Tag Archives: finding a rabbi in nyc

A Purim Babynaming – Queen for the Day

   One of the first weddings I facilitated, over six years ago, occurred on the Jewish holiday of Purim, a joyous and festive one.  The couple had met on Purim and wanted their wedding in Manhattan to be an outdoor rooftop celebration.  I worked with them for a few months leading up to  the affair and we grew to become great friends.  The wedding was wonderfully spirited and full of life.

Purim Babynaming

 
   Fast forward, six years, and they had moved from East Village to Long Island City to New Rochelle.  They now had an almost two-year-old daughter.  They wanted a baby naming ceremony for her and of course it had to be on Purim, which was March 12th of this year.
 
   We all gathered in their living room and I saw the family I had met six years earlier.  The little girl was happy to join in the songs and listen to her Hebrew name. We all said the prayers together.  
 

     Of course, a wonderful part of the holiday involves eating hamantaschen, pictured here.  We enjoyed delicious pastries in the shape of a  three-cornered hat.  That was the hat of Hamen, the villian of this story, who wanted to destroy the Jews.  The heroine was Queen Esther, who appealed to the King to save her people, and prevailed. 

 
 
     Witness the crown on the little girl who represents our modern day Esther, growing up to be a strong  woman.
 
     How lucky I was to share this Purim Babynaming and holiday with old friends and bring a little girl into the Jewish world.

How to Find an Interfaith Wedding Officiant in the New York Area

 
You are getting married.  You have been together and have made the big decision.  You come from different backgrounds or perhaps different countries.  Your family has accepted/made peace with the decision/ empowered you both/ or is very troubled.  Pick the option that fits you or add your own. 

Finding an interfaith wedding officiant

Now  the search begins.  As you may or may not know most synagogue rabbis will not marry an interfaith couple in the synagogue itself.  As an independent rabbi in NYC, I know that reform rabbis can at their discretion perform the ceremony in an outside venue.  Ministers generally will have an easier time than Catholic priests who often have to get permission to preside  outside of the church.  These are generalizations and of course there are many New York City officiants who don’t fit into these categories    If you know friends or family who have had such a wedding you should of course ask for recommendations. This is the single best way of knowing who you will work with since the couple is happy with him or her.   If you don’t know anyone from a personal referral on to the internet.

So now armed with your iphone, ipad, laptop, etc. you start searching the net for interfaith officiants.  It is important to check out their sites carefully, finding out how long they have been officiating, where they were ordained and of course what their philosophy on marriage and ceremonies is.  Hopefully you can see pictures of them in action and testimonials.  If any of this resonates with you both you should email or call the person and have a conversation on the phone.  That will tell you a lot about the person and also whether you are comfortable with what they say.  Are they willing to do a service that is creative and personal to you?  Are they comfortable to work with a co-officiant if your fiance wants the other religion represented as well.

Next step is meeting the person.  You should have an emotional connection with the wedding ceremony officiant.  After all, it is your wedding and you want someone who relates to both of you and listens to you.  Listen to your heart.  There are many people out there so you can interview a few but go with your gut feeling.  Make sure you have a contract that itemizes date, time, fee and is signed by both parties.  That way your date is reserved during a busy summer wedding season.  You should try and meet together a few times to fashion the service and be comfortable that it is respectful to both faiths.    

The picture below is of an interfaith wedding ceremony I performed in the beautiful island of Bermuda.   

Try and give yourself as much time before the wedding to do this search.  The ceremony should be the core of your special day and you want to employ the best person for you.   All this takes time and some effort on your part but is well worth the time.  I have officiated at many interfaith weddings the last three years and have helped to make the day magical to many couples. 

Happy hunting!

 

TESTIMONIALS FOR RABBI GLORIA

A Special Fall Foliage Wedding at the New York Botanical Gardens

     One of the co-officiants I worked with a year ago recommended me to a couple who planned their interfaith wedding ceremony to take place this past October. They had decided to make it a gorgeous, special wedding at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.  The colors were at peak in the area and the couple was lucky that they missed the beginning of Hurricane Sandy by one day.  They had lovely weather with temperatures in the 60’s for their early evening ceremony.

