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Dear Readers, Marking milestones and celebrating with

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tions are called Simchas (joy in Hebrew). To make these celebrations joyful, will always be some!), creativity is near the top of everyone’s list. In this Mazel Tov section, we offer some creative sug-

Terri Denison, Editor Germaine Clair, Art Director Laine Mednick Rutherford, Associate Editor Hal Sacks, Book Review Editor Sandy Goldberg, Account Executive Mark Hecht, Account Executive Marilyn Cerase, Subscription Manager Reba Karp, Editor Emeritus

gestions such as Jewish Family Service’s Baskets of Hope Program for centerpieces and the latest (or perhaps oldest) trend of ‘crowdsourcing.’ We also feature brief pieces about a local bat mitzvah, wedding, and 50th anniversary celebration—each having

Miles Leon, President Stephanie Calliott, Secretary Harry Graber, Executive Vice-President

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tion—they have experience and can offer great suggestions.

Mazel Tov!

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MAZEL TOV Mimi and Warren Karesh

M imi a n d W a r r e n K a r e s h c e l e b r a t e their 50th anniversary Mimi and Warren Karesh celebrated their 50th anniversary this summer at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art Center in Virginia Beach. Their four children planned the party in honor of their parents’ lifetime commitment to each other. Mimi Karesh talks about the event:

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At first, our children were planMimi and Warren Karesh (Sharon Schloss photography)

ning to make our anniversary party a surprise, but that didn’t happen—they

ended up telling me, and I’m glad. I didn’t really even want a party, not because I didn’t want to celebrate, but because when you make a list you’re always going to

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exclude people, and I don’t like that. It ended up that we weren’t able to invite everyone I wanted because it would have just been too many, but we still had about 200 people and everyone seemed to have a good time. During the party, we reenacted our wedding and we renewed our vows. One of my daughter Sara’s best friends is Rabbi Mitchell Hurvitz from Temple Sholom in Greenwich, Conn., and he came down and led the service—he insisted on doing it. It

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all worked out; we had a chuppah with a tallis stretched across it and we had people who were at our wedding 50 years ago hold the poles of the chuppah. Warren broke a glass under his foot and it really was a big hit at the party. The best part for me, I think, was what Warren gave me at the party—something special that I had no idea he was doing. He had some gold left over from years ago when he was in dental school. For years, it had been locked away in a safe, just sitting there. Without me knowing it, out of that gold, he made himself a wedding band—he had lost his when he had some minor surgery—and he made me something too. It’s a beautiful disc that I can put on a necklace, it looks like the ocean and a little piece on top has a 5 and an 0—for the 50 years we’ve been married. That was a surprise that I was okay with.

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In crowdsourcing for weddings, new methods for an old idea by Lilit Marcus

NEW YORK (JTA)—When Amanda Melpolder began planning her wedding to Jeff Greenberg, she hoped the ceremony would be unlike others. Melpolder had become involved in an independent minyan in Brooklyn after converting to Judaism several years ago, and she and Greenberg wanted their their wedding this past June to reflect the prayer group’s community spirit and sense of do-it-yourself camaraderie. Friends were asked to lead prayers and narrate the signing of the ketubah, or marriage contract. Melpolder, a chef, solicited recipes from guests that would be bound in a souvenir cookbook. Assignments were given to friends based on personalities and interests. “Since our Jewish community is one that we created and are actively part of,

it made sense that our wedding would be the same theme, with people leading different parts of the ceremony,” Melpolder says. Such participatory approaches to wedding planning might seem like a feature of the information age but may be just the latest incarnation of an older Jewish tradition. “The word ‘crowdsourcing’ is a new word for an old thing,” says artist Nahanni Rous, who creates custom chuppahs, or wedding canopies. “We are pretending that we just invented this idea of the shtetl. It’s like everybody would come to the wedding, and that was how a community got together to celebrate.” In other words, it has always taken a village. It’s just that now the village looks quite different. Based in Washington, D.C., Rous often

