Last September Stefano and I celebrated our wedding in the IJC with a kiddush and very emotional speeches from our dear friends and IJC family. This celebration was to share the special moments we had this summer - our wedding!
We were married in Costigliole d’Asti, Italy on July 22. Our ceremony was officiated by a married couple: Rabba Alina Treiger and Rabbi Jona Simon, both from my family’s community in Oldenburg, Germany. We have known each other for several years now and they have been present at all the important moments in my family’s life - simchas and mourning, festivities and Jahrzeits. Coordinating a wedding in Italy with rabbis from Germany while you both live in Brussels wasn’t an easy task! Moreover, the seven wedding blessings we wrote together with Rabba Alina and Rabbi Jona and the melodies were written by a hazan (cantor) in Israel according to a special niggun (melody) of Jews in the Asti region!
Our wedding was beautiful (and I’m not biased at all!) with all our closest friends and family from far and near with a very emotional and meaningful chuppah ceremony; it represented our differences and mutual will to create a home full of love and inspired by Jewish traditions and faith. Surrounded by the hills of Asti it couldn’t have been better!
Writing about our special day, I thought I would share a family story that brings us to the day of our September celebration at the IJC. That day was also the Jahrzeit of my beloved grandfather - Grisha (Grigory Hershel), and this of course is very symbolic. As we showed our Brit Ahava (love pact, based on the traditional ketuba), which was ordered especially from Israel after being drafted with the help and the guidance of Rabba Alina, I thought about my grandparents.
They met in the Soviet Union, over 65 years ago, when my grandmother was a 14 year old school girl and my grandfather was a soldier in the Soviet Navy in Kamchatka. He was visiting her brother-in-law in Tashkent and came back home for a short stay. One look at my grandmother was enough. He said to his friend “I will marry her when I come back”. And so it was. He demobilised five years later and came back to Tashkent, where they had a small Jewish wedding. As my grandmother’s family was quite religious, her parents insisted on a chuppah, what was not obvious at all under Stalinism. My grandfather’s mother died and he only had his father who was also very sick, so they had a chuppah and a wedding at my great grandparents’ house. My grandmother describes a very simple wedding, with a typical small Jewish orchestra and food the grandmothers and aunties had cooked. Her dress was simple and made by her father, who was a tailor. My grandparents lived in that very house until Perestroika when the regime decided to build a road there.
When my grandfather passed away, Rabbi Jona came to my grandparents’ house in Oldenburg and asked my grandmother for their marriage certificate – their ketuba – which she gave him. Wrapped in a plastic bag, she handed him a piece of simple yellow notebook paper, with purple ink on it. Similar to a notebook page of a diary. It was their ketuba, written in Hebrew letters, traditional Ashkenazi text, signed by the rabbi and his son as witnesses. Rabbi Jona couldn’t believe his eyes as such documents were very rare and the fact it remained intact all these years, through Communism, Perestroika and their move to Germany - is almost a miracle.
60 years after my grandparent’s ketuba was signed, while signing our own marriage agreement, I thought of my grandparents and the life they shared, raising a family - children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, facing terrible periods of turmoil and stress; but they always respected and loved each other.
In a different century in a different place, being blessed with all the best in the world - friends and family but also the possibility to organise such a beautiful wedding, I realise that the setting is important and pleasant but it is not the most important part. The essence is the life we will build together and the way we will get old together. I wish for us that we share something similar to my grandparents, their love, closeness, friendship and affection, the way they spoke to each other - always with respect, trust and kindness.
Alex Licht - d'Orilio
Hebrew School Head Teacher 2010-2015