Friday, June 6, 2014

The Rabbi who (Probably) Performed my Wedding Ceremony

I got married in September 2005. By 2010, that was over, but that's not actually important for this story, other than understanding why I am referring to him as "now ex-husband." When the wedding planning was going on, it was my job to me to figure out who was going to marry us. This is a sample of some of the feedback that was provided, by various family members, regarding this challenge:

Me: I think that regardless of our (non)beliefs, it would be best to get both a rabbi and one of those guys from the church.
Mother of now ex-husband: How about we just get a rabbi? Jewish weddings are always so nice... and fast!
Now ex-husband: We can get my friend Bob to marry us.
My Dad: Why not just live together and not get married? It's faster, cheaper, and easier!
My Mom: Heh?

Until 2010, I had never stepped inside a synagogue. Although things would later change, at the time of my marriage, my knowledge about Judaism involved getting presents on Chanukah and deciding which knish was better-- square or round. I grew up on Long Island, with two Jewish parents, had never been to Hebrew school, and had never celebrated Passover or Rosh Hashanah. Basically, I had very limited, nearly non-existent, information to go on. I also identified as an atheist during that period. Not knowing where to begin, I executed a brilliant plan-- I opened the phone book to the "rabbi" section, randomly chose a name, and accidentally called an orthodox rabbi to conduct an interfaith ceremony for two atheists on the night of Shabbat. In hindsight, this was stupid. Maybe even beyond stupid. To an orthodox rabbi, I had basically come up with a combination of the most offensive elements in Judaism, and then formulated them into a request. But in my pathetic defense, trying to chose a name from the 92,392 names of rabbis in a Long Island phone book is a daunting task, especially for someone had tried to memorize the Chaunkah blessing for 23 years in a row and was still saying it incorrectly.

I eventually came upon a nice, reform rabbi who would later marry us. He was unfazed that, admittedly, the only thing my now-ex knew about Judaism was that "Well... I know that Robyn is Jewish." The rabbi was fine with marrying us on a Friday night. He even teamed up with a nearly deaf minister, relieving me from the responsibility of having to find yet another person to participate in the ceremony.

As I mentioned, all this occurred in 2005. In 2009, some stuff happened, and then in 2010, more stuff happened, so it ended up that I began to learn that Judaism is more than delicious deep fried dough, filled with mashed potato, in either a circle or square shape. I became connected with a Reform synagogue, and decide to enroll in an "Intro to Judaism' class. The class was largely made up of individuals from interfaith couples, getting ready to get married in the next year. Quite a few of these people were on the path to conversion. One of our sessions was focused on Jewish life cycles, so of course we spent a great deal of time talking about the Jewish wedding and all of the customs and traditions. Somewhere in one of those third sessions discussions, I casually mentioned how my (now ex) husband and I had been married by a lovely rabbi with a great sense of humor, and that our guests had really enjoyed the ceremony. Now I know that I should have just kept my mouth shut.

Next week, in the restroom, where unwanted exchanges always occur, one of the women from class asked if I could refer her to the rabbi who performed my wedding ceremony. I became very nervous, and was too ashamed to tell her that not only did I select my rabbi from a phonebook, but that I have absolutely no recollection of his name. I sort of bypassed this by saying that I would be happy to refer her to this rabbi, but I would have to find his contact information when I got home because I didn't have it on me (doesn't everyone carry their rabbi's complete contact information on them at all times?) and then email her. This was a bad move on my part considering I had no idea where I would obtain this contact information.

A few days passed by and it became obvious that I had to come up with something before I had to face her during the next class. After some time of thinking hard, the word "apple" came to me. I became obsessed that the word "apple" was part of the rabbi's last name. I began furiously searching the internet, putting together every viable combination: appletree, appleseed, applebaum, applestein, appleberg. Nothing. I tried combining various search terms in Google, such as : rabbi + long island + apple. This is what I came up with:

Guided only by desperation, I seriously considered giving her the contact information for Rabbi Steven Moskowitz and his Apple Jacks. A few moments later, a name popped into my mind. It seemingly came out of nowhere, but I was (mostly) sure it was the name I had been looking for, the name rabbi who had performed my wedding ceremony. I found his contact information online and even found a reference to him on a Long Island wedding-message-forum-board-thing-- you know the ones where girls post things like: "OMG only 9298 days left until the Big Day and I can't decide between chocolate or vanilla icing... PLZ HELP!!!!!" Anyway, I clicked on the link, which led me to some girl's "report card" of her wedding, in which she had used the rabbi who had (most likely) performed my ceremony. True to Long Island bride form, she had posted one photograph for every movement that was made on her wedding day. I got out my wedding album and compared her rabbi to mine. Glasses? Check. Beard? Yep. Mustache? Got it. There were some differences, but I chalked them up to the passage time. I emailed my classmate the information.

Feeling quite proud of myself, I looked forward to Tuesday's Intro to Judaism class, knowing that I could face my classmate confidently. My first contact with her was in the bathroom (again). The following conversation took place:

Me: So, did you get in touch with the rabbi? How did it go?
Classmate: Yes, I called him... and I wasn't sure if I should tell you or not, but...
Me: Uh oh, wrong number?
Classmate: No, it was the right number. I know that you said you didn't know him well anyway, so...
Me: Ah! If he said he doesn't remember me, I'm not offended. I told you, I didn't even know him prior to getting married. So, he said he doesn't know who I am, right?
Classmate: No, actually he's dead.
Me: Oh.

The worst part is that it wasn't like he died three minutes ago or anything. Apparently he died a couple of years ago.

I gave my classmate the name of a dead rabbi who most likely, but not definitely, performed my wedding ceremony.

I'm out of the event planning business for good.

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