Tips on Planning a Jewish Funeral

Tips on Planning a Jewish FuneralPlanning a funeral is extremely difficult: not only have you just faced a significant loss, you immediately have to make decisions with your loved one in mind. In the Jewish faith, the mourning process is sacred and funerals are an important part of saying “goodbye.”

The purpose of a Jewish funeral service is not to comfort the mourners, but rather to honor the deceased instead.

The Service

The first thing you should do when planning a funeral, is to find someone to conduct the funeral service. Having a designated rabbi to speak at the funeral is a vital detail. With the help of the funeral home, arrange a date and time to hold the service itself and call around to see what rabbi might be available. If you are in the Atlanta area, Rabbi Lebow will guide you through the process necessary for a proper Jewish funeral and burial.

You’ll also need to talk with the rabbi about what you’d like to be included in the service, and whether a family member or the rabbi will give the eulogy or hesped of the deceased.

The funeral home can help you arrange transportation for the close family of the deceased from the service to the burial site and back home. Consider taking advantage of these services to make the day easier.

Notify Friends and Relatives

Notify the friends and relatives your loved one’s passing right away, and alert them of the funeral services as soon as arrangements are made. It is important that loved one’s get the opportunity to celebrate the deceased’s life. You can also place an obituary in the local paper so anyone who wishes to pay their respects can attend.

Meal of Healing or Seudat Havara’ah

It’s tradition for the family of the deceased to welcome visitors at their home after the funeral service for a meal. Place a pitcher of water, a basin, and towel outside your entrance funeral returnees to use before entering your home. Many people prepare hard-boiled eggs for this meal, which symbolize the cyclical nature of life.

Shiva

If the family plans to sit Shiva, the rabbi can often help the mourners prepare.

Here at Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings, we will take you by the hand and help you with mourners, the gathering and procession of them, accompanying the dead for burial, and more.

Managing Your Finances as Newlyweds

Managing Your Finances as NewlywedsOne thing many engaged couples should be doing is having the “money talk.” Couples often avoid discussing money until after they married, which can quickly put a damper on the honeymoon phase.

Discussing finances prior to getting married is a vital part of having an honest and upfront marriage.

There are many questions to consider when getting married. Will you combine your finances? How will you budget for necessities such as rent, groceries, or car insurance? What if your spending habits are different? It can be overwhelming to think about how you’ll manage your finances as a married couple, but we have some advice.

Wedding Gift Money

If you’re fortunate enough to walk away from your wedding with a bit of money, after writing the “thank you” cards, you should decide how you want to spend that money. Does it go into a savings fund? If you have debt from the wedding, you might want to pay some of it down. But no matter what you decide to do, you should have a conversation about it.

Determine Your Goals

As a married couple, you likely have some finance driven goals such as saving up for a house or for starting a family. Starting and maintaining a healthy, open dialogue about finances can make a huge difference in the quality of your marriage. Money might be hard to talk about but it is a must-have conversation.  It is important to talk about how much you have, how much you want to save, and what your goals are as a couple that you need money to achieve.

Set a Budget

Setting a budget that you are both comfortable with is, a great way to stay on track with your spending. There are lots of mobile apps that can help you automatically track your spending on everything from groceries, to a morning coffee, to a date night.  You should also include “fun money” into your budget. Everyone needs some spending money in order to go out with friends, splurge on a new shirt, or purchase that watch you’ve been wanting.

We really encourage couples to talk about money as soon as possible and get on the same page with one another. Married couples have a major financial advantage: you have a teammate to help you manage your finances and you can keep one another on track.

If you’re getting married soon and need a wedding officiant for your Jewish or interfaith wedding, contact Rabbi Lebow.

What to Wear for a Jewish Wedding

What to Wear for a Jewish WeddingIf you’ve never attended a Jewish wedding before, you might find yourself staring into your closet thinking, “what outfit is appropriate?”

Atlanta Jewish and Interfaith Weddings is here today to help you decide what is appropriate attire for a Jewish wedding.

Type of Ceremony

The first thing you’ll need to figure out is what type of ceremony you’re attending. If it’s an Orthodox ceremony, dress for men and women will be very conservative. Ladies must cover everything from the collarbone to the knees, including your elbows. They will also be wearing stockings or pantyhose. If you’re married, you would typically cover your hair.

Men will wear a yarmulke on their heads along with long sleeves, jackets, ties and long pants.

For a Conservative ceremony, the rules are a little looser. Women should still dress relatively conservatively, but necks and backs don’t necessarily need full coverage and you can probably skip the pantyhose. Married women may or may not need to cover their heads, and men may or may not be required to wear a yarmulke but the particular synagogue will be able to confirm.

