Both Families. “If I do a ceremony by myself, I like to use the unity candle. I ask the mothers to come up, saying, ‘Let’s honor the mothers of the bride and groom,’ or I ask for a representative of the bride and groom to light the candle, and hand it to the couple, acknowledging that now they are one family."
Cantor Judith Steel
For Your Ceremony … Unite In Joy
“I love uniting brides and grooms of different faiths in love and joy,” says Cantor Judith Steel, an interfaith minister who was inspired by her background as a hidden child in France, during the Holocaust. “Living with a Catholic family in France, who saved my life, inspired me to bring the essence of love into my wedding ceremonies.
“I’ve done traditional Jewish and interfaith weddings by myself, and I’ve done interfaith weddings with priests, pastors, and ministers of different denominations. I interact with both bridal families to make it harmonious for all.” She meets with her couples as often as needed. “Together, we create a ceremony that is unique and joyful. To individualize each ceremony, during our first meeting I present a basic format. Then we keep in touch and personalize it.
“If I do a ceremony by myself, I like to use the unity candle. I ask the mothers to come up, saying, ‘Let’s honor the mothers of the bride and groom,’ or I ask for a representative of the bride and groom to light the candle, and hand it to the couple, acknowledging that now they are one family.
“For the welcoming, opening prayer, if the couple is religious, whether interfaith or Jewish, I will say a few words in Hebrew and the rest in English. “If they want to write their own vows, I always say, ‘Sit quietly, listen to your heart, and see what happens.’ ”
To avoid problems, Cantor Judith usually asks for certain things to be ready at the ceremony. “Don’t forget the marriage license. That has happened! I can’t say, ‘I pronounce you husband and wife,’ unless you have that. In that case, we have to get together the next day and get officially married in my apartment.”
Cantor Judith is cantor of the New Synagogue and assistant to the senior rabbi, Dr. Joseph H. Gelberman. An ordained interfaith minister, she’s on staff of the Allfaiths Seminary International. A student of Kabbalah for many years, she received her Master of Divinity in 2000.
“What’s most satisfying is connecting with the couple on a very deep level. Being a Holocaust survivor, I feel love should be without any barriers, and go deeper than any religious or ethnic differences. If everyone would feel that way, the world would certainly be different.”