THREE FACTS: (1) Before meeting Daniel, Jos was known for her torrid dating tales – so much so that her friends used to call her Bridget Jonestein! (2) Daniel proposed to Jos in the Greek island of Naxos! (3) Jos is a member of Smashing The Glass’s Brides Club!
When I Was 21
On my 21st birthday my synagogue sent me a card. In the card, they wished me a very happy birthday, and explained that I was no longer a member on my parent’s membership and that I’d have to start paying for my own membership.
As a second year student at Birmingham University, I wasn’t particularly flush with money although, in truth, this is probably because I spent most of my student loan on M&S ready meals – this Jewish Princess wasn’t up for slumming it.
However, I can’t really blame my penchant for indulgent convenience for my decision not to pay for a shul membership.
Image by STG Recommended Vendor The Crawleys from Nicola and Dave‘s wedding
How My Jewish Identity Was…
I’ve always worn my Jewish identity as a badge of honour. At secondary school, I supplemented the lack of Jewish girls in my year with my friends from Noam, the Masorti youth movement.
I stayed in Noam until Uni, attending camp, going on Year Course in Israel and eventually becoming a Madricha. On Noam I learned one of my mother’s favourite party tricks, how to bensch (say Grace after meals) by heart (she often asks my brothers and I to lead bensching at Friday night dinners, especially when new friends are round for the first time) and I would spend summers teaching informal Jewish education.
It was on Year Course that I met my Maid of Honour, where, we overcame an initial visceral dislike for each other to realise we were pretty much the same person and have been best friends ever since.
Image by STG Recommended Vendor Ran Bergman from Shira and Jonathan‘s wedding
The ‘Jewish One’
I followed, what felt like the majority of North West London to Birmingham University, boldly exclaiming I wanted to ‘branch out’ and ‘meet new people’.
I swiftly became the ‘Jewish one’ in my halls, hanging out with people who had never met a Jewish person in their lives. However, I would regularly drift back towards the Jewish community, organising the J-Soc ball with my friend from school, hosting Friday night dinners for 30+ people and attending more Booze for Jews events than I’d care to admit.
My Jewish identity was and still is a perpetual comfort blanket, but it was always more focused on culture, tradition and community than religious practice. So, aged 21, I didn’t feel I was missing out by not re-joining a synagogue, I already felt very much part of the clan.
Image by STG Recommended Vendor Miki Studios from Abbie and Alastair‘s wedding
…And How Daniel’s Jewish Identity Was
Daniel on the other hand was born in Israel, and lived there until he was 15. Contrary to my diaspora Jewish upbringing, my Sabra fiancé celebrated the high holidays with the rest of his fellow countrymen, and whilst he did have a Barmitzvah, he could probably count on two hands the amount of times he entered a shul in his life.
In secular Israeli society, the concept of “Jewishness” goes hand in hand with cultural traditions, national identity and Zionism, with religious practice itself often taking a back seat. Whilst Daniel has always been very much Jewish, he has never been religious. But what he lacks in knowledge about religious practice, he more than makes up for in his hummus and falafel eating expertise.
Image by Taylor Dunn Photography from Alyssa and Colin‘s wedding
Planning Our Ceremony
This made choosing our rabbi one of the first big decisions that we had to sit down and really talk about. For me, the ceremony was always of utmost importance. I’ve attended many weddings in my time, and whilst I didn’t ever dare to dream that I’d get married, I’ve always loved the Jewish ceremony.
The serious, goosebump inducing music, the drama and anticipation leading up to the smashing of the glass and the sheer joy that erupts afterwards. I love the badeken, I love the hora and I love the little traditions and rituals that make the day truly electric.
Image by STG Recommended Vendor David Morgan from Aimee and Ross‘ wedding
Finding The Right Community
Beyond just finding a rabbi to officiate our marriage, we decided that we wanted to find a community that we could grow into.
We wanted to bring our children up with the same sense of belonging that we both had, in our own ways as children (whether cultural, religious or otherwise), in a community that would enrich their lives and afford them with lifelong friends.
This decision was recently confirmed waking up to the horrendous antisemitic graffiti in North West London and the rise in antisemitic attacks in both the UK and the US.
We decided that now was the time to strengthen our roots and remind ourselves why we are proud of our rich Jewish heritage by immersing ourselves in a community once again.
It felt like it wasn’t enough to have my identity defined by my unhealthy love of Daniel’s smoked salmon bagels and the smattering of Yiddish I liberally drop into sentences. We decided we wanted to find a place we could share our life experiences too.
Image by STG Recommended Vendor Paul Rogers from Julie and James‘ wedding
So, after much research (marry a lawyer, they research e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g) we decided to join West London Reform.
My future sister in law (I’m sure I’ve mentioned that my brother and I are getting married 2 months apart. Let that one sink in) had converted there under the auspices of Rabbi David Mitchell the year before.
My brother and sister in law spoke really highly of Rabbi David, and my parents had also joined to support them. When we met Rabbi David, we knew he’d be the person to marry us.
We spent a couple of hours in his garden talking through our story, our relationship, our hopes for our day, and he in turn explained how the relationship that he builds with the couples he marries lasts through many important life events.
He explained, he wanted to be part of the bar/batmitzvah of our children, and wanted us to enjoy the many benefits of being part of his congregation and a few weeks later we were having dinner at his house with all the other couples getting married in 2020. It was a perfect first steps into a new community.
Image by David Bastianoni from Paige and Richard‘s wedding
A New Jewish Identity
So, our first big piece of wedmin of the new year is to sit down with Rabbi David and plan the ceremony, I’m really excited to learn about the traditions that turn the chuppah into a special and personal part of our day.
But I’m even more excited to be part of a community again, to find new meaning in my Jewish identity and build new ties and relationships in our future because, frankly, there has never been a more important time to do that.
Image by STG Recommended Vendor Rafe Abrook from Shelley and Chris‘ wedding
Click here to read all Jos’ planning posts to date.
Jos & Daniel’s Wedding Vendors booked so far: