Keeping up with the theme of my last post, I want to share another story about the renewal of Jewish life in Russia. Last week, I had the honor of attending the Chief Rabbi of Russia’s daughter’s wedding. In attendance were over 2000 people publicly celebrating the wedding in a park in Moscow. The guests ranged from secular to religious; young to old; Americans, Russians, Colombians (the groom is from Colombia), and Israelis, among others. I spent a lot of time with the Italian Ambassador’s wife.
I was speaking with an American woman who said her parents were married in Moscow in secret. At that time, Jewish or any religious weddings for that matter, were forbidden. Her parents snuck into the synagogue and throughout the course of the day, men came in one by one in order to form a minyan (10 people). The KGB was waiting outside and no one wanted to do anything to draw attention. Instead of exchanging rings, a coin was given for the betrothal, because if the bride walked outside with a wedding band the KGB would notice. In that context, it is hard to put into words to describe how powerful of an experience it was to be standing with 2000 other people looking on at such a public, Jewish celebration.
The rebirth of Jewish life owes a great deal to the Rabbi who was marrying off his daughter. It was hard not to be amazed at what has been accomplished in twenty years. The room was packed with Russian teenagers who were singing along to the Hebrew songs as they were dancing in circles around the bride. It is one thing to educate people on Judaism, but it is much harder to create a community. This was clearly a community celebrating the wedding of one of their own.
On top of all that, this was the largest kosher event in Russia, to date. I also have the badge of attending the largest kosher event in the United States – the banquet dinner at AIPAC’s Policy Conference.
From Russia with Love,