the schmooze

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Remember the episode on "Seinfeld" where George's Fiance, Susan, died suddenly, after licking wedding invitation envelopes? Well the funeral scenes for Susan were shot at Mountain View "beys-oylem" (cemetery). In 2007, The New York Times carried this headline:


And in 2009, the Journal Sentinel carried this headline:


Couples have been married in the strangest places--even cemeteries! Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles is not only in the burial business; it's in the wedding business, too.

Marcia Seligson ("The Eternal Bliss Machine - America's Way of Wedding," Copyright, 1973), wrote,

"In the early 1920s, the story goes, a bride-to-be and her fiance walked through the sunlit glades of Forest Lawn. Coming upon a setting of green lawns and tall trees, she exclaimed, 'Look!--a storybook dream come true!.' Then and there they decided that this was where they wanted to be married...Since this fortuitous discovery fifty years ago, more than fifty thousand weddings have taken place at Forest Lawn."

Ms. Seligson continues, 'Why do people want their wedding at a cemetery? One apparent motive, a fairly common one, is that a parent or favorite relative is buried there and the family wishes to be close to him on that day. But surely that doesn't explain all. 'Our couples have grown up with Forest Lawn,' say Mrs. Bennett, what at first hearing sounds ridiculous, but on later thought seems more real...Forest Lawn is as much a part of your conditioned experience as the presence of the Pacific or movie stars or the smog...Forest Lawn. It's not what it is, a graveyard; it's merely a California fixture, another recreational area."

In 1944, Forest Lawn cemetery had a ruling that they had funerals every hour during the day. Starting at 5:30, they had weddings on the hour.

According to Patty Hansen, "Some brides like having a graveyard incorporated into their vows..What I mean is a saying such as "as the graveyard behind us shows lives ended...we are here today as two lives are beginning."

I recenty had the pleasure of reading the book, "The Wedding That Saved a Town" by Yale Strom. This book is a beautiful way to expose the "kinderlech" (children) to a traditional European Jewish wedding custom.

The main "parshoyn" (character), Reb Yiske, is asked to perform a wedding. Yiske gladly accepts the offer. However, he soon learns that a terrible cholera epidemic has hit Pinsk. ( Cholera is an infectious and often fatal disease of the small intestine caused by bacterium.) The people in the town were "krank" (sick). Since the disease is contagious, people were afraid to go outside.

Legend has it that if two orphans get married in a cemetery, a miracle MAY happen. Their dead parents would somehow intercede to stop a raging cholera epidemic. This is called a "shvartze chasene--a black wedding."

Yale Strom was once in the town of Ropshitz, Poland, when some Jews told him that the "shvartze chasene"--the wedding in a graveyard-- really happened.

In Roslyn Bresnick-Perry's book, "I Loved My Mother on Saturdays and other tales from the shtetl and beyond," she writes about "The Wedding in the Cemetery"

Her grandmother said, "Once as a child, I was taken to a wedding in the cemetery. You see, there was a terrible outbeak of cholera in our town. Why it suddenly should happen in the middle of the winter was a mystery. Usually an epidemic like this came in the summertime...What could be done to placate this evil spirit?"

The author then explains how the Rebbe was asked to arrange a marriage that would take place in the cemetery. A pair of poor orphans were chosen. (Everyone in the shtetl was on the verge of poverty.) The wedding took place near the grave of the bride's mother. The author writes, "Surely she would intercede with this avenging spirit if nothing else moved her."

The community provided a handsome dowry. "Also, everyone was to bring their children, for next to weddings, the spirits like children best," wrote Roslyn Bresnick- Perry.

The story ends: "The cholera epidemic subsided, so the evil spirits must have gotten what they wanted...As far as the spirits are concerned," concluded my grandmother with a broad smile, "let them rest in peace."

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe agrees that getting married is SERIOUS BUSINESS....and a "preenup" is an agreement to groom before a wedding.

We read,
"Why a cemetary?" Reb Yiske asked.

"We hope the spirits of loved ones still live in their children and grandchildren," Rabbi Yamferd explained.


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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