incorporates crowdsourcing into her work, such as asking friends to submit fabric swatches. Her chuppah-making career began, appropriately enough, at her own wedding. She and husband Ned Lazarus, who met in Israel and married in 2004, had two ceremonies, in Jerusalem and New Hampshire, to accommodate friends in far-flung locales. Each guest was asked to bring fabric that was pinned to a sheet at the wedding. “We had people from every region of Israel and the Palestinian territories at the ceremony. We had everything from a kippah with a Magen David knitted on it to a Palestinian flag to a piece of someone’s wedding dress and a map,” Rous says. “It was a really beautiful

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hodgepodge.” Since then, Rous has worked with couples to create custom chuppahs, incorporating everything from traditional Jewish symbols to quotes from poets such as e.e. cummings and Pablo Neruda. Some of her clients aren’t even Jewish but like the concept of the chuppah. In some cases, crowdsourcing is a way to make guests feel more involved in a ceremony, but it can also be a way to make logistics a little easier for the bride and groom. When Caroline Waxler and Michael Levitt married last summer, they came up with a Twitter hashtag for their wedding guests. Waxler, who runs a digital strategy company, knew her tech-obsessed friends would be tweeting photos from the ceremony and reception. With the hashtag #waxlevittwedding, she was able to find them easily. “When you’re making a commitment in public to one other person, it’s kind of also a reminder that in your life you are supported by people, not just by one other person,” Rous says. While crowdsourcing methods can make family and friends feel more involved in the wedding, Melpolder admits that she may have other reasons for making the big day a little more social. “I really hope someone hooks up at our wedding,” she says.

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MAZEL TOV Haley Bosher

H a l e y B o s h e r B at M i t z va h Haley Bosher celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on August 10 at Temple Israel. A student at Lynnhaven Middle School, Haley beams when she talks about the celebration. I’ve been preparing for this since I was in 2nd grade. I knew everything but my Haftorah, and I started training for that in April. That was the hardest part of the Haley Bosher

whole process for me. I had one of the longest Haftorahs—almost 12 minutes—and

the third page was really difficult. But I learned it and everything worked out. Writing my speech ending up being really cool because my Torah portion had to do with Judges and we have three judges in our congregation. I got to write my speech from my interviews with them—one was under special circumstances, he was in a temporary home and I got to meet with him, and the other two I got to talk to on the phone. It made me feel really good to write about the things we’d talked about. Some people think presents are the reason to have a Bat Mitzvah, but for me, the presents were definitely not important. People were so very generous. Most of them gave me money, and I even got a Visa debit card! One of the few presents that I got that I could open, was a very special gift from my friend Reanne. She got me a necklace and a bracelet. I wear the necklace everyday and I just love it. The bracelet has little charms on it and I love that, too. I’d have to say I had two favorite parts to my Bat Mitzvah. One in the morning, and one at night. In the morning, it was definitely seeing my family and watching them smile at me, and I just knew: this is it. I was becoming a woman. It really felt like that! Then, at night, seeing all of my friends at The Signature was so much fun. There were probably 150 people there—kids and adults, and during the party there was a big storm and the power went out. If there hadn’t been a storm I still think we could have blown the power, because we kept dancing and having a great time—even in the dark. Some of us were on the balcony area, some were eating, and some just kept on dancing—even though we were sweating like crazy because there wasn’t a fan or AC. I don’t know about other kids, but I was very happy with what I had, and the memories I’ll have of it forever. It meant so much to me.