For a Reform ceremony, which is the most non-traditional of the bunch, there are no dress code requirements, so all you need to do is dress for the invitation specifications: casual, formal or black tie. Men may still need to cover their heads with a yarmulke, but the synagogue will most likely provide them for you at the front door.

Stay Classy

The most important thing to remember when getting dressed for a Jewish wedding is to be respectful, both to the couple being married and the synagogue where it’s taking place. Remember to dress somewhat conservatively: don’t wear something you’d be found in at the bar over the weekend! If you have any doubt, just ask the bride and groom to be if your outfit is acceptable. Chances are, whatever you have picked out will work fine.

If you’re getting married soon and need a wedding officiant for your Jewish or interfaith wedding, contact Rabbi Lebow.

Understanding Tradition: Why Breaking a Glass Is a Jewish Wedding Tradition

If you’ve ever been to a Jewish wedding, you probably know that the ceremony culminates with the groom breaking a piece of glass with his foot. It’s usually followed by a kiss and lots of cheers from the crowd in attendance. But do you know what the significance of this tradition is?

Jewish Wedding TraditionWhile the breaking of glass at the end of a wedding ceremony might seem like a silly tradition, it actually has a lot of significance in the Jewish faith. Modern couples who are getting married will tell you that the breaking of the glass signifies that they are officially married and their life together has just begun.

However, the story goes much deeper than that. As MyJewishLearning notes, for many Jews, the breaking of the glass symbolizes the fall of the Temple of Jerusalem, which was the beginning of the Jewish people’s exile to Babylonia, a fulfillment of prophecy that ultimately strengthened the Jewish faith.

The breaking of the glass also traditionally symbolizes the idea that married life will bring both great joy and difficult sorrow to the couple, but that they will now face those things together. Some say that this tradition also reminds the couple that their marriage is fragile, and should be treated with the utmost care.

When an interfaith couple is married, the breaking of the glass could also symbolize the breaking down of barriers between faiths, and creating a new state of combined faith in marriage, says Interfaith Family. Regardless of any individual couple’s faith, once the glass is broken, you’ll hear a joyous cry of “Mazel tov!” to celebrate the start of the happy couple’s new life together.

Rabbi Steven Lebow at Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings can help you tie the knot in your own unique wedding ceremony in locations all along the Southeast and Gulf Coast. To learn more about planning your nuptials, call him today at 404-790-8612.

Celebrating Love on Valentine’s Day – and Tu B’Av

February is almost upon us, which means that romance and love in the air with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. No matter your religion, couples around the country and across the world celebrate this holiday with gifts, special nights out, dinner and more. If you’re a member of the Jewish faith, however, there’s another holiday that is also designed for lovers: Tu B’Av.

Happy Valentine's DayTu B’Av is a romantic holiday of love on the Hebrew calendar, similar to Valentine’s Day. Originally, this day served as a day of matchmaking for single Jewish girls, as Chabad.org notes. On this day, Jewish daughters “would go and dance in the vineyards” and eligible bachelors would go there to hopefully find a wife, says Chabad.org, quoting from the Talmud.

In the generations since, though, time this day has changed and shifted into a day of love for most Jewish people, celebrated in ways similar to Valentine’s Day, says Hebcal. While this means that the sharing of romantic feelings and thoughts, as well as gifts, is not uncommon, Tu B’Av is also a great date for weddings.

Tu B’Av falls a week after Tisha B’Av, which is considered a day of sadness, which makes it often a great cause of celebration and happy reflection – perfect for a wedding day. Typically, Tisha B’Av is the date where the Jewish people were told they would wander for 40 years, lost in the desert, says My Jewish Learning. By contrast, Tu B’Av is the date that the remaining Jewish were told they would be allowed to enter the promised land, marking a day of celebration for the 15,000 or so survivors of the four decades in the desert. Those people celebrated and danced on Tu B’Av, helping signify the date of a time of celebration and joy, and today Tu B’Av is often marked with weddings, romantic gestures ceremonies and other celebratory occasions.

While most people are gearing up for Valentine’s Day with stuffed teddy bears, chocolate hearts and other assorted gifts and trinkets for their significant others this festive season, the Jewish people will have a second chance later this year on Tu B’Av, this year observed at sundown Aug. 6.

Whether you’re thinking of planning your nuptials for Tu B’Av or another date, Rabbi Steven Lebow of Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings can officiate at your wedding celebration. He can work with you to plan a traditional Jewish ceremony or work to create an interfaith occasion that balances the beliefs of both your faiths into a wedding that’s as unique and distinctive as your love for one another. Learn more and discuss your plans with Rabbi Lebow today by calling 404-790-8612.

