Archive for July, 2008

Great News! My article on planning an Interfaith wedding was published today on Ezine!


You might be thinking that planning your Jewish/Interfaith wedding will be all about the conflict – but you can create a ceremony that everyone will love. By focusing on the relationship, and choosing traditions and readings to honor both sides, your family and guests will love what you create.

Many of my clients begin their Interfaith wedding plans with strong feelings of fear and trepidation. They often fear their family members will not approve, and they are overwhelmed with fear of offending a single guest by their ceremony choices. But today’s Interfaith weddings can be crafted so that everyone not only feels comfortable, but honored, by your commitment to be fair and inclusive to both parties’ faith and heritage.

When a couple comes to me, most often, one of them is Jewish. They are afraid that if they include Jewish traditions, they will offend the non Jewish partner’s family. Likewise, a mention of Jesus could be just enough to send that Yiddeshe bubbe flying for the nearest exit! You CAN create balance, but in order to do so, it requires a lot of open communication and a little strategy.

The first thing I recommend is keep everything as close to neutral as you can. Keep the foreign language to a minimum, and try not to “name” your spiritual reference. If you can agree that you both believe in G-d, then that will suffice when invoking a spiritual presence.

There are a few major components of a Jewish wedding that most people want to include. The chuppa, the ketubah, the wine, and breaking the glass, are all traditional rituals that are meaningful. Incorporate these into your ceremony, and ask your officiant to go into detail to explain what those rituals are, and why we include them. The more you explain, the less alienated your non-Jewish guests will feel, and everyone will appreciate the time you took to make them feel comfortable.

For every ritual or tradition from the Jewish faith you choose – choose another from your other faith. A song, or a reading that invokes spiritual presence provides a beautiful balance. Incorporate a unification ceremony, such as a sand ceremony or unity candle. Readings such as the Apache Wedding Poem, or readings from Kalil Gibran also invoke spirituality, without isolating.

Choose an officiant who is highly experienced in crafting wedding ceremonies that reflect your backgrounds. Ask to see samples of ceremonies that the officiant has written, to see exactly how he or she blended the rituals of past clients, and imagine yourself sitting in the room listening to the wedding you are reading. Was it fair? Did it honor both sides? Did you feel embraced and included, rather than out of place? Most people don’t mind hearing something new – if you deliver it in just the right way.

I have found that the more I explain in a service, the more appreciative the non-Jewish guests are, and even the Jewish guests often learn something they didn’t know. Your parents will appreciate that you took the time to balance each side, and so will your guests. In the end, you will have a ceremony that focuses on your love, not your differences. Focus on the aspects that bring you together, and your guests will feel honored that they were asked to be a part of that. Stay true to who each of you are, and recognize that it is also your differences, as well as your similarities that make each one interesting to the other. When both are honored, conflict cannot exist.

Your wedding then becomes a celebration of your individuality, and the commitment you are making to come together as one. With tolerance, understanding, patience and communication, your Jewish/Interfaith wedding ceremony will be absolutely beautiful.


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“With Intention” recently posted an article about Jewish community…

This is a question I come up against daily. My reply is below

You have a great point, and one that I write about frequently.

I thoroughly believe that at one point, synagogues were vital to perpetuating Jewish continuity in the U.S. Today, however, I believe and experience daily that Jews are growing ever more dissatisfied with that experience, but developing their own ways to create the community experience.

We also need to ask – what defines community? Is it the number of people? Does it matter where they go? What do they go for? And if they can find “it”, isn’t that their community?

Technology allows us to be more creative than ever to finding our “communities”. I have a group of people I worship with on Fridays, and a whole other group for Saturday. There are those I find my intellectual equals, others I find are my social companions.

Community…What is it?

Just being together – wherever we are, whatever we are doing. If we’re being Jewish, in a group more than ourselves, it can be defined as community.

The really important factor here is…BE Jewish.

Cantor Debbi Ballard

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This morning, on Fort Lauderdale Beach, I had the pleasure of joining Kristin & Wendy together in their commitment to becoming life long partners.

Kristin & Wendy are beautiful women. I had just put a new advertisement out, and Kristin responded the following day. She and Wendy lived in Kentucky, and they were raising Wendy’s son, Cody, and they were coming to Fort Lauderdale for a week. They wanted someone who was spiritual, but not into all the fru-fru stuff, and they found me. Since they didn’t live in Florida, they really needed someone they could count on to make some other arrangements, as well – namely, line up a photographer, and some flowers.

So, the first phone call I made was to my friend, Desiree Wilcox, who, even though she was 8 months pregnant, immediately agreed to photograph the ceremony at 7:30 in the morning! Then, I wanted to buy the flowers from a gay-owned business, so I called Bobby at Petals Panache in Wilton Manors. Bobby did such a great job with the flowers, arranged to open the shop on Sunday so I could pick them up, and his willingness to go above and beyond for a relatively small order was so appreciated. And, the flowers were beautiful! He put just the right touch to the flowers, elegant, but not “wedding-y”. Thanks, Bobby!

So, we all met on the beach, and found the perfect spot. Right there, near Las Olas, was a little carve out, with a few trees surrounding us, and just enough room for us to stand inside. The sun was still coming up over the ocean, there was a beautiful breeze, and it was perfect. We included a sand ceremony, which came out beautifully. Kristin didn’t want rainbow colors, so I chose a cranberry and lime green color sand, then gave Cody a cup of sand from Ft. Lauderdale beach. The 3 of them combined their sand together to make a beautiful sand sculpture in a glass jar, and I hope they get it home the same way it looked when we were finished!

Afterwards, Desiree burned them a CD right on the spot, so they could take the pictures of their ceremony with them right away. It was a beautiful ceremony, and I am so honored to have been part of it. I’m so happy to be able to officiate a ceremony like this. To me, it doesn’t matter who you are, man or woman. When you love someone, you love them. You want to honor that love in a respectful, beautiful way, and i believe that everyone should have someone who truly cares about them officiate their ceremony.

I hope it was a memorable experience for them. Kristin & Wendy, you are both very special, and I thank you for including me in your special day!

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I just stumbled on a great site – www.shebrew.com, and there I found an article by Leslie Hershman, a Reform Jewish bride, marrying a non practicing Catholic.

It was so great to read her post, because this is exactly what I do in my practice when planning an Interfaith wedding. I’m much more concerned about the joy and celebration of the union, than being slave to outdated traditions that really don’t apply anymore. The philosophy here is to make everyone comfortable – to focus on the joy of coming together, and the honor of each person’s faith and traditions. In this article, Leslie chose those rites which were important to her, enabling her to incorporate special mementos of her Jewish travels, yet making her husband to be and his family feel richly satisfied.

The article is posted below. Leslie – all the best in your wedding! I hope it’s everything you hope for it to be!

Planning an Interfaith Wedding- The Ceremony

By Lesly Hershman

Getting engaged to a non-Jew poses the following question: How do I take a traditional Jewish ceremony and modify it to suit all the people involved?

First there’s me, a practicing Reform Jew. Secondly, there’s my fiancé, a non-religious man who grew up Catholic. Third, there’s everyone attending the wedding, a mix of religious backgrounds. We want everyone to feel connected to the ceremony, but we don’t want to lose the essence of Judaism that lies within the traditional ceremony.

Before shaping the actual ceremony, I realized I had a lot to learn about the Jewish wedding ceremony itself. I’d seen many Jewish weddings, but I needed to know what it all meant. I bought a copy of the book The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant to gain some perspective on the Jewish traditions. My friends cover to cover—and took notes! Understanding why each component of the Jewish ceremony existed was important to me, because I needed to explain it to my fiancé. I knew he would ask questions and look to me for the answers and I wanted to give him complete and correct information.

I learned that there are two main tenets of a Jewish wedding. The first is joy — because all of your friends and family come together to celebrate the union of two people. Everyone is there to relax, party, and have fun. It’s this essential part of a Jewish wedding that appealed to both my non-Jewish fiancé and me.

The second is unity; technically, the rabbi performing the ceremony isn’t even the one marrying the couple. The couple marries themselves through their vows. That is a pretty modern take for a ceremony with such longstanding history and tradition.

However, joy and unity weren’t always the focal points of a Jewish wedding. Not all of the aspects of the Jewish ceremony today started off with such a modern twist. Historically, the wedding was about the groom acquiring a wife, the notion of kinyan. Today, according to Diamant, most couples chose to make their wedding a, “sacred covenant between equal partners” or a brit.

