For Bris Avrohom, the Hillside-based Chabad Lubavitch organization, Oct. 31 was a gala celebration; in conjunction with its 31st annual dinner, the organization also celebrated its 25th mass wedding, uniting 11 couples under 11 huppas.
The ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel in Parsippany brought to 700 the number of couples for whom Bris Avrohom has provided a Jewish wedding. For most of the couples, this was not the beginning of married life; they had civil weddings years ago in the former Soviet Union, or after coming to the United States, but it was a new beginning in Jewish terms.
The guest of honor was Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel. He gave a special blessing to each of the couples. Speaking later, he discussed why a groom gives his bride a ring, rather than something else of value. He said that as the metalsmith bends the ends of the gold band together to form a circle, so too can the difficult times in married life bring the partners closer together, if they both learn to bend in compromise.
Nehama Shutyak of Teaneck was one of the speakers. She and her husband were married in Bris Avrohom’s 13th mass wedding, 12 years ago. She told the assembled couples and their friends and family — a crowd of around 500 guests — that this marital simha, or celebration, has given rise to “a home full of peace and harmony” for her and her husband, Pinchas, and their seven children.
The annual mass weddings, which the organization calls a “Celebration of Religious Freedom,” were started 25 years ago by Milton and Shirley Gralla, together with Rabbi Mordechai Kanelsky and his wife, Shterney, the executive and associate directors, respectively, of Bris Avrohom.
The cost of the entire event — from the buffet before, to the huppa ceremonies each led by a rabbi, and the dinner afterward, along with gifts for each couple — is underwritten by Bris Avrohom. For those brides who need the assistance, a wedding gown is also provided.
The evening’s program was emceed by Mordechai and Shterney’s son, Rabbi Yossi Kanelsky, outreach director of Bris Avrohom and rabbi of Bris Avrohom of Old Bridge. He made a point of thanking the members of the local Russian-Jewish community for their ongoing support of the organization and events such as the annual wedding.
He said that without the achievements of those in the business community and their generosity, those focused on religious matters would not be able to do their work.