Planning Ahead: What to Expect for Weddings in 2017

2017 is a great year to have a wedding! If you’re in the early stages of planning your wedding for next year following a holiday engagement, or helping a friend or family member plan theirs, you may be overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the different trends. Let’s explore some of the most popular things being planned for weddings next year and look at some of the top options and ideas that we think will be big in 2017.

Wedding Trends for 2017Plenty of traditional touches, especially when it comes to Jewish weddings, will stay the same in 2017, but styles are always changing. For example, according to Jewish Journal, lots of brides are opting out of the white dress, and choosing blush or blue shades instead. Bridesmaid dresses are getting a makeover, too. Some brides ask bridesmaids to simply stick to a color scheme, rather than asking everyone to wear the same exact dress.

When it comes to food, eating incredible food at your wedding is always in style, but weddings in 2017 will probably see more farm-to-table, sustainable, organic options. Some couples are ditching the formal dinner in favor of a more casual, family-style affair, as well. No worries about the best part though –dessert! Dessert won’t ever go out of style, but instead of a traditional wedding cake, you might see a dessert bar, tea stations and even pastries like donuts popping up at weddings in the new year.

Flower themes are getting revamped, too. Instead of the classics like peonies and roses, 2017 weddings will lean more towards the wildflower theme. Expect to see romantic arrangements with lots of greenery, and even nontraditional elements like wooden or cork vases.

Now that you know what all the hot wedding trends are for the year, have you decided on an officiant? No wedding can happen without someone to lead you in your nuptials, and Atlanta Jewish and Interfaith Weddings offers wedding rabbi services for all types of ceremonies. Rabbi Lebow serves couples in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee and can officiate your wedding, too. To learn more, call Rabbi Lebow at 404-790-8612 today.

Making Your Same-Sex Jewish Wedding Unique

Are you about to throw a same-sex Jewish wedding but you think that you want to spice up some of those old traditions? There are many ways that you can update your same-sex ceremony to reflect your style. Consider some of these options.

Jewish Same-Sex WeddingsPersonalize the Breaking of the Glass

One of the flashiest times of any Jewish wedding is the breaking of the glass and the yelling of “Mazel Tov!” Have you considered how you can personalize this long-running tradition?

How about breaking two glasses! That’s right. Make it special for both of you by having each of you break a glass and kick it up a notch by having multicolored glass, saving the shards and making a beautiful mezuzah or some custom necklaces that you can both wear to remember this fabulous occasion.

Customize the Ketubah

Spice up the pre-wedding traditional ketubah by adding your own personal style to it. Ketubot are a sort of contract between a to-be-married couple and outlines their rights and responsibilities to one another. While it may seem old-fashioned, that doesn’t mean that your ketubah has to be!

Modify your ketubah as much as you want to make it your own. Include images of two men or two women or insert a picture or symbol that really captures you two and your relationship. You can even add 3D effects! Take a look at a few of the incredible ketubot offered at Ketubah.com to see some of the options available for your modern wedding.

Circle Together

In non-same-sex marriages, circling is the act of having the bride circle around the groom seven times because the number seven represents the seven rings in the Torah, among other symbolizations.

Take the guesswork out of who will circle who by walking the circles together, hand in hand, suggests GayWeddings.com. You could also opt to split the task and have each one of you do three circles each while walking the final circle together. Whatever you choose, make sure to make it meaningful moment that you and your guests will remember forever.

Get Married by Someone With a Wealth of Experience

Your wedding is supposed to be the most beautiful day of your life, so it’s important to have someone who can work with you and make it the unique ceremony that you want it to be. Rabbi Lebow has been an advocate and friend of the LGBT community for decades, and has a long history of working with same-sex couples and advocating for equal marriage rights. Rabbi Lebow can work with you to make your same-sex Jewish wedding exactly the ceremony that you always imagined. Find out more about working with Rabbi Lebow by giving him a call today at 404-790-8612.

Celebrating Major Milestones of Jewish Childhood

There are a number of traditional milestones that are part of a Jewish childhood, and if you’re in need of a rabbi to help guide you through the process, Rabbi Lebow is here to help.

One of the most beautiful traditions in the Jewish tradition is a bris, the practice of blessing a newborn baby, since each baby is a blessing in their own right. The bris ceremony is typically done on the eighth day following a baby’s birth and corresponds with, in the case of boys, their circumcision. In some cases, the ceremony can be held before the child is discharged from the hospital.

Jewish Baby NamingRabbi Steve Lebow has conducted a number of these blessings for members of the Jewish faith around Atlanta for years. While he does not perform the circumcision himself – that task is left to a mohel, a specific kind of rabbi, or a licensed doctor – Rabbi Lebow conducts a number of prayers and blessings for the child.