Joy, personalization, and equality will be the key elements of our wedding ceremony. All three are rooted in Judaism, and yet can be easily explained to those with different religious backgrounds. From planning this phase, my fiancé and I moved onto planning the actual events of the ceremony.

We decided to remove references to Moses, since he’s only a key figure in my religion; we also decided against me encircling him seven times because the tradition felt very groom-centric. We’re planning on reciting the Sheva B’rachot or Seven Blessings as they were originally written in Hebrew, alongside an updated translation into English. The text we selected for our Ketubah (marriage contract) focuses on sharing a life together and building a home of mutual respect and appreciation rather the more traditional contract of vowing making a Jewish home and raise children Jewishly. We’ve even decided to add a brief Havdallah (ending of the Sabbath) service at the beginning of the ceremony because it’s my favorite time of the week; I’ve been saving a candle from Israel that we can use in it.

Personalizing our Jewish wedding will allow me to stay close to my traditions without excluding my fiancé. We’ll have a one-of-a-kind wedding ceremony because it will be about us, yet the same prayers that my great-grandparents uttered will be heard. It will be a perfect mix of something old and something new –now I just need to borrow something blue and I’ll be ready to walk down the aisle.

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The Invitation

An email friend just sent this to me – and it completely defines who the person would be – if I ever found that person in my life.  For now, this is the reason why I am so happy being by myself in this world, other than my kids, because anything else is settling.  We should all be able to define what we want so well, eh?
By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow.
If you have become open by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with JOY, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic or to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day,
and if you can source your life from ITS presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours or mine, and still stand on
The edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “YES!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and
bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the
company you keep in the empty moments

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Wedding at Broken Sound

Wedding at Broken Sound

Stacey & Bruce Wedding Ceremony

I love summer, because it is the season for weddings, and I’m so fortunate to have the privilege of working with so many amazing clients this summer. First, and most especially, I just officiated the wedding of Bruce & Stacey Herzer. This was another amazing couple, and I was very much in awe of their quiet, simple personalities, yet, these were anything but simple people. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone so smart, but incredibly relatable, down to earth, and easy to know. My friend Jerry had officiated at their friend’s wedding at Broken Sound, but because he was not up to taking a wedding at this time, he referred me to Stacey’s mom – Susan. Susan called me one day, to try to set up a time to meet, and it just so happened, she was going to be right around the corner from me, at the hospital in Hollywood, visiting Stacey’s Grandmother, Edith. So, we arranged to meet there, and because Edith was not well, I offered to visit her too, and say the Mishabeirach, the healing prayer, with her. It was at that moment that I really felt like part of the family.

Susan lives here in Boca, but Bruce & Stacey live in Raleigh, NC, and strangely enough, I was in Raleigh this past December, officiating the Greer wedding, and was able to get some time away to meet Stacey and Bruce in person. What great timing! They came and picked me up at my hotel, and we went to lunch, and this is where I fell in love with my newest wedding couple!

Stacey was just finishing her PHD, and works in the fascinating field of Genetics. Bruce is an amazing guy who wants to make a difference in the world by helping companies become more environmentally conscious. They are both the most wonderful people, with pure hearts and energies, and such a beautiful love for each other. I loved the moment when we were walking out of the restaurant to the car, to go back to the hotel, and Bruce was walking ahead of us, and Stacey leaned in to me and whispered…”Isn’t he SO cute?” He really was! And he loved her with everything he had, and she loves him just the same way. But, what I loved most is that they didn’t need to flaunt it. It just sat out there, so you knew it, without anyone having to demonstrate it. It’s hard to explain, but they were just so easy to be with, and you couldn’t help but love them.

The wedding was beautiful, and they were heading off to an amazing honeymoon adventure that I cannot wait to hear about when they return. I left feeling like one of the family, my favorite feeling in the world!

Now, looking forward to the rest of the summer, I have some adventures coming up. I haven’t traveled in a while, so this summer, I’m looking forward to the weddings of Michael & Larissa in the Bahamas, Evelina & Felix in Aruba (Friends of Dan & Rita’s), and will also be going to Mexico and San Juan, PR in the upcoming months.

Right here at home, I have the honor of joining Wendy & Kristin in a Gay commitment ceremony on Ft. Lauderdale beach, with their son, Cody. Then, in a couple of weeks, stay tuned as I tell you the wild and crazy story about Dana’s beach wedding with Dora the Explorer. Life is such an adventure!

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