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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish’

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!

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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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I just read Rabbi Lev Ba’esh’s post over on www.Interfaithfamily.com, one of my most favorite Interfaith relationship resources, and was touched by how similar our experiences and positions are on performing Interfaith ceremonies.

Anyone who reads my story on my website, www.mypersonalcantor.com, knows that when I married Wayne, my Christian ex-husband, the list of available Rabbis to perform our wedding was a very short one, at best.  I can’t remember his name, nor do I have a good memory of him at all.  Looking back, he struck me as someone who would marry a cat to a dog, for a check.  Uninspiring, to say the least, but he certainly did not help the Jewish factor in my marriage, as my husband formed a strong impression about him, and related that impression to the faith, overall.  Bad mistake.

I can’t even begin to recount the numerous run-ins we had about how judgmental, critical, conditional, and exclusionary the Jewish faith was, which couldn’t be farther from the truth – but you know as well as I do, that perception IS 100% of our reality.  Sad.

Today, I, like Rabbi Lev, feel I have a completely different impact on the families I touch by my ceremonies.  Also, like him, I am more frequently approached by the Jewish guests than the Non-Jews, with comments about how much I taught them about their own faith.  As Jews, we learn to do and say very certain things, but never learn why.  We don’t learn the meaning in our lives, we don’t learn why.  Our traditions are beautiful.  The fundamental message of our religion is “Do the right thing”.  Read the words to the V’Ahavta – the prayer that follows the Shema, the most important prayer a Jew can utter.  The words tell us to love God, to speak of Him, remember Him, and take him with us in our hearts every day.  If we do that, we will surely make decisions that prove that we were made in his image.  We are beautiful people, with a rich, touching history, and being Jewish is a magnificent thing.  Unfortunately, too many people aren’t shown the beauty of being Jewish.

My ceremonies include lessons about why we do what we do, and what the meaning is in our lives.  I always try to relate a Torah portion or lesson from the Torah in my ceremonies, so everyone can take a piece of God home with them.  In this way, nobody feels excluded, nobody feels alienated, and even the Jews learn just a little more about our beautiful faith than they knew before.

The end result, hopefully, is that everyone who attended that wedding, or even Bar or Bat Mitzvah feels the beauty that eminates from Jewish lessons.  When a couple has decided to marry, it is not up to the officiant to judge that decision, but it is our responsibility to strongly and proudly represent our faith.  It is up to us to hold our heads up and take a stand for why this Interfaith family should NOT turn their backs on Judaism.  It is up to us to put being Jewish in their hands, however we can make that happen.  We should NOT try to force anything on anyone, but I just don’t see how strongly representing something so beautiful could possibly be looked down upon.  If we believe that God brings man and woman together, what gives Rabbis the right to second-guess his decision?

Jewish, done right, is a magnificent thing.  Judaism is the cornerstone of my life.  It is my road map to God.  It is my light that guides me, teaches me right from wrong, and holds me up when all else fails me.  Why wouldn’t I help someone else have that feeling?  We cannot be afraid as Jews.  We cannot run away.  We couldn’t run away in the past, and we must not run away today.  We must stand up proudly, and teach our Interfaith couples that Judaism is beautiful, and can be the light that guides us all.  Thanks, Lev.  You reminded me again how amazing it is that we have the opportunity to do what we do.  I am so grateful.

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What is a Lyceum, you might ask?

Well, Wikipedia tells us:

A Lyceum can be

The precise usage of the term varies among various countries.

But, for me, the Lyceum in St. Petersburg was the location for my most recent wedding, and it was so much fun!  A bit different from most, David and Katie’s wedding was a fun, sincere, down to earth, REAL, and beautiful wedding weekend.  I really liked them both when I met them in Aventura several months ago, and having spent time with their family this past weekend, I am so happy to have had the chance to work with them.  For starters, I left home early Thursday morning, and drove as fast as I could to St. Pete, and met them and their wedding party at the Mirror Lake Lyceum for the rehearsal.  Immediately after the rehearsal, David’s Dad hosted the bridal party, friends, and family at Cafe Aura, in downtown St. Pete.  I had the pleasure of sitting with Ken, David’s Dad, and his 2 sisters and brother in law.  They were a lovely family, and so sweet.  Lunch was delicious, but it was the ambience of this little downtown cafe that really hooked you!

