Nov 29, 2007

Evolution of Hava Nagilah

The New York Times

November 27, 2007

The Dance of Evolution, or How Art Got Its Start

If you have ever been to a Jewish wedding, you know that sooner or later the ominous notes of “Hava Nagila” will sound, and you will be expected to dance the hora. And if you don’t really know how to dance the hora, you will nevertheless be compelled to join hands with others, stumble around in a circle, give little kicks and pretend to enjoy yourself, all the while wondering if there’s a word in Yiddish that means “she who stares pathetically at the feet of others because she is still trying to figure out how to dance the hora.”

I am pleased and relieved to report that my flailing days are through. This month, in a freewheeling symposium at the University of Michigan on the evolutionary value of art and why we humans spend so much time at it, a number of the presenters supplemented their standard PowerPoint presentations with hands-on activities. Some members of the audience might have liked folding the origami boxes or scrawling messages on the floor, but for me the high point came when a neurobiologist taught us how to dance the hora. As we stepped together in klezmeric, well-schooled synchrony, I felt free and exhilarated. I felt competent and loved. I felt like calling my mother. I felt, it seems, just as a dancing body should.

Many people don't know this, but the orthodox wedding dance music has also evolved and songs like Hava Nagilah are never played and are mainly associated with 'Neolithic', i.e. old country, traditional Judaism. Orthodox Jews have their own contemporary musicians whose music they prefer to the things their grandparents were listening to.
The Hora, however, is a dance that is danced at all Jewish weddings, albeit in a more modern, rhythmic kind of form.

A Jewish wedding in Hawaii Makes Headlines


An unforgettable wedding for the local Jewish community, plus hundreds of guests from around the world, took place this week in Hawaii. In a first for the island state, the Chasidic wedding of Rivky Krasnjansky – daughter of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hawaii co-directors Rabbi Itchel and Pearl Krasnjansky – and Rabbi Avremel Chazanow of New Jersey paired ancient Jewish traditions with tropical flair. Food was flown-in from the mainland while the Krasnjanskys took over a resort hotel’s kitchen.

More than 500 guests helped escort the bride and groom, viewed by Jewish tradition as a king and queen on the day of their wedding.

From the Hawaii Star Bulletin

by Mary Adamski

Couple unites under strict Jewish tenets

Rivky Krasnjansky of Honolulu and Avremel Chazanow of Brooklyn, N.Y., believe that God will be a third partner in their marriage.

Their Wednesday wedding will be an affirmation of faith for the pair, members of the Chabad Lubavitch movement of Orthodox Judaism, which teaches strict adherence to laws laid out more than 3,000 years ago.

For Rivky and Avremel, both 20, being true to that law has meant a courtship with no physical contact, not even a chaste kiss, she said. They're now in a seven-day "no talk" zone, not allowed to compare notes or share the anticipation until they are escorted to stand under a ceremonial canopy called a "chupah." In the old days families could keep their kids sequestered, but in these days of computer and cell phone, that's quite a discipline.

For the parents it's the usual whirlwind of shopping and planning, the logistics of accommodating guests arriving from several countries, topped off by the element of ensuring religious correctness. But who's complaining?

Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky and his wife, Pearl, who established the Honolulu branch of Chabad 20 years ago, are over the top with excitement at presenting a "full-on Orthodox wedding" for their daughter. They think it might be the first Chasidic wedding in Hawaii.

Chasidic refers to the strict observance of the law in the Torah, which Christians know as the first five books of the Old Testament. The extent to which people observe the requirements for diet, conduct, hygiene as well as religious practice differ in the various branches of Judaism.

Because of the law, the mother of the bride had to buy 500 plates for the wedding banquet because the dinnerware at Ihilani Resort at Ko Olina is not considered kosher. The hotel kitchen is not kosher, so a side kitchen will be set up. Student rabbis will use a blowtorch on the ovens and extreme ritual cleaning to render the kitchen clear of impurities.

"It's a challenge in Hawaii; we don't have the infrastructure we would elsewhere," said the rabbi. Kosher wines, and hundreds of pounds of kosher meats and other food were ordered from mainland suppliers not only for the Wednesday banquet, but to meet the requirement of feeding guests for seven nights.

The hour-long ceremony is loaded with scriptural symbolism.

Guests will arrive to find bride and groom sitting in ornate chairs like thrones, and they'll be free to schmooze with them. But only men may approach him, and she will only talk to the women. When they take their seats, the crowd will be segregated, women and men in separate sections, and that will continue through the banquet and the dancing.

Rivky Krasnjansky said friends will bring special prayer requests to her -- requests already came at a bridal shower this week -- and she will pray for them during the ceremony under the chupah.

Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky of Chabad of Hawaii and his wife, Pearl, are planning a traditional Jewish wedding for daughter Rivky and her groom, Avremel Chazanow, on Wednesday.

Avremel Chazanow is memorizing a revered rabbi's discourse on marriage which he will proclaim to the male visitors -- and the women, if they can hear it from their side of the room.

When they finally meet face to face under the canopy, one of the first things he will do is to cover her face with a thick veil.

