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1000 Mitzvahs

My friend, Linda, is wrapping up a very important project.  I know I have mentioned her here, and she is certainly on my blogroll, but in honor of her 1000th Mitzvah, I needed to send out a reminder.

Linda, who lives in Portland, Oregon,  decided to perform 1000 mitzvahs in honor of her father’s memory.  For anyone who doesn’t know, a Mitzvah is a good deed – regardless of how big or small, but it is having an intention in your heart to help someone or make someone feel good.

Linda’s blog entry, as she reaches 1000 was about how she felt it needed to have something to do with food, because her father loved to cook, loved to eat, and loved to serve.  In her blog, she asked everyone, near and far, to consider making a donation to feed someone less fortunate, and I am echoing her request, because in these days, many of us forget that even though times are tough – they are tougher for others.  I certainly need to watch every penny I spend, however, today I remembered that I was fortunate enough to eat breakfast, and lunch. But certainly, in my town, there were hundreds of families who could not say the same.

So, in honor of Linda’s 1000th Mitzvah, I made a $36 donation.  Nothing big, nothing major, but the thought counted more than anything.  Now – I know that charity is not something that should be advertised, and I certainly want NO kudos for making my donation, but – I would like to ask everyone who reads this blog today, to please take a moment and help someone in greater need than yourself.

If you live in Florida, our local food bank is in dire need of donations. For $35, 2 families of four won’t go hungry for eight days, because they can pick up groceries at an emergency food pantry.  The link is http://www.dailybread.org/index.cfm/category/2/page/11/lang/en.html

If you live outside the area, please consider making a donation to your local Jewish Family Services or Daily Bread Food bank, or any other program that helps others put food on their tables.

Linda – thanks again for inspiring me to remember how fortunate I am.  Congratulations on your 1000th Mitzvah, and may your father’s memory be for a blessing upon this earth.

B’Shalom

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I got a DM on Twitter a couple of weeks ago from Liuba, at surviveweddingseason.com, asking me if I’d be interested in writing some tips for her website, and I’m super excited to say that my blog entry was published today!

Please head on over – not just to see my post, but to check out all the great information Liuba provides on her blog.  It is actually written to appeal to the guests of the wedding, which is a pretty unique perspective –

So, if you like what I wrote – please drop me a note – and Liuba, as well.  Or, if you like Liuba’s site – let her know that too.  I love supporting my peers through social media!

Thanks, Liuba!  Stay tuned for “What to expect at a Jewish Wedding”…soon to follow!

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Taking a moment..

I just looked at the date, and realized we are halfway through March, and I haven’t even finished blogging about February, yet.  March has already been a very fun month for me, as I just got back from spending a few personal days in Atlanta, and had such a great time.

When I came back from the Puerto Rico wedding, I quickly got ready for Leah’s Bat Mitzvah.  I have a friend who tutors children, and they were looking for someone to officiate the ceremony, so we worked as a team together.  It was really enjoyable, and the family was so much fun to work with.  The Bat Mitzvah was held on a Saturday evening, so we held a Havdalah service, which seems to be super popular these days.  It happens to be my favorite service, because I love including the contemporary Havdalah music and including everyone in the song and ceremony.  What great fun!  Leah did a great job, as did her sister, who also chanted from the Torah.  It was a beautiful night!

Just before the Bat Mitzvah, I spent a few personal days in Orlando as well, and saw my newest favorite musician, Matt Shenk.  He’s so awesome, and his music is at the top of my “most played” list in Itunes.  He is a master guitar player, has an awesome voice, and his words are so relatable!  Check him out at www.mattshenk.com.

Last week, I had the pleasure of officiating the wedding of Micha and Sam.  I don’t have pics yet, so I am saving the blog story, but they were so adorable, I just had to mention them here.  One of the youngest couples I have married, they are also one of the most mature.  I can’t wait for them to get back from their honeymoon, so I can hear how their first week of marriage went!

This weekend, I am performing the wedding for Annie & Greg. Annie is working incredibly hard at pulling off her wedding on a tight budget, and I think she has done an amazing job.  I can’t wait to see the result of her efforts.

I am also performing a Baby Naming for Mason and Emily, Sage and Jonah.  This is the couple I wrote about last week, titled, A Baby Naming, For all the right reasons…I can’t wait for this beautiful event, and to meet these two lucky little boys.

Trevor is home, and in between, I’m going to try to spend as much time as possible with him.  It’s a busy month, and I am so blessed to be so busy!  And I count those blessings, every day…

B’Shalom,

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My friend Mindy just sent me this video, and I just had to share, just to share.