From there, I had the evening to myself, and experienced one of the nicest evenings I’ve had in a while.  David and Katie had 2 hotels for their guests, the Marriott Courtyard and The Ponce deLeon Hotel, and they chose the Ponce deLeon for me.  (YAY)  What a treat this was!  From the moment I walked in, Erica greeted me at the desk, and was the most vivacious hostess I had ever met.  (Except for my Mother in Law at The House of Sea and Sun!).  The hotel is an adorable vintage style guest house directly across from the Marina and Park, and I had hours upon hours to walk and take in the beautiful downtown scenery in St. Pete.

A great place to stay!

A great place to stay!

While I was walking, I came across an adorable floating chapel – a perfect location for a wedding!  I have to give them a call to see if I can possibly officiate there!  (Maybe it’s an idea for a new angle of my business??)

in the Harbor in St. Pete

in the Harbor in St. Pete

For dinner, I went to Ceviche, and could not recommend it more!  It was a great night!  (But, this is not a travel review, it’s a wedding review – so on to the venue!)

Brian at the Lyceum was also an amazing participant, and he led the rehearsal and managed all the details with impeccable style.  David and Katie did a great job of blending their Interfaith wedding, not to mention step parents, and extended family.  David’s Mom had passed away several years ago, and so Katie’s Mom walked David down the aisle, with his Dad, Ken.  Since Katie’s Mom had remarried, and her Dad and Step Dad were both there, she chose to walk down the aisle with both of her Dads.  It was so sweet, and it paid tribute to all of the parents, in just the right way.  I was touched at their ability to blend and adjust the way they had.

David and Katie chose a sand ceremony, and we signed the Ketubah in the presence of their guests.  Their ring exchange was the traditional Jewish style, where we first place the ring on the right Index finger, and move the rings over to the left ring finger after the vows are repeated.  They had a beautiful wedding party of 5 bridesmaids and 5 groomsmen, with 2 junior bridesmaids and 2 ring bearers.  Everyone was dressed in black, and they looked beautiful.

David and Katie are a beautiful couple, inside and out.  They had a simple style, and a strong commitment to each other as a couple.  I have faith that this will be a long lasting relationship that will flourish and grow, and I’m so happy to have been a special part of their weekend!  Thanks, David and Katie!

At the Lyceum, after the wedding

At the Lyceum, after the wedding

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Gee, another month I just pulled down from the calendar.  It seems like yesterday I was getting ready for Rosh Hashanah, but a full month has flown by, and the end of the year is coming up so quickly.  I couldn’t step into November, without writing about the rest of October.

Last weekend, I officiated my first double-wedding-weekend.

Saturday night, I performed a wedding for Sebastian and Moran.

Sebastian and Moran

Sebastian and Moran

They were the sweetest young couple, and as always, the experience of working with them brought incredible joy and happiness to my heart.  Sebastian contacted me from my website, and he told me that he was looking for the perfect person to officiate their small, intimate wedding ceremony.  I thought he sounded so young!  (he was!)  But, we met in Aventura one afternoon, and I began getting to know this couple, and we were connected right from the start.

They have the cutest story – He is from Argentina, she was from Israel.  They met while he was traveling in Israel, and then, they bumped into each other again a few weeks later – 200 miles away from where they met.  They carried on a long distance relationship for a while, and then, Moran moved to Florida.  She really didn’t know anything about planning a wedding (who does??) but, over the time we worked together, Moran really did a great job and learned so much, and she and Sebastian made the most lovely wedding ceremony at The Bath Club, in Miami Beach.

It was a small, intimate ceremony, and I’m so excited that because they didn’t really have a chuppah, I decided to make one of my own, so, at their wedding, we used my beautiful, handmade chuppah for the very first time.  This is one more couple that really became very special to me, and I hope we all stay in touch for a very long time!