"The veiling goes back to the story of Jacob, who was fooled into marrying Leah, who was brought to him veiled," said Rabbi Krasnjansky. "So it's important that he sees her face."

The veil is symbolic of the virtues of modesty and chastity. Speaking of modesty, the bridal gown is high-necked and long-sleeved according to tradition.

The groom will wear a white robe, called a "kittel," usually worn on Yom Kippur, the solemn Day of Atonement. It is symbolic of purity and holiness.

The canopy is open on four sides "based on the first Jewish person, Abraham, who opened his home to travelers and had doors on all sides to welcome people from all directions," said the rabbi.

"It's as old as Judaism itself," he said. The wedding is held outside -- lots of prayers about weather going on this week -- reflecting God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.

"The time under the chupah is a special spiritual moment," said the rabbi. The pair will pray quietly, then the ceremony led by Rabbi Shlomo Segal of Brooklyn, head of the Chabad International rabbinical court, will proceed with a reading of the marriage contract.

"Biblically, a legal contract must be solidified with something of value," said the mother of the bride.

Giving an unadorned band to the bride is in the requirements; a flashier engagement ring presented at the same time is optional.

There's no writing your own poetic marriage vows in this tradition. The contract text is more than 1,000 years old. It contains language that assures that the woman will be provided for with dignity, which Pearl Krasnjansky points out was an enlightened view for a historical time when women in other cultures were treated like possessions.

The number seven is significant in Jewish traditions, rooted in the story of creation in which God rested on the seventh day. In the wedding, the bride will circle the canopy seven times. Guest speakers will recite seven blessings, acknowledging God for creating mankind, the bride and groom and joy, and expressing hope that they grow in their love.

The ceremony ends with the groom stomping on a wineglass, crushing it, a symbol of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. "Even though this is a joyous moment, the joy is not complete because the temple has been destroyed and will not be complete until the temple is rebuilt and the Messiah comes," said the rabbi.

"When I think about the ceremony under the chupah, I get the feeling that God is there, how awesome it is," said Rivky Krasnjansky.

She met Chazanow when he came here as a student rabbi last year. He returned to New York, where he has another year of rabbinical school. They were reunited when she spent the summer in New York, and got engaged in August. They will return there, but first they have to stick around for the seven days of feasting with guests.

The groom is the son of Rabbi Baruch Chazanow of the Chabad branch in Manalapan, N.J., and his wife, Tova.

"It's important to marry someone with the same goals and values, who feels the same way about raising a family," she said. "Not only is he Jewish, but from the same group that I grew up in. We both want to do community and outreach work, and I hope we will come back to Hawaii someday."

Rabbi Krasnjansky said: "The third partner in a marriage is God. He is the foundation between the bride and the groom. With God as part of one's life, it is the foundation of a person's identity. In that way, God is an intimate partner.

"In our world view, it is a joy for all of the house of Israel when another home has been created. In Jewish tradition we are all one family."

Nov 27, 2007

Jewish wedding Postage

Attention to detail is never to be underestimated. Even postage stamps can be Jewishweddingfied.

Characters that are present at Jewish Simchas

A blogger who goes by the title of 'Blog in D Minor' has a series of character sketches of people that he came across while playing music at various Jewish simchas.

Peeps from Da Hood - The NY Simcha Scene
Here are short sketches of some of the characters we've run across recently who populate the NYC simcha scene.

1) The Carlebach Purist
2) The rude Yeshiva Bachur
3) The drunk Yeshiva Bachur
4) The spaced-out bandleader
5) The pompous Rosh Yeshiva
6) The dance Nazi

1) The Carlebach Purist is the person who comes over to criticize the band for playing/singing a Carlebach tune differently than Shlomo did....
6) The dance Nazi is the woman who has requests for line dances no one else in the room knows, and who wants them played at much faster than normal tempi. She has a huge repertoire of "hits" from the early to mid-nineties that she wants to dance to, and there's no way she's going to let the musical needs of the party prevent her from getting all of them.
Read more here...

More Characters:

like the....

"Business Card Lady"

"Business Card lady is a piece of work. A shadchan, she's having a conversation with a potential client right in front of us. She soon realizes she'll need to take some information down. Her first question to us, "Do you have a card?", is immediately followed up with "Do you have a pen?" Classy. Get your scrap paper elsewhere, lady!

And the ..."Mr. Bluetooth"

"Mr. Bluetooth" defines his self importance by the fact that he has... you'll never believe this... a wireless earpiece for his cell phone. He carries himself proudly, making sure all can notice his awesome accessory. Um, hello! It's like, a wedding. Of someone you presumably care about. You can take your Bluetooth earpiece out, you know. It won't hurt, promise. No guarantees about not suffering withdrawal though.

As this idea caught on, his readers send in some additional characters and the list of characters that populate the Jewish simcha scene is probably bigger than your average Jewish simchah.

Here is the complete list of 'Peeps':

---There's a similar list in the Bangitout blog.---
It's called "Top 10 People Needed to Make a Successful Jewish Wedding."
This list was also greatly expanded upon by reader comments.

10. Super Shtikman: We all know about the average shtik of plastic hats and glittery bowties, but this person comes out in the full body gorilla suit or the bekesha, payos, and streimel.

