Thursday, March 23, 2006

My nephew's wedding (part II)

Poland meets Yemen

It's about 6:45pm on the day of the wedding. The "Barab" family were at the hall and the first guests were yet to arrive. Dad took Yehuda on a walk and was to return by 7:10pm. I hung around the hall, took a few pictures and checked out the scene.

At an Orthodox wedding, the men and women do not sit together , dine together or dance together. The hall was divided by 8-foot partitions. They created a path that skirted the men's seating area and where the band was located. The partitions took a right turn and marked off the women's seating area--which was smaller than the men's even though the number of female guests was to be about equal to the men.

One wrinkle in this Orthodox wedding was that it was a compromise or a blending of two Jewish traditions. My brother and his community (and all of my family and most American Jews--but not all) are "Ashkenazi" as opposed to "Sephardic." The bride's family is Sephardic. Except not really. Really, they are from Yemen--her parents are the first Israeli generation. The Yemeni Jewish community is very old and their traditions are closer to biblical, some say, than the ways of the Ashkenazi. The Ashkenazi are generally people who came from Eastern Europe. They have certain customs, which are independent of how observant one is. For example, traditionally, Ashkenazi's don't name their children "in honor" of living relatives, but only "in memory" of dead ones. The Sephardi name their children "in honor." Some Hebrew pronunciations are different. And the Yemeni have their own customs--some of which are similar to Sephardic customs.

The differences between the Yemeni and the Ashkenazi really come to light in an Orthodox setting. Most of the Yemeni customs were accepted without too much trouble by my brother. A few things he insisted on. Most things they agreed on--like the separate seating and the videographer. My brother insisted on having the hupa (the canopy under which the wedding ceremony is performed) outdoors. This is a matter of no importance to the Yemenis (and the Sephardi, probably), but the Ashkenazi must have the ceremony outdoors, rain, shine, sleet or snow.

Here's an interesting difference that turning into a big problem--the wedding presents. The Yemeni's dropped off checks and cash in envelopes made available at the door. Ashkenazis gave gifts--but there is no such thing as a wedding registry. This was a bit of a problem because at the end of the wedding my sister-in-law, Tikvah, wanted to take the checks and cash home to the kids. The other mother-in-law wanted to take it with her back to Haifa. They were at loggerheads and stayed at the hall until 3am counting the take. (Actually, my two oldest nieces did the counting. Tikvah sat by the front door to the hall and waited.) I said, inappropriately, to Dad and Susan that they had a Mexican stand-off. Hey, at least I got a laugh. It was resolved, but no one seems to like the bride's mother.

Off to take a walk now. More later.

Grateful for: not caring about the details.
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