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jewishnewsva.org | Mazel Tov | September 30, 2013 | Jewish News | 29


MAZEL TOV Molly Rubin and Joe Nizhnikov

Yo u n g c o u p l e h e l p s u n i t e r i va l s c h o o l s’ Hi l l e l s t h ro u g h w e ddi n g g i f t by Laine M. Rutherford For years, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech have been rivals—friendly rivals—but rivals nonetheless. The term bandied about today is “frenemies (a mix of friend and enemy),” and until recently that feeling between the two school could be used to describe their athletic programs, academics and, even, their Hillels. And then, along came Molly and her Sue Kurtz and Rabbi Jake Rubin.

beau Joe, changing things up—at least on a personal level. Two young successful graduates

from these schools, Molly Rubin a UVa alumni, and Joe Nizhnikov, a VT alum, fell in love and decided to get married. If they could overcome their collegiate differences, then their schools, or just a small part of their schools could? Both Molly and Joe were involved in Hillel—an organization that provides Jewish community, support and programming—during college: Molly, at the Brody Jewish Center at UVa, where her cousin Rabbi Jake Rubin is the executive director, and Joe at the Hillel at Tech with executive director, Sue Kurtz.

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While planning their wedding, the couple decided to take money they would have budgeted for other things—gifts for wedding guests, items that were just “things,” and chose to instead give those funds to each other’s Hillel. When Sara Jo and Joel Rubin, Molly’s parents, found out about the decision to donate $1,000 to each school, they applauded the couple. Through their business, Rubin Communications Group, Sara Jo and Joel knew where they could have two giant checks manufactured. As a surprise to their daughter and new son-in-law and to the Hillel directors, the Rubins brought the checks to the couple’s wedding this spring. They loved seeing the shock and appreciation on everyone’s faces as the checks were presented. Two of the most shocked were Kurtz and Rubin, who were among the guests. “They told us they wanted to give back—that they’d gotten so much from Hillel and they wanted to make sure other students felt as welcome and as good about being Jewish during their college careers as they did,” says Jake Rubin. The large act of benevolence from the newly married Nizhnikovs made a vast difference in the dynamics between the two Hillels. “That presentation of the checks kicked off a feeling between us that we’re all together in this, and that’s what’s important—not the rivalry, but the connection,” Kurtz says. Rubin and Kurtz traveled to the Sandler Family Campus in Virginia Beach in August to participate in a panel conference—together—(a first) at the Community Relation Council’s Bringing Israel Home event for college students. That evening served as an opportunity to see how the directors and schools could complement each other, and if the roots of friendship, without the weeds of rivalry, could realistically begin to grow and flourish. “We really must give the credit to Molly and Joe for starting this,” Rubin adds, “We’re talking now and doing more things together, and our Hillels are looking forward to doing even more. We know it’s just going to get even better and better.”

30 | Jewish News | September 30, 2013 | Mazel Tov | jewishnewsva.org


Sharing hope through baskets

W

hen it came to choosing a centerpiece for her son Ben’s upcoming Bar Mitzvah, the answer was obvious for Amy Levy, as it had been for her other children. “As each of our four children prepared for their Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah, one easy decision was to use JFS’ Baskets of Hope program,” says Levy. “The program fulfills a need, providing a beautiful and unique centerpiece personalized to the theme or colors of your event, but more importantly it helps others in need. Knowing that ‘the food’ in each basket represents a donation of food and financial assistance to local Jewish individuals and families provided us the perfect vehicle to fulfill the obligation each of our children felt in performing an act of tzedakah.” The proceeds from the Baskets of Hope program go directly toward helping local Jewish families in need. Often, many of these families are forced to choose between purchasing life sustaining food or

medication. Last year, the JFS Food and Financial Assistance program served 400 Jewish individuals living in this community. Debbie Mayer, JFS director of clinical services, says, “Many of these individuals struggle with living expenses and JFS is able to help fill that gap.” Established more than 10 years ago, this program has been met with overwhelming support by families in the Jewish community for occasions such as bar/ bat mitzvahs, weddings, luncheons, birthdays, etc. “I cannot think of another centerpiece (flowers, candy or plant) that goes to the heart of who we are as Jews and to what we are teaching our children other than the Baskets of Hope,” says Levy. Each basket is tailored to fit any event taking into account the theme and color design and a portion of the cost of each centerpiece is tax-deductible. For more information about the Baskets of Hope program, contact Sue Graves at 321-2238.

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