July 10, 2003
Father of the Bride
Other than paying his share of the bills, the father of the bride has two principal responsibilities when his daughter marries.
The first is to stay out of the way of the womenfolk in the family while they make certain that the dress colors match (but not too exactly), the proper flowers are chosen, the family members who don't talk to each other are not seated at the same table and the ring-bearer has his role sufficiently rehearsed so that stage fright doesn't overcome his 4-year-old capabilities.
I passed this test with ease, being safely removed from the scene in Providence, R.I., while the crucial decisions were made in Los Angeles.
The second responsibility is to formally introduce one family to the other at the wedding reception. This was a bit more complicated, although the groom's family, mainly named Smith, attended in manageable numbers. The family of the bride, on the other hand, includes Levs, Lows, Kabakovs, Goldbergs, Berliners and Pegueroses in its roster of last names, an international mishmash of ancestries and cultures. The groom, a quiet, powerfully built man, will have to learn how to live with a family in which everyone talks at the same time, often at cross-purposes.
(But he brings a welcome talent to a family of professionals, academics and musicians -- he is building a garage for the home he shares with his new wife. Knowing how to apply a hammer to a nail is a skill that has evaded most of our crowd.)
The bride, Dafna, is 42, and the groom, Scott, is 36; this is the first marriage for both. His hobby is motocross, an exercise that involves riding motorcycles and dirt bikes at intemperate speeds, and he manages the maintenance department of an aerospace firm.
Dafna last appeared in this space several years ago when she graduated from the LAPD's police academy. Her career as a police officer ended abruptly when she accused several members of the force of sexual harassment and, still on probation status, was summarily dismissed. She returned to her previous profession as a Suzuki-method violin teacher.
The wedding was conducted on the foggy shore of the Pacific Ocean, half a world and a lifetime away from Dafna's birthplace in Jerusalem. The one concession to her religious and national origins was the ritual stomping on a glass at the conclusion of the ceremony -- a bit of theater that must have puzzled the groom's family.
If, 30 years ago, a daughter of mine had taken a non-Jewish husband, I would have blamed my secular beliefs for having deprived the Jewish people of an intelligent and talented member. (There was even a time, after working with Holocaust survivors in Europe and living for many years in a besieged Israel, that my attitude toward non-Jews in general was that they were objects of suspicion until proven otherwise.)
But maturity and experience have changed all that, and as I watched Scott and Dafna accept their guests' congratulations I put aside the prejudices of old, pleased to see how happy my daughter is and how well-suited for each other they are. In truth, they have been well-suited for some time; they are expecting a child in a few months and Dafna at first hesitated to wear white.
"I'll look like a marshmallow," she explained.
I know that this adds to the increasingly obvious problem of our communal losses through intermarriage, made possible largely by the welcome acceptance of Jews into the American mainstream. But intermarriage works two ways. My second daughter, two decades younger than the first, expects to marry a young man who will convert to Judaism before they wed. He is converting through the Conservative movement, which means that some Jews will not recognize its legitimacy. The loss will be theirs, not his.
But all of these dire thoughts dissipated as quickly as did the Pacific fog when the judge who performed the ceremony introduced Dafna and Scott Smith. It was a great moment for them and a great moment for their parents. May they enjoy a life of peace, joy and hope together.
Yehuda Lev is a former associate editor of The Jewish Journal.