The following was written in collaboration with my daughter. She had participated in an event last Sunday that has become part of the staple of community involvement that is so typical in Chicago. I wanted to tell the story of this little piece of ‘Jewish Chicago’. It is a tribute to the spirit of Achdus, caring, and commitment that is I so often write about. What follows is a valuable lesson in microcosm about how things can be if only there is the will to do it.
"We're making a wedding next week...can you come?" This was the question asked of my daughter by her neighbor last Shabbos, not referring to her own simcha, or that of any of her relatives. In fact, she did not even know the couple getting married.
So began yet another ‘Simcha Wedding’. That’s what it’s called. The name is a bit misleading. Although these weddings are definitely Simchos, they are not intended for the general public. They are only available to those who simply do not have the financial means to make weddings for their children. It is not limited to the poverty stricken, although of course they are certainly included. It is designed for those people who are able to live very modestly on a very limited income, often living paycheck to paycheck, and just cannot afford to pay for a wedding. Many of those for whom these ‘Simcha weddings’ are made are fine upstanding and respected members of the community. They just do not have the means to pay the tens of thousands of dollars that are the minimal costs these days for a nice wedding for their children.
The project was conceived by two very dynamic young women. One of the women in charge runs a very successful business and the other is a well respected teacher and mentor at Ida Crown Jewish Academy.
They saw a need. They felt that every person in our community should be able to feel that they can have a beautiful wedding ... even when they can’t afford it. The weddings are not free. The costs are on a sliding scale, according to what the Baal Simcha can afford. Once that price is decided, the details are taken care of by "Simcha Weddings."
Last Sunday morning there was another Simcha wedding in town. These two young Chesed entrepreneurs and a voluntary staff of over 50 people cooked all the food, set all the tables, prepared the desserts, and set up the room. They also, plated and served the meal to every guest, and cleared and washed every dish. All came to the large modern Orthodox Shul, K.I.N.S. where these wedding always take place.
Volunteers included men and women, younger and older, married and single, Charedi and modern Orthodox, business men, Avreichim from Kollelim, high school students, yeshiva students, college kids, and married couples...basically everybody, from every facet of everything. At last Sunday’s event, there were 3 former ’Simcha wedding’ Chasanim and one former ‘mother of the bride’ who came to help.
Every "simcha wedding" provides an appetizer, meal, drinks, desert, wine for the Kabbalas Panim, wine for the tables, the chupah, the centerpieces, and the linens.
The raw materials of food are purchased at cost and prepared by the voluntary staff. The exuberant volunteers come either as a result of an e-mail about an upcoming wedding or by word of mouth.
Once, a young nursing home owner who volunteered noticed that every dish was being washed by hand. The very next day he had ordered and had delivered an industrial strength dishwasher to the shul for these weddings.
The entire concept was the idea of the Ida Crown teacher. She approached her business woman friend and they created the ‘Simcha Wedding’.
What about Hashgacha fees? Well there aren’t any. The Hashgacha and all matters of Halacha is decided by Rabbi Shmuel Feurst, Dayan of Agudas Yisroel and Rabbi Leonard Matanky, the Rav of the Shul and the Menahel of Ida Crown Jewish Academy
The shul can hold about 250 people. A fully edited video is often done free of charge by two former students of Ida Crown.
These two heroines of the Chicago Jewish community have been making weddings like this for 7 years. This last one was the 47th. These two women would not want any credit for what they do and would not want me to identify them by name. And that is so typical of their Anivus, both coming from families renowned for their Chesed.
Mi K’Amcha Yisroel