How many of us have been told “You don’t look JEWISH!”  I suppose I’ve always wondered what that meant, and felt strangely responseless upon hearing it, perhaps because I just couldn’t quite understand the purpose of the statement.

Here, Vanessa puts all of my feelings into words.  Yes, I AM JEWISH.  I am proud to look JEWISH, and if I don’t look JEWISH to everyone, I hope I am acting JEWISH every minute of the day.  Thanks, Vanessa.  You rock!

I met an awesome couple yesterday, amid my hectic day of Hebrew School and tutoring. Jason and Melanie had called me a couple of weeks ago, asking about a Baby Naming ceremony for their boys, Aaron and Isaac. An Interfaith couple, he Jewish, and she Catholic, they were looking for someone to perform an inclusive ceremony that would allow them the freedom to celebrate the lifecycle, pay tribute to their Jewish heritage, but without having to make the promise to raise the boys in the Jewish faith, as they were as of yet – unclear as to what path they would take in choosing a faith for their sons. They were pretty clear that somewhere along the line they would make the decision to choose – they just didn’t know which they would choose, and once they did, how they would engage their fairly strong minded families in their choice. Certainly, they saw this choice as a distinct possibility of alienating someone – they just couldn’t predict who.

A common situation these days, especially in my life, I am once again reminded why I do what I do. This couple is on the proverbial fence. The strongest outward presence faith plays in each of their lives are the celebrations and rituals of their past. Neither subscribes particularly to a specific faith today, however, given the events of their lives over the last few years, I am confident they both share a very special relationship with G-d.

Shortly after their wedding, Melanie was diagnosed with cancer.

She is young, vibrant, and beautiful, and she and Jason should have just begun their carefree happy life together, getting to know each other and experiencing life as a married couple. But instead, they were thrust into a life of challenges neither of them could ever have predicted, and traveling a very scary road ahead.

With several treatments left to endure, Melanie was in menopause. She was not sure if she would ever experience the joy of having a child, so she and Jason began to consider adoption. Only a few months later, as Melanie was completing her treatments, she received a phone call telling her that a child had been located for she and Jason. Thrilled, they quickly went through the adoption process with Aaron, and were so incredibly happy to be parents. While there were certainly unknown challenges ahead, they embraced the gift they received, and Aaron was home with them, and they began a new life as a family, and a road to recovery.

Shortly after Aaron’s adoption, Melanie and jason were at her sister’s son’s Baptism. The Deacon performing the Baptism had asked everyone in the ceremony if anyone wanted to be blessed with his special cross. Melanie came forward, hopeful for all possible blessings of healing, and the Deacon said “I just want to let you know, many women who receive this blessing find they become pregnant.” Melanie knew inside this couldn’t be possible, as she had just come out of menopause after her treatments, and doctors told her there was a slim – to no chance that she would get pregnant for years, if ever, as a result of her treatment.

A month later, Melanie wasn’t feeling well. She was clumsy, and tired, and just didn’t feel right. Afraid for her health, she spoke to the Oncologist – who recommended a pregnancy test, just to rule out what small possibility existed. She sent Jason out to buy a pregnancy test, and he brought home 3! Unable to believe the positive results – she bought 5 more tests, and – MORE POSITIVE. Melanie was pregnant! A miracle!

Today, Melanie is 3 years into a Cancer-free life, with 2 amazingly beautiful little boys, Aaron and Isaac, 19 months and 7 months. Both boys have been baptized. Now, they want to give Hebrew names to their children, and I am performing their naming ceremony next weekend. Many Rabbis refused to perform the Naming ceremony, unless they made a promise to raise the boys Jewish, with full exclusion of any Catholic education. Jewish doors closed. Catholic church doors open. What is a liberal, inclusive, open minded and open hearted Cantor to do?

No question in my mind – perform the ceremony, with love, passion, and hope that Aaron and Isaac will know the beauty of the Jewish faith. Based on this family’s history, I am sure that each child will grow up with the core values of faith – love, charity, honestly, good will toward men, the value of education, and a life lived properly in the eyes of God. This is a family who will choose NOT to be faith-less, but faith-full, and I want to make sure that a door remains widely open for them to know Judaism. The alternative is unthinkable to me.

I know that Melanie and Jason have considered far deeper issues in the last 18 months than the religion of their children. I know they value every day they have together, and the gift of children, and a family is the greatest blessing ever. I know they will make right choices for their family, and for the boys. It is not my place to judge this amazing family. It is only mine to give the gift of my Jewish faith, my beautiful heritage, and my love for my G-d, who I know will watch over those boys, regardless of the faith their parents choose for them.

Melanie and Jason – it will be my pleasure to be such a special part of your lives.