My chuppah

My chuppah

Sebastian & Moran’s ceremony

So – at about 8:30 p.m., when the ceremony was over, I jumped in the car, and drove to Jacksonville, for the wedding of Ian & Lindsay, at the Ramona Pavilion in Jax.  (of course, the ceremony was the next morning)  The weather was beautiful, and it was such an amazing day.  Lindsay also worked so hard on making her day just right, and she did a great job.  Ian and Lindsay’s wedding was an Interfaith wedding.  He was Jewish, and she was raised as a fairly devout Christian.  We wanted to make sure we incorporated the fundamental Jewish rituals, without being too over the top for the non Jewish guests.  We incorporated a sand ceremony, adapted the processional a bit to meet everyone’s needs, added a few non Jewish traditions, like giving away of the bride, etc., and the wedding was great.  Everyone felt comfortable, and was so happy with the turnout.

Ian & Lindsay’s ceremony

It’s not easy to create the perfect service for everyone.  I really believe that while it is about the bride and groom, it is also about respecting their immediate family, and making sure everyone can be comfortable with the outcome.  Even in a full Jewish wedding, like an Interfaith wedding, both sides often have different expectations, and it’s important to consider and balance everyone’s needs.  It can be done, and it can be fun!

So, for November – a wedding in St. Pete (David and Katie), another Havdalah Bat Mitzvah (Rachel and Mara), a trip to Punta Cana (Yelena & Lenny), an Orlando wedding on Thanksgiving weekend (Michael and Megan), and a Memorial service here at home.  Another busy month to come, which I am so thankful for!

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Before I write my post, I want to say THANKS to my new friend, Rob Cohen, who I have had the pleasure of connecting with, thanks to the internet.  Rob’s recent post about his High Holiday, Haftorah-reading return to the bimah, included a beautiful word of thanks to me for helping him, but above all, gave me the validation to write about something I feel very strongly about – God.

Rob – I love the work you are doing, and I love to help people that are truly pursuing their passion, and trying to make the world a better place.  It was so sweet of you to write about me, and to put a link to my website on your blog, and I know we are going to be long time friends, even though lots of time and miles will prevent us from meeting, at least any time soon.

So anyway, in Rob’s post, he simply volunteered to read the Haftorah for HH services.  That experience helped connect him to me, and then, he felt really great about what he did, and then…suddenly…”things” started happening.  He started to pay more attention to his observance, and things took on new meaning in his life.  Then, a Rabbi just “happened” to walk by his house, and offered to shake the lulov and etrog on Sukkot.  That had never happened before.  Amazing. Or – was it?

Long ago, I had a friend that was an evangelist.  She told me God spoke to her.  I doubted that.  Seriously.  What?  Out of the blue, this thunderous voice just burst out of the sky and called your name?  How did she know God was actually talking to her?  What if she was in a crowded room?  Maybe God’s message was for someone else?  Then, I began my own spiritual path of learning about what I thought God really was, and strangely enough, “things” started happening to me, too.  Then, I began meditating, even though I thought there was no way I would “get” anything to happen for me.  But I was wrong.

I started putting together the “things”, and realized that the more I walked in a righteous path, and honored God, the more “things” showed up in my life.  The quieter I was, the more “things” would enter my brain, and not these loud thunderous voices, but simple messages, almost disguised as thoughts, but ones that held so much validation and truth, that I just knew them to be the voice of God.

I was speaking to someone by phone the other day, and they were telling me of a similar coincidence, and they said “I just love those little God-winks”.  That’s true – those “things” are winks that God is making.  Just enough to tell us that he knows we are  here, and we are in his plans, and that we should just keep on doing what we are doing, because we’re actually getting it right.

So – Rob – those things are NOT coincidences.  They are messages, and subtle voices from God, telling you that you are on the right path.  Mitzvah Art is going to be a big success, as is my Cantorial practice, because we are walking a righteous path, and opening ourselves to the messages we need most.  The more we listen, the more we hear.  The more we pray, the more Rabbis show up in our front yards with Lulavs, literally, and figuratively.  I love the messages and signs that I receive, telling me I did a great job.  I know you did a great job on your Haftorah reading, AND the blessings.  And I’m really honored to be your friend, and thankful that  God put us in each other’s paths.

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