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Jewish wedding traditions in Russia

“An engagement and the signing of a Ketubah (a marriage contract) at times precede a Jewish wedding,” said Borukh Gorin, head of the public relations department of the Federation of Russia’s Jewish Communities. The Jewish ceremony usually starts with the bride and the groom being escorted to the huppah, a Jewish wedding canopy, by both sets of parents. The canopy is held up on four poles by unmarried Jewish men. The huppah is installed outdoors under the starry sky (because the Lord promised to the forefather Abraham that his descendents would multiply like stars in the sky).

The ceremony kicks off with the reading of the Ketubah. The groom is supposed to hand a symbolic dower to the bride’s father. The payment could be made in cash or even a slice of bread. As a rule, an article of jewelry worth several thousand rubles is used for the purpose.

There is only one wedding ring at the Jewish ceremony. The ring must have an even surface that is completely free from any marks or scratches. A Rabbi presiding over the ceremony checks the ring for smoothness, which is also verified by witnesses. The groom then puts the ring on the bride’s finger and pronounces: “You are hereby dedicated to me by the Law of Moses and Israel.”

To conclude the ceremony, the groom smashes a wine glass with his foot. The ritual is performed to symbolize memories of the destruction of Jerusalem. Once the ceremony under the huppah is over, the newlyweds spend 10-15 minutes together alone in a special room. “No sexual activity takes place in that room. The point is that a woman must not share a room with a stranger in accordance with the laws of Judaism. Upon her return from the room, a woman is formally considered a married woman. The men and women are seated in separate room during the Jewish wedding ceremony,” said Gorin.

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