also brought out how it can symbolize the breaking down of barriers between people of different cultures and faith which this wedding symbolized.

A loving and vibrant person, Rabbi Gloria creates positive energy for everyone she encounters. Whether creating Jewish or interfaith weddings, or conducting baby-naming ceremonies, she takes the extra time to consider the thoughts and dreams of the participants. Her clients feel she is part of their family! GloriaMilner@gmail.com