     The bride was an English teacher working on her doctorate  in English.  She worked with the other officiant and me choosing readings and music.  Being a former English teacher myself I was delighted to see a reading from e.e. cummings and a second poem of Shakespeare’s.  She even had an excerpt from the Book of Ruth set to music.  She had sung the very same lines herself at her cousin’s wedding.

     The night before at the TriBeCa Grill restaurant (owned by Robert de Niro) I met both sides of the family.  The bride’s family hailed from Charleston, South Carolina and it seemed as though every member from a few month old girl to an 80-year-old was present.  The groom’s family was scattered over the states and people from Michigan, and a number of other states made the trip.  The priest had been a long time family friend of the bride’s mother and so it was a family affair.

     The procession and recession were down a beautiful walkway of fall flowers.  The trees around the wedding site were shimmering gold and there was even an usual  fuzzy moon hanging low in the sky.  Picture perfect fall evening for this lovely couple who chose the venue due to their deep appreciation  of nature.

 

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The Wedding that Dodged the Hurricane

hurricane-wedding-1I met with a couple this summer who came from very different worlds but were determined to start a new life together. He is a PhD Virologist that was married and the father of three children. Now divorced, he met a lovely and smart lawyer whose family hailed from Israel and of course she was fluent in Hebrew. We met in the city and then I visited them in Sunnyside Queens where they were living, temporarily, before moving into a house on Long Island. His children visited them there, and I was impressed with the closeness she had with them and what an amazing father he is.

The wedding was set at his parents’ house in Point Lookout, Long Island, on September 4th.  All the preparations were made, including creating a chuppah on the deck and the backyard set up with tables for 50 guests. The living room of the house was used as a buffet station. It was a beautiful house that his mother had redone with her decorating skills.

hurricane-wedding-3All was set, except for the forecast which was calling for a tropical storm/hurricane, supposed to hit that day and the Long Island shore was potentially vulnerable. We were speaking about Plan B a day or two before, as this storm or hurricane was widely reported on the news and the beaches were closed. I even had to plan for a railroad trip out there instead of driving so I could make sure to show up.

Fortunately, the storm did not take the path that all were sure it would and the day turned out to be a picture-perfect sunny and low humidity winner. All went as planned and the best part was  that his two-year-old daughter, standing under the chuppah held by her grandmother, stole the show!

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An Intimate and loving June Wedding

June 21A lovely couple contacted me many months ago to officiate their wedding.  These two people were very interesting: she a lawyer with poise and creativity, he a college teacher who was originally a psychology major but now was completing his PhD in mathematics.  They had known each other for 17 years and seemed already married; they were extremely easy with one another.

We first met at my apartment in NYC and then it was my turn to visit them at their house in Long Island . I love these visits because it tells me so much of what the couple is about: the treadmill machine in the den confirmed they are both runners; and all the art work on the walls – she actually sketched the drawing for her chuppah. He had traveled through 42 states in the U.S, and she had toured around Europe.

Over wine and cheese we spoke about their life together.  She said her high school teacher advised her to “marry someone smarter than you and you’ll live a happy life and never be bored.”  She thinks over the years they have discovered that each of them is smart in different ways and their differences make them a stronger couple.  How wise.  The groom wrote that his bride to be is a woman who cares for him fiercely and gives him a sense of security the like of which he has never known.

The actual wedding took place on a picture-perfect day in June at a beach club on Long Island.  Seventy friends and family watched as I officiated the service that the couple and I had written together. A low-key, warm and welcoming ceremony, it was a true reflection of this wonderful couple.

A Greek Orthodox – Jewish Wedding Ceremony


The mother of a groom contacted me over a year ago from outside of Baltimore.  She was Greek Orthodox, and was experiencing considerable trouble
 finding a Greek Orthodox officiant to work with a Rabbi.  The bride’s family was Jewish and open to having both faiths represented.  The groom’s mother, having read my blog from a few years back about combining these two faiths into one ceremony, believed I would be the right officiant for the couple.

