Earlier this month, I traveled to New York City, where I was a guest at a friend’s wedding. At this wedding, my friend (the bride) who was raised in a Reform Jewish family was marrying a man who was raised as a practicing Orthodox Jew. Most of the ceremony and reception were catered to the groom’s side of the family, done in more of a Traditional style. The men and women sat on different sides of the room during the ceremony. There was also separation of the men and women on the dance floor during the reception. The actual ceremony was very brief with a few blessings read under the Chupah, all of it entirely in Hebrew, and ended with the ceremonial breaking of the glass and everyone yelling “Mazel Tov!”
I wanted to blog about this particular wedding because it very much reinforced the idea that Judaism is truly a Pluralistic religion. I have been to several Jewish weddings in my life that involved friends and family, but had never attended one that was Orthodox. Besides the Chupah, breaking of the glass and “Mazel Tov”, I had a slight feeling of being in a different religion’s wedding ceremony. At times I was questioning what was happening and didn’t fully understand the Hebrew that was being spoken. I did not think I could feel that way during a wedding ceremony of my religion and faith, but I certainly did.
Because of this feeling, it really got me to thinking that even though I might not practice or observe Judaism in the same way as my friends getting married, I didn’t disagree with it or feel like what they were doing was wrong or an incorrect way to practice or celebrate. What sometimes makes Judaism so great to me is that I can observe or practice differently than other Jews, yet to me, we are all still “Jewish”. This semester as the Hillel Director, I have been reminded of that idea on a daily basis. Whether you were raised Reform, Conservative, Re-constructionist or even Orthodox, what makes you feel comfortable in your level of observance is ultimately what is the most important. Be Jewish in your own way, and practice and observe as you see fit.
As a Hillel professional, one of my major job responsibilities is to create a center for Jewish Life on Mizzou’s campus that makes all Jews feel welcome, comfortable and able to practice Judasim as they see fit. While at times that might not be the most popular idea, Hillel prides itself as an International Pluralistic movement, and I am sure that won’t be changing any time soon.