By Rita Koselka
Everybody loves a wedding. It’s a happy occasion and the food is good. It’s even better when you can combine it with a chance to get to know your neighbors better and learn about other cultures and faiths.
Sunday night, June 10, at the Veteran’s Memorial Building in Livermore was just such an opportunity.
Organized by Interfaith Interconnect of the Tri-Valley, this event was a chance for attendees to spend time with their neighbors and learn about marriage ceremonies from three different religious traditions — Jewish, Christian and Muslim.
"I think religious literacy is something our culture could use more of. By organizing in this event, I hope we were able to foster greater religious understanding in our Tri-Valley community,” says the Reverend Lucas Hergert of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore who emceed the event.
It included three mock wedding ceremonies and was followed by a reception with delicacies you’d find at a wedding reception—apple strudel, lox, wedding cake, and samosas.
The event was totally subscribed and attendees included members of the Congregations of UUCiL, United Christian, First Presbyterian, Asbury United, and Methodist churches in Livermore, the Muslim Community Center of the East Bay and of Pleasanton, as well as friends and family of those involved and guests who had heard about it.
Some families with young children attended.
“We never imagined it would generate so much excitement,” said Jacky Poulsen, one of the organizers.
It was a lively crowd, who laughed, swooned and cheered through much of the ceremonies.
“We should do more of this type of thing, it is so interesting, “ says Dave Rothman who attended with his wife Yvonne. He added, “It seems it is traditional in all three cultures that the wedding start late.”
The first ceremony was officiated by Rabbi David Katz of Congregation Beth Emek and he wedded Mitchell Levinson to Andrea Bloom in lovely tea length white dress and veil.
The couple is, in fact, engaged to be married—several times Rabbi Katz explained that he was changing the words slightly so they would not spoil the actual ceremony in September. (And no it was not the real dress; it was her back up.)
Andrea explained that her face was covered with a veil that her mother lifted to reveal her identity to the groom and his family. It is a tradition, adopted in many American weddings, that harks to the biblical story of Jacob who fell in love with Rachel the second daughter of Laban who wanted his elder daughter Leah wed first. Laban tricked Joseph by having Leah covered in heavy veils pretend she was Rachel until after the wedding night and any chance of backing out.
“We keep the tradition so the groom knows that he’s getting the real thing,” said Andrea, laughing.
The second ceremony was a Christian marriage performed by Reverend Dr. Martha Williams of the United Christian Church of Livermore.
As the procession started, Rev. Williams told the audience that she was re-enacting a marriage that she had officiated last November. The crowd saw an older couple proceed down the aisle and were clearly looking around for the young people who were presumed to be following before realizing and sighing with appreciation that this couple had found each other, married and were now sharing it with the crowd. Dr. Williams commented on the simplicity and flexibility of the Christian service compared to the Jewish one, although all the ceremonies had great similarities.
The last ceremony was the Muslim marriage in which Ameer Ellaboudy, who lives in Hayward and is of Egyptian descent, and Shereen Ulla of Indian descent were married as they had been just a year ago. The procession of them and their families was like the movement of a flock of colorful birds down the aisle. The bride wore a glittering and elaborately embroidered and cut golden red sari, veil and jewels that she had worn for her own wedding eliciting “aahhs” from the crowd.
A Muslim ceremony requires that the contract between both parties be willing and validated by two witnesses but can be performed by anyone. The clothing is purely of cultural and national tradition, Shereen noted and would be different for Iraqis or Lebanese or Muslims of other areas.
A question and answer period followed with more time for conversation and food at the reception.
“It is so good to learn about each other, “ said Dina E. Aljuburi, an engineer from Danville of Iraqi descent.
“I’m only sorry my children couldn’t come.”