So, we started the “get-to-know-you” process.  The bride and her sister took a bus into NY in the dead of winter and we began to draft the service. Then, this spring, I traveled down by train to Baltimore to sit down with the families. We had many telephone conversations, all the while developing a warm and close relationship. 

Mothers of the bride and the groom

The Greek woman, a religious person, sent me links to Greek Orthodox wedding customs;  I read 50 pages of texts and, thanks to her, learned a great deal about their customs.  I was amazed to see the similarities to Judaism: in circling, wine drinking and treating the bride and groom as king and queen for the day.

I drove down to the wedding this Memorial Day weekend and felt like I had known these people for a long time.  The best man, or “kumbaro”  in Greek, did the exchange of crowns for the couple.  The crowns are joined by a ribbon which symbolizes the unity of the couple as royalty for the day.

I recited the Kiddish Scheckyanu and Seven Wedding Blessings and we said the benediction in both Hebrew and Greek.  It felt like a seamless ceremony and as the groom broke the glass the audience yelled Mazel Tov and Syncharintiria,  the Greek equivalent.  How wonderful to be able to be present in this moment in time for two special families who will be my friends going forward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Hip Brooklyn Baby Naming

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A couple called me to officiate the baby naming of their daughter who was celebrating her first birthday as well.  They lived in Brooklyn and selected a Russian bar named Karloff in Cobble Hill for an afternoon ceremony.   I met with them at their apartment and stayed to see them feed Eve, the baby.   She was an adorable little girl who loved the healthy vegetable puree her mother had prepared.

I learned some of the people for whom she was named were great grandmothers who had suffered many hardships and for whom family closeness was paramount.  One was the family matriarch who worked in a sweatshop on the Lower east side and was a player in the Yiddish theater.   They chose the name Eve for its simplicity and power.  The first woman on the earth and the one who gives life to all.  Her middle name was chosen in honor of her grandfather Howard who was a man with a ready smile and sense of adventure.  They already see evidence of these traits in Eve.

It was a warm and loving ceremony with all family members participating.  Rob, the father of the baby, used the tallit from his bar mitzvah.  A kiddish cup was used from a family wedding as well.  And they used an old Hasidic tradition at the end of the ceremony.  Family and friends were supposed to shower the child with candy and other sweets to symbolize their wishes that both the child and parents have a sweet life.   So, all who attended received a little bag of candy to take home.

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The Brooklyn bar setting at Karloff’s was intimate and contemporary at the same time.  The bar was beautiful and the waiters and waitresses accommodating.  Lunch was served with drinks, of course, and everyone was so relaxed and welcoming.  This may be setting a great trend as Brooklyn is now doing in food and community.

 

Thanks to Michelle Murray, photograher.  

 

 

 

 

 

A Salsa/Jewish Interfaith wedding in New York

 

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A good friend of mine, Harvey Averne, enjoyed a wonderful career as a multi-talented vibraphonist, band leader, producer and record label owner.  His best friend was Larry Harlow, who is a renowned salsa-music performing composer and producer. His mother was an opera singer and father a band leader at the Latin Quarter nightclub in NYC. Falling in love with the Spanish sound, Larry left to attend school in Cuba. He went on to produce over 260 albums for Fania Records.
latin grammy

Among his contributions to music was his insistence on creation of a Latin Grammy award.  In 2008 he was presented with a Latin Grammy Lifetime Award.

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Larry planned to marry a lovely woman who had first started coming to his concerts in Cuba when she was just 15.  She had been a runner there and has a striking face and athletic dancer’s body.  I was delighted to officiate the interfaith wedding for them.

We held the wedding ceremony in his apartment in New York City with a few close friends. I lent them my husband’s tallit to use as the chuppah. The bride was not Jewish (as Larry is) but wanted a Jewish wedding ceremony. They did the circling to all of us singing a Yiddish wedding song, recited the Kiddish Prayer and Shehechyanu and I did the benediction at the end. It was a very emotional experience for the people present; tears of happiness streamed down the couple and friends’ cheeks. We broke out a bottle of champagne and toasted l’chaim.