B’Shalom

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Several months ago, I received a marketing package from Esta Asteroff, of MP Artworks, telling me about her clergy referral program.  I have to admit, I may not have taken notice of the site without it, but, after closely looking at her products and prices, I decided to begin recommending her site to my clients.

Several months later, MP Artworks is absolutely my favorite website not only for Jewish and Interfaith Ketubot, but for other wedding products as well.  (My clients love the glass products she sells, also)  Esta personally gets involved with each and every client I recommend, and every client I have had speaks incredibly highly of her.

In today’s economy, every couple should have an affordable, but beautiful, meaningful Ketubah, and MP Artworks makes it possible to have the Ketubah of your dreams.  Drop by, and let Esta know I sent you.

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Another Destination Wedding has come and gone, and this one went WAY too fast!

I know I say this all of the time, but I am just so fortunate in that every one of my wedding couples is amazing – but truly, Eden and Eduardo were such an amazing couple in so many ways.  It was such a great experience getting to know them, and to be such a special part of their most special day.

Eden & Ed live in Washington, DC, and they were referred to me by Rabbi Lev at http://www.interfaithfamily.com.  As soon as Eden contacted me, we both knew right away we were going to be the most perfect match, and we definitely had that assumption right on all counts!  Eden has one of those personalities that just comes right through the phone and you imagine that girl in junior high school who was just bursting with enthusiasm sitting next to you with a GREAT BIG SMILE on her face, and energy that would last for days.

Well – that’s EXACTLY what you got with Eden!  As I was writing notes about the feelings I had about her and Eduardo as we had our conversations on the phone, I kept thinking “earthy, warm, syrup-y, and sweet”.  Again – I totally had it right!

Getting to the wedding venue wasn’t quite as easy as forming the initial connection, but it was a fun and coversation-sparking adventure nonetheless.  They were married at The Villa Montana, in a small town, in the north-western part of the island, called Isabela.  It was about a 2 hour car ride from the San Juan airport.  Well, I was supposed to depart Fort Lauderdale at 6am (ick), but I just happened to check on my flight the night before, and found out that flight no longer existed.  I was sooooo upset, because they were having the rehearsal dinner that evening and wanted me there.  The flight I was booked on now left at 11am, arriving in SJU at 3.  That should have put me there for the rehearsal around 5:30.  Right.

As I made my way off the plane, I went to the pickup area, expecting to be met by a driver, but nobody was waiting for me.  (what a lonely feeling!!)  I called the hotel, and she began checking, and came back and told me the driver was there – but his van had just been TOWED AWAY, and he was trying to get it back.  After about an hour or more, he finally arrived to pick me up – and we were on our way – in Friday night rush hour traffic.  UGH.

At 6:30, I finally arrived at the beautiful little Villa Montana in Isabela.  Paradise.

This place had the small, intimate feel of a guest house, but was loaded with amenities and beauty.  I was immediately greeted by many of her family members as I was rushed to the rehearsal dinner on the beach, and there was Eden, and I just fell in love with her – as I knew I would.

BBQ at Villa Montana Friday night

That night, I got to know many of her guests, and met her family, as well as Eduardo’s.  Ed’s family is from Puerto Rico, and were the most wonderful, gracious, and appreciative family I have met in a long time.  I just knew the wedding would be amazing.

The next morning, I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Eden and Ed’s family and friends over breakfast on the beach.  We spoke for hours about Eden and Eduardo, their personalities, experiences, and their lives.  They told me incredible stories that really helped paint a perfect picture of my newest favorite couple, and I was able to create a perfectly blended, earthy, universalist-style ceremony that was a perfect match for their personalities.  We even re-wrote the words to The 7 Blessings, taking the religious language down a notch, and focusing on the meaning and appreciation of life.  It was quite beautiful.

Eden and Ed, Sister Sacha and Dad

Watching Eden and Ed before me, as I performed their marriage, was the perfect culimination of the experience.  Standing before me was not only a couple in love, but 2 best friends, laughing, touching, giggling, beaming, and kvelling together.  Knowing their closest friends and family were behind them, being witnesses to this magical moment, you could see the joy in their faces, and their hearts, as they spoke their vows to each other.

Certainly, the dinner party on the beach was also quite fun, and I had the most wonderful time with their friends and family.  To everyone I met at the wedding – thank you for making me feel SO comfortable, and welcomed, and thank you for helping me create another beautiful wedding.  Bob & Carol – thanks for the ride the next day to the airport, you are a wonderful couple!  Paula & Ira – thank you SO much for your hospitality – and Eden & Ed – Mazel Tov and Buena Suerte.  You are a beautiful couple that I will remember forever.  See you in DC in May!

Eden and Ed, married at the beach!

B’Shalom,

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