While most children are blessed within the first few days of their life, they are not excluded from receiving this blessing at any time. Rabbi Lebow has conducted these blessings, along with naming ceremonies, for children up to 12 years old.

Girls do not have a traditional date for a naming ceremony. It can be done any time after they are born, whether while still at the hospital or even a few years later.

This baby naming ceremony and blessing helps welcome a child intto the Jewish faith. It’s important, especially for interfaith couples, to hold this ceremony to instill the Jewish faith as an area of importance in the child’s life.

Rabbi Lebow also holds naming ceremonies where the children are given Jewish names. Parents can meet with Rabbi Lebow to discuss different naming options to make sure the name fits their child. They can also talk with Rabbi Lebow to plan the ceremony to make sure it highlights what is important to them in the Jewish faith while balancing any other traditions.

If you are a new parent or about to be one, reach out to Rabbi Lebow to schedule a Jewish baby naming and blessing ceremony for your child by calling 404-790-8612.

Stacked Rings: A Great Symbol for Interfaith Couples

When planning a wedding, there are many decisions to make, but one of the most sacred and symbolic is your choice of wedding rings. Something most couples don’t take lightly, the perfect rings to symbolize your love and unity can take on many forms. Recently, Brides reported on a new trend that features multiple stacked rings has been caught in the limelight as a unique way to symbolize marriage. Since interfaith couples are often looking for ways to blend and combine their traditions and beliefs, stacked rings is the perfect way to represent a merger of faiths and traditions.

Stacked RingsWhat is wonderful about stacked rings is that they can represent whatever you would like! Many couples like to have two rings – representing themselves as individuals – and a third ring to represent their combined lives together. Another option would be to use your engagement ring as representation of your life before your marriage commitment, your wedding band to symbolize your commitment to matrimony and add additional rings for each child you have showing how you have combined your faiths to make a family. With the beautiful symbolism of stacked rings, you can find yet another way to celebrate both of your faiths and your marriage.

In addition to what each ring represents, stacked rings are versatile in that they allow for the wearer to display his or her personality. From incorporating extra sparkle with dazzling gems to mixing and matching different metals, the flexibility with stacked rings allows you to make a unique statement. You can even add different textures or thickness according to what style and symbolism you would like to convey.

This new trend is making it easier for interfaith couples to express themselves and their individuality and combined life together. In addition to stacked rings to represent your love, you can also work with Rabbi Lebow to create a ceremony that also combines your specific requests to create a blended celebration that merges your faiths and interests. Rabbi Lebow is excited and honored to be a part of your wedding day and will work with you to create a ceremony that will express your values and needs, and if you choose stacked rings, I can even be incorporate their unique meanings into the ceremony itself!

To learn more about my officiant services or to discuss your ideas for the perfect interfaith wedding ceremony, call me today at 404-790-8612.

Combining Lives, Combining Traditions

Modern weddings are a beautiful combination of traditions from many faiths, ethnicities and cultures. When saying “I do,” brides and grooms have endless options to tailor their special day to fit their wants and needs. Unlike the strict wedding planning rules of the past, the modern wedding can be based on a heart-felt, culturally sensitive ceremony – as was the case with Erica and Rob, an interfaith couple recently profiled by Modern Jewish Wedding.

For the couple’s unique ceremony, the bride’s Jewish heritage and the groom’s Jamaican roots were delightfully blended to create a cultural mix their guests could relate to. Erica and Rob included stomping on a wine glass and jumping the broom, but they also included their son, Jordan, in the ceremony by having him join them under the chuppah during the ceremony.

Interfaith Wedding CeremoniesPlanning a modern, interfaith wedding like the one held by Erica and Rob can be stressful – just like planning any wedding – but when selecting a interfaith rabbi and officiant, Rabbi Lebow is the perfect choice for you. He can help you plan a wedding ceremony that is as stress free and as enjoyable as possible while incorporating your unique desires and religious needs.

Rabbi Lebow is honored to serve as an officiant for your Jewish, interfaith or LGBT wedding ceremony. He believes a wedding day is about two hearts coming together, and will work with you to create a ceremony you feel comfortable with – without a specific set religious agenda. When you meet with Rabbi Lebow, you will discuss your values and needs to create an inclusive, artful ceremony you will both cherish and love as much as you do one another.

Rabbi Lebow feels that it is important to “Always keep the bride smiling,” which is why he is considered one of the top interfaith rabbis in Georgia and surrounding states. Learn more about Rabbi Lebow and schedule an appointment to talk about your wedding ceremony today by calling 404-790-8612.