During the month of June, I went to Barcelona for the third year in a row in order to help out my small Reform congregation, Bet Shalom, with services and lectures, and to officiate at two weddings of temple members, both dear friends. We stayed about two weeks in this fascinating city.
The first wedding (she originally from Uruguay and he from Colombia) took place in one of the suburbs of Barcelona on a Sunday noon time at a luxurious restaurant/function hall. The weather was absolutely beautiful, dry, sunny and in the 70s. Friends of the couple had come to set up the Huppah the night before because the florist was unaccustomed to doing a Jewish wedding. However, they realized that the canopy could not be left alone overnight for fear that it would be destroyed by young people who usually come to the hall on Saturday nights. So, they took it down and set it up again the next morning at 8 am. The outdoor wedding ceremony was scheduled for 12 noon, but knowing Spain, I was sure it would start much later. To my surprise, the bride, in her late 20’s, arrived at 12. 15 pm; she emerged out a fancy car and walked down the aisle accompanied by her father. She looked radiant. The clergy (that is, the Cantor and I), the groom, 31, and the wedding party were already waiting under the Huppah.
Once the religious ceremony was completed, we all adjourned to the gardens for cocktails. For many people in attendance this was their first Reform Jewish ceremony. I received lots of complements from many Orthodox Jews who were present about the egalitarian nature of the Reform Jewish ritual. They specifically liked the fact that I used both Hebrew and Spanish during the liturgy. This wedding ceremony did wonders for my congregation because it proved to the Orthodox that our religious ceremonies are within the broad spectrum of traditional Judaism.
The cocktail hour lasted until about 3 pm, and then we were invited in for lunch. The food was outstanding, considering the fact that there were about 180 in attendance. In between meals, we had Israeli dancing and Latin music by a DJ. People went wild. Around 5 pm, not one but three consecutive desserts were served. Each table was then asked to make a toast for the groom and bride. The wedding cake showed up around 6 pm. Then a band of Mariachis came to entertain the crowd, surprising both the bride and the groom. (It was arranged by the groom’s parents). This was followed by more music, including rock’n’roll, American style. We did not leave the party until 9 pm. It was a long day but a beautiful one.
The second wedding took place the following Sunday late in the afternoon in one of Barcelona’s fancy mansions. The couple, in their 40’s, decided to have an extended cocktail with tapas following a religious ceremony in an open patio-garden. Again, the weather cooperated. For the majority of the guests this was their very first Jewish wedding. They were fascinated by the beauty of the ritual and by the tone of informality I created during the service. A jazz band entertained the guests, and a friend of the couple sang a few songs in English, but also one or two in Ladino. The bride and the groom exuded much happiness. The food was superb. We all took part in Israeli dancing and spent many hours talking to friends. I was approached by a lot of people who were curious about Judaism and Jewish wedding customs. I also answered questions regarding Israel and the Palestinians, and was delighted to find out that I was among people who were very supportive of Israel. This is note-worthy, because the Spanish tend to side with the Palestinians.
Just before I returned to Boston the local papers revealed that during the Second World War, General Franco ordered that a list of all Jews living in Spain be compiled, and this list of 6000 names were ultimately turned over to Himmler in Germany. This second wedding proved that Israel does have a few friends in Spain now, but could use lots more.
Rabbi Rifat Sonsino