A wonderful writer, musician and authority on Orthodox Judaism is going to be joining Wedding Style File to give us a tour of the remarkable, beautiful and incredibly complex world of Orthodox Jewish weddings, from the plate breaking to the glass stomping, and everything in between.
Her name is Andrea Grinberg and she is the author of a fantastic website andreagrinberg.com. She is also a personal friend and one I am so thrilled to introduce to you.
I first met Andrea at the wedding of a mutual friend at the Jerusalem Gate Hotel in Jerusalem, Israel. It was about as strange and exotic as you’d expect a wedding in Jerusalem to be; at least to me, a secular Jewish kid from Toronto with an interfaith upbringing. We did (and still do) Christmas, Chanukah, the whole shebang. One thing we didn’t do, however, was Orthodox Jewish weddings.
For starters, we didn’t know any Orthodox Jews. My dad had some buddies from high school or camp or whatever who went to Shaarei Shomayim, but that was more or less the full extent of my relationship to Orthodox Judaism until I reached university (after graduating from an all-girls Catholic high school, no less). From there, a lot happened, in a relatively short period of time. I became riveted by the vibrant Jewish scene on campus and wanted as much of it as I could fit on my plate. I attended classes and workshops, joined a Jewish sorority and went on multiple trips to Israel. I also did a lot of soul searching, got into a lot of debates, and met a lot of interesting people, including the friend whose wedding I would eventually attend in Jerusalem.
I suddenly had friends who couldn’t get together on Friday nights or Saturdays, who wore long skirts by choice and abstained from any physical contact with the opposite sex. The trail which began at a random Chanukah gelt stand on campus led me to an entirely new form of Judaism that seemed so alien from anything I had ever seen before that it was hard to believe some of these people lived just a few bus stops away from me. I was fascinated. Unfortunately, the more I learned about Orthodox Judaism, the less I wanted to have anything to do with it. Although I recognized it was an incredibly rich, complex and diverse body of Judaism, I was turned off by “kiruvnicks”, people determined to enforce their Orthodox Jewish lifestyle on secular Jews like myself. It took a really long time for me to have any interest in Orthodox Judaism again. After essentially writing off the entire thing as “meshuggah” (crazy), I somehow began crossing paths with people who would slowly renew my awe and respect for Orthodox Judaism: people of strong faith who lived with such purpose and conviction, yet never, ever imposed their beliefs on anyone else. Andrea was one of them. Although our encounter was brief, we hit it off after sitting at the same table and kept in touch via Facebook after the wedding. From there, she basically became my spiritual guru. I’m not even kidding.
Her blog, AndreaGrinberg.com, started as a place to share her insights and experiences as a young Orthodox Jewish woman, but quickly evolved to include hair-wrapping tutorials (Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair after marriage), kosher recipes and other goodies. In addition to being a phenomenal writer, Andrea proceeded to explain some dizzying thoughts for anyone — religious or secular — to process (such as the purpose of life, reason for suffering, etc.) What made her writing stand out, however, was the way she melded her faith and pride in her Orthodox Jewish lifestyle with messages of tolerance, kindness and togetherness. Looking back, I really think Andrea’s blog was what finally caused me — a begrudged secular who would far rather spend the weekend in Tel Aviv than go anywhere near Jerusalem — make amends with Orthodox Judaism and come to appreciate the richness of its traditions and practices, even if I could never envision myself following them.
When I returned from Israel, I did the unthinkable, at least for me: I went to a Jewish class again. I still wear pants every single day, I don’t keep kosher, I don’t observe the Sabbath, and I don’t know if I ever will. The difference is, I’ve come to embrace the differences which make Jews such a diverse people, including the more traditional among us, no matter what our disagreements (ideological, theological or otherwise) may be. This post was intended to be a quick introduction to Andrea, whose guest post I am deeply honoured to be sharing with you shortly, but turned into a far bigger story. To this day, I’m not sure if Andrea has any idea how much she has affected me and my “Jewish journey” (which is probably the reason for my prattling on like this!), even though I’m still in the dark as to where it will ultimately take me. One thing is certain, I never thought I would be posting about Orthodox Jewish weddings on Wedding Style File or that I would find meaning in lighting a Sabbath candle, even if I go back to phone or computer immediately after. I’ve come to realize, however, that intolerance will get us nowhere, and we shouldn’t let our differences prevent us from rejoicing in what’s beautiful: two soul mates coming together. Whether it’s a secular same-sex interracial rooftop wedding in Brooklyn or an Orthodox Jewish wedding extravaganza in Jerusalem — or something in between — weddings should be a cause for everyone to celebrate.
Without any further ado, I am delighted to share Andrea’s phenomenal guide to the wild, wacky, wonderful world of Orthodox Jewish weddings. Check back soon!