Thinking of converting to Judaism? 5 questions to ask yourself before making the decision

I am delighted to introduce a fabulous second guest post from Michele Schwartz, editor of The Modern Jewish Wedding, a popular website for Jewish/ interfaith couples and wedding planners.

Charlotte Harry Sex and the City
[image: Sex and the City via HBO.com]

I know that game. I invented that game. So, they’re Rules Rabbis,”
Charlotte York Goldenblatt from Sex and the City.

It’s true.  When considering conversion to Judaism from another religion, whether for a wedding, or just because, rabbis will traditionally turn you away. Rabbis are known to test your commitment by saying “NO!” three times. Then it is up to you…

If you are considering converting for your ‘beshert’ (your meant to be), here are some questions that will be useful to ask yourself and your intended before taking the plunge.:

1. How do I know if Judaism is right for me?

You’ll know! I hate to sound trite—but, you’ll know. If you are pressured to convert or feel as if you must do so just to be married, then you should stop reading now and read my previous post on incorporating Jewish traditions into your interfaith wedding. However, if you are committed to having a Jewish home, raising your children Jewish and are intellectually curious about Judaism—then read on. The best place is to start is with curiosity.

  • Read, read and then read some more.
  • Attend services at several different local synagogues.
  • Take a class. Most congregations offer a weekly text study you can attend. You can also check out your local Jewish Community Centre or even a local university to find classes or lectures that spark your interest.

Kensington Roof Gardens Jewish Weding
[image: Lee Ann & Andre’s London wedding / Gavin Hart Photography]

2. Even if I don’t convert can I work Judaism into our marriage and home?

Absolutely. Most people begin the road to formal conversion after first experiencing life in a Jewish family, home or community. Jewish rituals don’t negate anything you were raised to believe. You can get married under the chuppah, you can participate in congregational services, learning and holiday celebrations, you can attend or host a Passover seder, you can light candles on Shabbat and enjoy a day of rest on Saturday. If nothing else feels right for you—learn a new recipe or two and eat Jewish soul food.
TUSCANY WEDDING
[image: Daphna & Godwin’s Tuscany wedding ]

3. How “Jewish” do I want to be?

There are lots of different flavours of Judaism. But no one is more Jewish than any other (despite what you might hear or think). You should try them all—and decide for yourself what feels right for you. Do you like traditional music and lots of Hebrew in your worship service? Do you want to belong to a community that keeps strictly kosher? Do you feel more comfortable in a setting where there are same-sex couples and no one frowns at ear piercings or tattoos? Judaism is a big tent—you have to find the most comfortable seat for yourself.

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Liran & Etay | Desert Wedding at Mitzpe Ramon‬, Israel

DESERT-WEDDING
Isn’t this photograph one of the most dramatic wedding portraits you’ve ever seen? Well if you’ve ever thought of getting married amid a breathtakingly beautiful primeval landscape ie. *the desert*, and you choose the oh so talented Dima Vazinovich as your wedding photographer, then that’s the kind of shot you’ll end up with!

Today’s gorgeous couple, Liran and Etay, chose the Beresheet hotel, a destination spa hotel in Israel’s Negev desert, as their wedding venue as they wanted somewhere where they could relax and enjoy quality time with their guests over the course of a few days, and additionally somewhere that reflected their modest and serene personalities.
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WHY WE DECIDED TO HAVE OUR WEDDING IN THE DESERT
Liran, the Bride: Well before Etay popped the question we started talking about having a destination wedding and getting married somewhere abroad. The idea was that our guests wouldnʻt feel like theyʻre at a wedding but like theyʻre on a little holiday (weddings go so fast we wanted to enjoy time with our loved ones over the course of at least a couple of days and hang out at ease as much as possible).

Having gotten engaged and established an idea of guest count we realised that we needed to find a venue in Israel. Last year we enjoyed our stay at Beresheet Spa Hotel in Mitspe Ramon so much that we decided that this would be the best place for us: peaceful, calming, romantic and the exact sense of beauty that we were looking for.

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Sarah & Ben | Vintage Tea Party Jewish Wedding at London Zoo

LONDON ZOO WEDDING
Now this is a wedding that I seriously would have LOVED to have attended. It’s so different, so creative and incredible fun. I mean what could be better than a vintage tea party at London Zoo culminating in an outdoor Jewish dancing session and big party (not forgetting a drunken guest attempting to climb into the gorilla enclosure!)?

Just scroll down and you’ll see the bride arriving in a flower-bedecked Karma Kab, the groom arriving by canal boat, a seriously jaw-dropping vintage styled bride, a hand-drawn animal-themed ketubah, stunning photography by Steve Poole and David Klein that captures some of the most amazing Jewish dancing energy I’ve ever seen, and on top of everything this report is a little bit special as not only do we hear from Sarah, the bride, there is also a bit of commentary thrown in now and again from our groom, Ben. A Smashing The Glass first! The idea for holding their wedding at such an unusual venue was triggered by Ben proposing to  Sarah in the Penguin Pool building…. aaaah, I’ll let Ben take over from here:

IMAGERY BY STEVE POOLE UNLESS OTHERWISE CREDITED

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WHY WE CHOSE LONDON ZOO
Ben, the Groom: I proposed to Sarah at London Zoo as when she was a child she wrote to Jim’ll Fix It to ask him to let her into to the zoo’s penguin pool building. She loved the architecture as a little girl – that space age type of feel – and she was a bit besotted with the building. When I proposed to her I organised with the zoo to take her round and then led her into the Penguin Pool building and proposed to her in there.