9.The Slimer: When joining the circle, you sometimes join hands with this man. He makes sure to coat your hand (or shoulder) in a layer of sweat. (CAUTION: Do not participate in fast circle dancing when in contact with Slimer. The dancing speed will overcome his slippery hold and you will be flung out of the circle falling on your face).

8. The Progressive: This relative of the chassan/kallah brings all male and female family members into the inner circle to dance, to the dismay of some frummer folk.

7. The Hoarder: This person (preferably an older married female) immediately lays claim to the table's centerpiece and puts two benchers away before the meal has started.

6. The Faster: This person has refrained from eating for over twenty four hours in anticipation of gorging himself at the shmorg (NOTE: There is no limit to the number of fasters. Usually 50% of the guests fill this position).

5. The Drummer: This person adds musical depth to the chassan's tisch by treating the table as a drum. His virtuoso talent makes use of his hands, elbows, and even shoulder in doing the appropriate table-drum solo.

4. The YoYa-ologist: This person has taken dancing YoYa to the next level. Instead of the standard holding hands and kicking legs in a big circle, he jumps in the middle with his own patented version that uses a mix of jumping jacks, spinning around, and large claps over the head and
below the legs.

3. The Entertainer: This person leads the entertainment of the chassan and kallah. His break dancing far outweighs your leg flailing with two other friends

2. Waterboy: This person supplies the chassan/kallah with water. The proper procedure is to have a full glass of water so half of it can spill on the floor before reaching the chassan/kallah.

1. .Random Walker Down the Aisle: This person was late to the chupah and the only way he could get to a seat is to sneak down the aisle trying not to look like he is part of the procession, but drawing plenty of attention anyway.

Custom Jewish Wedding Cake Toppers

custom made wedding cake toppers

Not all Jewish couples are into wedding cakes, but if you are here are some custom themed wedding cake toppers - some of them with a Jewish theme - that you may or may not find interesting.

An Yemenite Jewish dance troupe

A video performance from an Yemenite Jewish dance troupe. A colorful display of Jewish cultural variety. May be you can get them to perform at your Jewish wedding. That would be an incredible wedding shtick.

Yemeni Jews singing and dancing: A performance of the Yemenite Troupe

Here is a "simple" translation of the Yemeni Dialect part--I need help with the Hebrew part (some words are translated based on the way the performers pronounce them, which is in some parts "questionable").

Note: the words in parentheses are added for clarification:

Down (the hill or mountain) I went
To the stream
To water my horse--
My foot slipped
And I fell into the water.

I went to propose (engagement)
But they rejected me,
(and) my "qat" (a stimulant)
And the "mada3ah" (water-pipe)
Although I'm the son of a Chief
The son of a Jew.

I went to propose
Carrying my qat and the mada3ah
But the bad guys
Made a fool of me.

Sweet heart and the apple of my eye
Tell those who made you
Think bad of me:
Who of you would entertain me?

From the early dawn
She got angry with me
And went cry--
Got angry--oh darkness (of the night)

Out of sight is my beloved.
For a year and two months,
Never returned.
Alas people
She left
And deserted me.

To whom shall I complain,
And would understand me?
Before whom shall I cry,
And would pity me?
And who of you
Would entertain me.

Rabbi Mordy Katz

Rabbi Mordy Katz performing at a wedding in Melbourne Australia.

Painting of a Jewish Simcha

This painting is titled 'Weselie Zhidovsky' or Jewish Simcha by a Polish female artist.

Smoking Wedding

There's rarely a time for a smoke at a typical Orthodox. This couple however found time.


Kwarx under the Chuppah


'Unbreakable' glass launched

May 23, 2006
kwarx Felicity Carter

An 'unbreakable' wine glass made of a new material called Kwarx has been launched at Vinexpo in Hong Kong.

The makers claim it is the most important revolution in glass since automated lead crystal production. Philippe Durand, Chairman of ARC International, the company which developed the process, would only say 'Kwarx is a new material' but jealously guarded the actual formula.

Kwarx glass is made to a secret formula and is supposed to retain lustre and transparency as well as being unbreakable....

Before attempting to break a wine glass under the chuppah, make sure it's not made of Kwarx!


If you are thinking of some good shtick for your friend's wedding? How bout an ole fashion punk'd wedding prank with this wacky new creation from our allways humor minded friends in Hong Kong: Unbreakable glass.

Made of a new material called Kwarx, this glass would make for the perfect for revenge on an ex-boyfriend or a priceless moment at a guy/girl who has been a jokester all his life. This will finally even the score.


Jewish Wedding Galleries on

Scot Kirkpatrick photographs a Jewish wedding in Bnei Brak:

Another Jewish wedding gallery on This wedding was in Tekoa.

Happy Couple.

The photography in this wedding gallery is truly remarkable.

Select images from Jewish Weddings from the portfolio of Sofia Roz are also on Pbase.
Her images are original and tasteful.
and here:

Nov 26, 2007

Satmar Kabbolas Ponim...or more accurately Kabulas Punim

Here's a Satmar wedding video. A bit crowded...