Ukrainian Couples Reaffirm Jewish Vows

Nineteen couples who were unable to hold Jewish weddings in communist times, tie the knot in a Jewish group ceremony.

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Nineteen Jewish couples from Dnepropetrovsk, in eastern Ukraine, were married last Sunday in a group ceremony organized by the local Jewish community.

Most of the couples were already married under Ukrainian law but had not had a Jewish wedding ceremony (huppah,) the director of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community, Zelig Brez, told JTA.

“It is a huge event in the spiritual sense, and, I’m not afraid to say it – historic,” he said, adding that the ceremony was the largest group wedding performed in the city – where 50,000 Jews live – since before the communist era.

Ten rabbis conducted the marriages on a terrace at the Menora Center, Dnepropetrovsk’s $100 million Jewish community center which opened in 2012.

Under communism, Jewish life in the former Soviet Union was conducted primarily underground, a reality that meant many Jews did not have a Jewish wedding. In many areas, a majority of Jews were not circumcised.

“The challenge was both logistical and halachic,” the community wrote in a report about the weddings. Special attention went to helping couples feel the moment in their own private context as opposed to a group activity, Brez explained.

For this reason, the weddings were conducted in two groups and not all at once – first for 10 couples and then for the remaining nine.

“It was something special, and I’m happy that I saw my daughter, in the presence of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, finally get a huppah,” community activist Mina Dreitser said of the wedding of her daughter, Miriam Minutova, to Shlomo Skorokhod.

The couples were specially prepared for the ceremony by Shmuel Kaminezki, the city’s chief rabbi and Chabad’s envoy to Ukraine, and his wife, Chana.