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Rosh Hashanah This Year

by Susan Warsinger

In previous years, my daughters and their husbands, my grandchildren, and other family members celebrated the beginning of the new Jewish year with a great feast. I took it for granted that we would always have our Jewishness in common. This year, the Jewish year of 5778, another new member has been added to our family. Her name is Sehar, a beautiful and intelligent young woman who recently married my oldest grandchild, Matthew. She is Indian and Muslim. I have learned some Indian and Muslim customs since meeting her family, especially during the preparations for the wedding.

Sehar’s parents hosted an engagement party at their home, where all members of my family were invited, and we had the opportunity to meet Sehar’s family and friends. Some came all the way from India. When I first met Sehar, she wore blue jeans. At this event she wore a lovely peachcolored sari, embroidered with gold. She looked like a queen. The Indian cuisine was spread out all over tables in the kitchen and dining room. The aromas were enticing and exotic. I had a good time trying new dishes, including the desserts which Sehar’s mother had prepared. Everybody mingled and enjoyed good conversations. Near the end of the party, the bride’s family gave my grandson’s parents a huge basket filled with sweet items to eat. My daughter told me that the basket of food was so abundant that she still has some of the candies left even now for her to eat.

Two weeks before the wedding party, a friend of my new daughter-in-law’s family invited friends and family to a Dholki, named after a dholk or drum. At this party in a restaurant in Virginia, the guests sang Indian songs to the tunes of the dholk. The Dholki is a Pakistani custom. I learned that Indian Muslim traditions are very similar to Pakistani Muslim traditions, and they borrow customs from one another. Sehar looked lovely in a yellow gown, and Matthew wore a white Indian suit and looked very debonair. Both wore yellow garlands around their necks and sat on a dais covered in white. Pages of scientific books and literature of antiquity were displayed on the wall behind them. I asked the hostess, who designed the decorated wall, the meaning of those pages. She laughed and said the display was in the couple’s honor because they are intellectuals. 

The couple sat on the dais behind a table covered with a white and gold cloth strewn with bouquets of flowers. Everyone wanted to take a picture behind the couple. The theme of intellectualism was continued by the centerpieces on the guests’ tables. Each had three books piled one on top of each other and topped by a pot of flowers. The cuisine was traditional Indian dishes with wonderful spices. The guests enjoyed dancing and singing to Indian music. The younger people sat on the floor in their opulent Indian dresses and clapped their hands while singing. I was elated to see Matthew, who memorized an Indian dance with a complicated choreography, perform for his bride to be. She smiled shyly and seemed to be very pleased. Even though no alcohol was served, as is the Muslim custom, there was much merriment.

The young couple each decided to honor their own heritage. I think they also decided to please their families. Therefore, after the courthouse ceremony and after lunch, we proceeded to my house for the Jewish marriage ceremony. Matthew made arrangements for a rabbi to marry them according to the Jewish tradition. My daughter made a chuppah with four dowels and a cover to make a canopy for the couple to stand under during the ceremony. They signed the ketubah, the marriage contract. Then, the rabbi recited the Kidushim, the betrothal blessing, over a cup of wine. Matthew then, according to tradition, broke the glass with his foot and everyone shouted “Mazel Tov.” The couple, newly married according to the Jewish religion, drove to Sehar’s parents’ house, where they celebrated the Muslim marriage customs.

Sehar and Matthew have many friends from all over the world. The big wedding celebration was planned for a Sunday brunch at a country club in Maryland on August 13, 2017. Since so many of the guests came from out of town, they were invited to a dinner on Saturday, the night before the wedding celebration. This event took place in a restaurant in Washington. I was so happy to meet many of their friends. I also enjoyed being with my family who lived close by and out of town.

The Sunday brunch, the final festivity of their wedding, was a grand and glorious celebration. There were about 200 people of all ages mingling, talking, and enjoying each other. Sehar was stunning in a long beige dress with gold embroidery. Matthew wore an Indian suit similar to those I have seen in the movies and on television Some ladies wore beautiful saris, and the Indian men wore elegant suits similar to Matthew’s. The celebration was a melding of two families’ cultures. The brunch included Indian dishes and Jewish dishes, such as lox and bagels. During the repast there were many speeches praising the accomplishments of both the bride and groom.

Since we are living at a time when there is so much misunderstanding among cultures, I am happy to see how Sehar’s family and Matthew’s family, from different cultures, find so much in common. I welcome Sehar with love into our expanded family. I wish Sehar and her family, for this Rosh Hashanah, this New Year, a healthy and happy future. I also hope that I will have wonderful great-grandchildren who will make positive contributions to the world and who will be part of a generation that will work toward even more understanding of all cultures. 

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