We also knew that we didn’t want a party in a hotel or ballroom, and we ideally loved the idea of getting married somewhere outdoors, but finding an outdoor London venue that could hold 250 guests for both the chuppah and the party on the same site, and that could also incorporate a kosher caterer didn’t leave us with many choices. Luckily London Zoo ticked all the boxes and we chose it as our wedding ceremony and party venue.
WEDDING PREPARATIONS
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THEME
Sarah, the Bride: We knew that we wanted to have a summer fete / vintage tea party feel and that really worked in the beautiful garden terrace where we held the chuppah and Jewish dancing. We were fortunate enough to have an amazing, sunny day and the space couldn’t have worked out better for us.

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5 ways to ‘incorporate Jewish’ into your non-Jewish or Interfaith wedding

jewish_wedding hora
image: Chyna Darner Photography

Today’s post is written by Michele Schwartz, editor of The Modern Jewish Wedding, a popular website for Jewish/ interfaith couples and wedding planners.

Mazel Tov, you’re engaged! You are starting to put together Pinterest boards, you’re buying every wedding magazine going and bookmarking all the best wedding blogs. There’s only one hitch – you are Jewish, and your fiancé isn’t. But no need to worry, because by adding Jew-ish touches to your wedding and reception, you can honour both sides and have everyone “kvelling” in no time.

Here are five simple and fun ways to incorporate Jewish wedding traditions into your special day:

1. FIND AN INTERFAITH KETUBAH: There are Ketubot written in English with no mention of God or religious beliefs. Every couple should agree to love, commitment and laughter (three things the Ketubah represents); it’s good for the soul! interfaith_ketubah [image: Interfaith ketubah from Daphna & Godwin’s Tuscan castle Jewish wedding ]

2. HAVE YOUR PARENTS WALK YOU DOWN THE AISLE: Every Jewish mother dreams of the day she’ll walk her child down the aisle (wearing a dress that’s the envy of all her friends). Don’t deprive her of this proud moment! Plus, your soon to be in-laws will no doubt find it charming, thereby giving you some serious brownie points.

3. HAVE A CHUPPAH: The chuppah represents your new home and forms a beautiful, striking central space for the wedding ceremony. Also, designing a chuppah will be a special way for you both to create something symbolic and beautiful together. Just add it in to the floral budget and enjoy the experience and symbolism. CHUPPAH [image: Chuppah from Lee & Gary’s Jewish Wedding at The Criterion, London / Peachy Productions ]

4. SMASH THE GLASS! Since even Jews can’t agree on why we break a glass at a Jewish wedding, there’s really no reason not to include the tradition. It’s fun! Everyone shouts “Mazal Tov” and everyone claps and hollers. Who doesn’t want a standing ovation on their wedding day?

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Sara & Elliot | Scottish Castle Jewish Wedding, Dundas Castle, Edinburgh

Scottish-Castle-Wedding
In today’s castle weekend wedding we have bagpipe players, custom made Gina shoes, a seriously breathtaking castle venue, and the best favours / name plates I have ever seen: personalised tubes of chocolate Rolos with each guests’ name on them. I’d have loved one of those!

For this wedding, I’m thrilled to welcome photographer extraodinaire, Claudine Hartzel, to Smashing The Glass whose wonderful images capture the occasion perfectly. Happy Monday all, I know you’re going to enjoy this one.
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VENUE
Sara, the Bride: We didn’t want a typical “Jewish Wedding” as we both aren’t religious. We wanted something different and also wanted to try and make a weekend of it. We didn’t wanted to get married in London and had gone to Edinburgh for Hogmanay in 2009 and loved it there. I started to research castles and stately homes to get married in in Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy.
Dundas Castle in Edinburgh was the first venue that appeared in my search and nothing else came close to it. When we visited it, we both fell in love with the Castle and not just because everyone who worked there was incredible and couldn’t do enough to help, which made organising a wedding quite far from where you live hardly stressful at all!
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CEREMONY Our Rabbi had us facing the guests during the whole ceremony which was lovely albeit a bit scary! We didn’t know he was going to do this and had he suggested this beforehand, I probably would have said no, but in the end it was a very special touch. We wanted our wedding to be really modern and not be long and bore anyone but also have some traditional touches like me walking around Elliot seven times (with the giggles!).

For me, my favourite part of the ceremony was the badeken as it was so personal and emotional. Also our Rabbi was amazing with his brilliant sense of humour, his personality and the most incredible voice you have ever heard. I don’t think there was a dry eye whilst he sang.

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