When Technion University student Moran Laniado became engaged to marry her boyfriend, Nir, she sought the advice of her family, her friends…and her Hillel director.
Laniado explained that she turned to Haifa Hillel director Inbar Bluzer to help the couple answer questions and create a ceremony that reflected their unique customs and beliefs.
"We wanted to learn more about [Jewish] wedding traditions and we already knew the people at Hillel, so we went to them," said Laniado.
"Inbar helped us understand the different parts of the wedding and put together a wedding ceremony that was meaningful to us."
Bluzer also helped the couple by raising questions that allowed them to have open and honest conversations about their future together.
"Inbar encouraged us to discuss all aspects of our future together so that we wouldn’t start our marriage with mistaken assumptions or miscommunications," said Laniado.
The experience of Moran and Nir’s marriage preparation, prompted Bluzer to launch the Haifa Hillel Wedding Workshop program in the spring of 2008. To Bluzer, these workshops are a natural extension for Hillel.
"A wedding, like other life-cycle events, is an entry point for a meaningful Jewish experience, with many questions about identity and personal choice," said Bluzer.
"Knowing that, the need for a wedding workshop was clear and we feel so privileged to meet our students' needs at this very important time in their lives."
Each workshop is a full day of sessions for engaged couples, limited to a small group in order to create a warm, intimate atmosphere where participants feel comfortable opening up.
Led by Bluzer and instructors from Havaya (www.havaya.info), an Israel-based life cycle ceremony consultancy, the workshop helps couples consider their options and design a wedding best suited for them. The couples are encouraged to explore different styles of wedding rituals and design a meaningful wedding ceremony, using traditional Jewish texts about love and marriage as their guides.
In recent years, many couples have opted to hold their weddings abroad rather than under the auspices of the Israeli Rabbinate. Bluzer sees these workshops as a chance to educate such couples about the richness of Jewish wedding traditions.
"In all cases," said Bluzer, "the couples knew more about all aspects of the ceremony after the workshops than they did before."
Since Moran and Nir’s experience, Haifa Hillel has held two wedding workshops for eleven couples, including one gay couple. Inspired by the success of Haifa Hillel’s program, Sapir Hillel is planning its own wedding workshop.
Moran and Nir Laniado are happily married and just welcomed their first child in August.