The moral of the story: It is never too late to find love in your older years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Country Club Co-Officiation; a Warm and Loving Interfaith Wedding!

     I was asked almost a year ago to co-officiate and interfaith wedding with a minister on the North Shore of Long Island.  A beautiful golf club, The Creek in Locust Valley, was the venue which had been founded over a hundred years ago.   The bride’s parents and grandparents were members and it was a place that had many wonderful memories for the family.  The minister was a family friend of the bride’s parents and was most anxious to work with me to create a loving seamless service.

     We met at the club, the groom’s parents apartment in the city and again the night before the wedding .   We were determined that all present (many of whom had never been to a Jewish service) would feel comfortable.  The minister suggested  reading from the Book of Ruth which had as its theme loyalty and inclusivity between Jewish and non-Jewish people.

     When it came time for the Hebrew Kiddish prayer over wine the minister handed the couple the wine goblet, read the English prayer and I did the Hebrew.  We complete the service with a benediction called Aaron’s Prayer- our hands were over the bride and groom crisscrossed so that we were a tight group.  It was truly inspiring.

     As I took the arm of the officiant for the recessional I felt the commonality of religions and people.  We truly had worked hard to make the service warm and respectful to both faiths.  The response from both Jewish and Christian people afterwards confirmed my feelings.  Nothing but smiling faces and loving wishes.

Interfaith Officiants in New York Work Together to Fashion a Wonderful Wedding Ceremony

Co-officiating an interfaith wedding

In the last year or two it has become common for interfaith marriages to involve two officiants working together to create a wonderful wedding.  The bride and the groom each wants to feel that his or her religion is represented and respected.

 I have worked with a number of priests over the last few years and always can call on one of them if the couple needs a Christian clergyman.  I make a point if getting to know them as people so our relationship is open and easy.

I usually take responsibility for organizing meetings with the couple and the officiant using my Manhattan apartment as a meeting place. When co-officiating an interfaith wedding, these meetings are key.  We discuss elements of each religion’s service and script the wedding ceremony.  We try and find commonality between the religions and make sure every concern is met.

As a rabbi, co-officiating with a priest is a magical experience.  During the marriage ceremony we support one another and even do the pronouncement and benediction together.

One example this team spirit is an upcoming wedding I will co-officiate with a priest this fall at the New York Athletic Club. This is an amazing coming together of interfaith officiants in New York for a magical wedding.  The couple, groom Jewish and bride Catholic, contacted me with the Catholic officiant already in place.  He was the priest at the church in the town her parents live and she knew him from that connection.  He also was active in the New York City community training priests as he had been trained.  

I contacted him and we enjoyed a lively and helpful telephone conversation.  Then I suggested the couple spend time with him to work out the aspects of the Catholic service they wanted to include in our ceremony.

When the time came for the meeting of the four of us, I hosted in my Manhattan apartment.  The priest was due to arrive before the couple; it is important that the two officiants develop this chemistry and commonality of viewpoint before meeting with the couple. In walked a tall, dark and handsome man in his 40s with a twinkle in his eye, and the co-officiation of priest and rabbi had officially begun!  We spent some time discussing the aspects of the religious service we would be comfortable with.

The couple arrived about 40 minutes later and we proceeded to script the service. Since the bride is a practicing Catholic she had fairly definite ideas of what she wanted included. We had to work with the language a bit since “Let us Pray,” as an opening of the service, would be foreign to any Jewish person.  We also decided to eliminate breaking the glass at the closing, as that would so obviously be a Jewish custom. We chose readings that would bring the two religions together and decided the priest and I would bless the couple together at the end of the service.

After about an hour of discussion we all felt that a respectful service to both religions was achieved.  We will meet again closer to the wedding to finalize details. That amount of work and dedication is vital to produce a personal and dual interfaith service. But there is no easy way to achieve it, and I am grateful for the couple’s openness and the priest’s hard work with me.  

It is so rewarding and so thrilling to experience this respectful blending of faiths. I can’t wait for the wedding ceremony, and the moment I walk down the aisle arm and arm with the priest.