A Wedding At Sea

Performing a Jewish wedding ceremony on a cruise boat in the East River is no easy task. Carrying a portable Chuppah on my shoulders while juggling a heavy bag filled with my Kiddush cup, a bottle of kosher wine, my Tallit, and a large Ketubah rolled in a long tube I inched my way up the gangplank which was swaying in the late summer breeze.

I reminded the crewmen that I was there only to perform a wedding ceremony and would have to disembark before the boat was to leave the dock. Our wedding cruiser which was near Manhattan’s fashionable east 60s, was packed with family and friends of the bride and groom. After receiving their warm greeting it appeared to me that they hadn’t decided where to have me perform their ceremony, much less providing and setting up a table on which to place 0ther items I had brought on board.

After filling out and obtaining the witness’s signatures for their marriage license and instructing the photographer not to crowd the bride and groom, we lined up for the ceremony.
As the boat rocked in the late afternoon breeze, the wine cup spilled, the canopy slipped off the poles holding the Chuppah and the Ketubah blew off the table. As the groom’s foot smashed the glass amidst shouts of Mazel Tov, I scrambled to collect my equipment and make a hasty exit onto dry land and back to New Jersey for a memorial service I had to officiate. When I tried to find the gangplank all I could see was the Triboro Bridge ( a.k.a RFK Bridge) towering overhead as we veered up the East River toward the Long Island Sound .
” Help ” I shrieked. ” I have to get off. I have another service to perform in an hour. We have to go back right now. “
The newlyweds graciously invited me to continue on with them for their dinner cruise and even suggested that I lead them in the “Motze” over the Challah , and perhaps offer a toast later on. After all, hadn’t I prepared the bride for her Bat Mitzvah 12 years earlier ?

I was now one of the family.

But, duty called and I insisted that they return to port and to my car which was parked nearby.
I have shared many more joyous occasions with this family and we always recount the story of their wedding day and of how the boat set sail with me on it.

Rabbi Nat Benjamin

Chavurah Beth Shalom Virtual Seder, 2nd Night of Passover

We cordially invite you to our Chavurah Beth Shalom’s virtual second night Passover Seder, Saturday, April 16, at 6:00 pm via Zoom online.

Passover is a time of remembrance of those Jews in the past who did so much to ensure that we would survive as a people and be free to celebrate our Passover Seder.  It is also a time of renewal when we celebrate the Exodus from slavery and our love of freedom. As we wish to preserve this freedom, it is important for us to do our part to preserve those institutions that help guarantee Jewish survival.

Our Chavurah works relentlessly to educate our children and adults, to celebrate the holidays and to serve the community. As always, we are available to you for your life cycle events and pastoral needs. We are ever mindful of your continued friendship and generous support, which have enabled us to succeed and serve our community.

Come and celebrate our virtual Passover Seder on Zoom with your wonderful friends from our Chavurah, your out of town family members, and special guests.

This year, we need your help more than ever and so we have inaugurated a Passover Appeal which we hope will meet with the same generous response from our members and friends as in the past.

Whatever you contribute would be deeply appreciated and in the spirit of Passover.

Passover is a time when we say memorial prayers for our departed loved ones. Please email us the names of your dear ones and they will be read at our special memorial service along with the candle lighting. 

Jewish Genetic Diseases

The subject of Jewish genetic disorders, is rarely discussed openly. However, since 20 per cent of the Jewish population may be carriers, the need be tested is extremely  important. 

Jews of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic ancestry may be affected because of many generations of intercommunity marriage among the dwellers of the European Shtetl  and other isolated Sephardic communities. 

Without realizing it, the genes from these disorders may be passed on to generations to come.

Testing is essential for all of us especially for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

We share below a few key resources for everyone with more to follow.

Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium

Learn About Gaucher’s Disease – 1 in 15 Ashkenazi Jews carry the genetic mutation of this disease and yet so few people even know the name. Please note carriers do not suffer from this disease but they carry it from generation to generation.

Jewish Genetic Screening

A Directory of Jewish Genetic Diseases

Jewish Genetic Disease Frequently Asked Questions

A Thanksgiving Message For 2021

Although Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, for Americans of all religious denominations, one cannot overlook the religious ethic of giving thanks to God. Indeed,  many communities make Thanksgiving a time for Interfaith gatherings which include churches and synagogues alike. During my forty years in this community I have frequently participated in joint worship services with our many friends of other faiths. The services always include readings, prayers and devotions of  many  traditions and are  always well attended by members of the respective houses of worship in the community.

Chavurah Beth Shalom

We look upon Thanksgiving as our one true secular  holiday, universal to all of us.  As Jews we regard  all of our Religious Holy Days, Festivals and of course Shabbat as days of Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims in looking into the Hebrew scriptures recognized that Sukkot,  the “Feast of In gathering”, was also a festival of Thanksgiving. It is a parallel to the redemption from slavery in Egypt and the Pilgrims quest to find religious freedom in America. The Puritans saw much in common between themselves and the biblical narrative of the children of Israel. Both peoples shared a common hope for a new life in the promised land.

All Jewish holidays are related to the theme of the “Shehecheyanu” prayer which thanks The Almighty for “… giving us life, sustaining us and bringing us to this season “.  The prayers, and meditations in our prayer book stresses God’s beneficence toward  us. as we seek to acknowledge divine goodness through our thankfulness for all we have been given.   Although we often take so much of what we have for granted, the events of recent times should now awaken us from  our complacency. The world is becoming a frightening place and we need to be thankful for what we have. We often fail to feel gratitude for the people in our lives whom we love, for the beauties of nature, for the natural gifts and skills which we have have attained and achieved, and for the gifts of insight, wisdom, and love, as well as the opportunity to pursue our dreams in a society which affords us the freedom and security  to do so. We know this to be true as American Jews living in this wonderful country.