"I want to thank you for performing the wedding ceremony for my daughter Amy Balsam and Javier Estrada this past Saturday. What a lovely ceremony!! You truly made it personal and explained the ceremony beautifully. My guests were all impressed as was I, Amy's father and Javier's mother. Thanks again."
Rona Balsam
"Ron, the ceremony was so lovely. It was really something of a gamble on my part, considering we had met only once before the Bar Mitzvah. You were wonderful. Exactly what I had hoped for. So many people complimented it and were moved by it. Thank you."
Randy Karr.
"Thank you so much for conducting the wedding ceremony for Joanie and Alex. It was significant, personal, totally suited to the two of them and involved all the generations present and past. We were supremely happy with your cantorial skills and delivery."
Judy Ellen
Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly Asked Questions About Weddings

Why do you think that Judaism is so concerned with interfaith marriage?

Since the 1980's the rate of Jews choosing non-Jewish spouses has hovered between 40-50%. Up to that point the Jewish community reacted negatively to that development. It was believed that intermarriage would threaten the existence of the American Jewish community. However, by 2006 there is a consensus that the time has come to confront the challenge with constructive solutions.

Why do you officiate at interfaith weddings?

The answer is really two-fold. The first is to validate the desire of the Jewish partner to stay connected to his/her faith, people, and culture. The second is to welcome the non-Jewish partner into the Jewish community to the extent they feel comfortable.

What are the major issues in locating a cantor or rabbi for my interfaith ceremony?

First, all Orthodox and Conservative rabbis and cantors as well as most Reform and Reconstructionists will routinely refuse to officiate at interfaith ceremonies. There is, however, a legitimate group from the latter denominations that will officiate. The major issue seems to be the wide variety of conditions that dictate officiation. Suffice it to say, few rabbis and cantors will officiate with the broad latitude that most couples desire.

What is your level of experience?

I have been officiating at weddings for over 15 years. I have performed hundreds of weddings from traditional Jewish to Interfaith to Non-Denominational to civil.

How far will you travel to my ceremony?

I generally am called on to officiate at weddings in the Tri-State region, but will gladly (time permitting) travel to the location of your choice. I have performed weddings in Bermuda, Aruba and Spain among other distant locations.

As a Cantor, do you sing as well as speak during the ceremony?

Absolutely. if the bride and groom like. The old adage, "Music speaks louder than words" might well apply here. People respond to music; it reaches them. If desired, I can sing a song in English, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian or just about any language. Other times I will simply chant the blessings. As I’ve said, this is your wedding, you decide what works best.

Can you recommend music for the processional that's in keeping with the ecumenical flavor of our wedding?

Absolutely. I can sing during the processional either a cappella or with guitar in hand (if desired) or I can provide you with a CD of various selections I have downloaded which I recommend. There are so many beautiful choices-- love songs and popular ballads, and of course, the traditional Mendelssohn Wedding March for either the processional or recessional.

Where and when will you officiate?

While the ideal, in my opinion, is a neutral location, I recognize that the beauty and aura of a House of Worship may be preferable to some couples. I will officiate at weddings any day and time except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

When do we sign the Marriage Application and the Ketubah?

The Marriage Application and the Ketubah can be signed by your chosen witnesses during the marriage service. Do not confuse the marriage service with the wedding ceremony.

The marriage service is private, usually held in a small, but separate room, away from the guests, about 15 minutes prior to the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom and their immediate families, plus those who you will be honoring as witnesses should be present. Witnesses to the marriage certificate from the state can be any two people you choose. Witnesses to the Ketubah can be either men or women or one of each, who are not blood relatives to either the bride or groom. The actual marriages take place here and once the witnesses sign you are legally married.

Do not forget to have the civil marriage application with you at this time. I cannot marry you without it. Keep the marriage application together with the return envelope and papers that come with it.

Recently, a member of my family or close friend has passed on. Is there any way you could mention their name during the ceremony?

In ancient days, this was not done. It was thought that mentioning the name of someone who has gone might bring a reminder of death to this joyous occasion. However, over time, as people have moved slowly into a time of tremendous spirituality, it is nearly normal to mention a person’s name as being here in spirit.

Commonly Asked Questions About Bar/Bat Mitzvah

What is a Bar or Bat Mitzvah about?

An important life cycle event for a young Jewish boy or girl is the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah respectively. A boy is Bar Mitzvah when he reaches his thirteenth birthday, while girls are Bat Mitzvah when they are twelve. However, the girl's ceremony can be postponed to their thirteenth birthday as well. The literal meaning of Bar/Bat Mitzvah is "commandment age" or age of majority.

Historically Bar Mitzvah and later Bat Mitzvah is the ceremonial occasion that marks the time when a young person is recognized as an adult in the Jewish community and is responsible for performing mitzvot. For example before children are Bar/Bat Mitzvah, they do not need to fast on Yom Kippur. However after Bar/Bat mitzvah, they are required to fulfill this mitzvah. At Bar/Bat mitzvah they are also counted in the minyan, a quorum of ten required to conduct a service.

The Bar/Bat mitzvah ceremony consists of the young person chanting the blessings, and his/her Torah portion which is the Torah portion of the week. One also reads the Haftarah portion. There are many traditions that accompany the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience. While the actual day is important and memorable, the times of preparation before are just as enlightening and vital.

Over time the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration party has evolved. The custom is to serve a special meal to commemorate the mitzvah taking place. Moreover with extended families spread out over the country, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is also an opportunity for families to reunite and spend time together.

The purpose of Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons is to learn about Jewish customs, holidays, history, and the Hebrew language. The day the young person is Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the first time he/she will have ever been called to the Torah. In addition to preparing one's Torah portion the preparatory time serves as a chance for the young person to begin thinking about what being a Bar/Bat Mitzvah really means. The young person may make a commentary on their portion and try to apply the teachings of Torah to their own lives.

Doesn’t a Bar or Bat Mitzvah have to take place in a synagogue?

No. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony can take place anytime and anywhere. According to Jewish law, public prayer requires the presence of a minyan (10 adults) during which time the Torah can be read in public. Location can be a synagogue, home, meeting place, an auditorium or anywhere that people are gathered together for public prayer. In Judaism, there is no such thing as 'Sacred Place' but rather, 'Sacred Space' which is created by people coming together for communal worship.

I see you live in Westchester and we are in Long Island. Who will perform the ceremony and work with our child?

I will always perform the ceremony and in the location of your choice. As for who will work with your child, I am limited geographically as well as by my own busy teaching schedule. I have a team of highly qualified teachers throughout the Metro New York area who have been working with me in teaching and preparing youngsters. I can send someone to your home to work with your child or you can make other tutorial arrangements. Either way I am involved in the entire process: providing all materials, guiding the process, staying in touch with you, phone sessions with your child, an in-person run-through wherein I bring the Torah prior to the ceremony and regular communication with the tutor. If the tutor is not the right match, I will find someone else in less than a week until you and your child feel comfortable.

How far in advance do we need to book the date of the ceremony?

I perform between 30 - 40 B'nei Mitzvah ceremonies each year. Once you have decided that you would like to utilize my services, it is always best to confer with me on possible dates and not wait long to schedule a date as I cannot hold a specific date indefinitely.

Many Jewish boys and girls do not have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration, perhaps because the family does not belong to a synagogue. Not having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration does not make the child becoming an adult any less of a Jew. Still, there is a great void to fill when a Jewish child cannot participate in this rite of passage. I feel privileged to be able to serve this need in our society.

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