“Glass; At the Intersection of God and Google” Part 1

When I was in seminary, thirty years ago, I once heard a lecture by a well-known Rabbi. The lecture, as I recall, was on “How to be a congregational Rabbi.”

I was twenty-eight when I heard that lecture and, if truth be told, I was scared to death of becoming a Rabbi. Like any grad student, I had never gotten my hands dirty in the everyday practice of my chosen profession.

At that point in my life, I only had an intellectual view of what Rabbis actually do with their time. I had never actually been a Rabbi.

As sure as it was only last week, I remember my opaque fear as I stammered to this veteran Rabbi.

“Tell me exactly what I will do as a Rabbi,” I said. “I know that I will conduct religious services, that I will perform baby namings, bar mitzvahs, weddings and funerals. But tell me,” I must have mewled with anxiety, “What do we actually do? What is a Rabbi’s purpose?”

Without dropping a beat he said to me, “A congregational rabbi’s job is to stand around and watch significant moments in other people’s lives and then to help them find meaning in those moments…”

To be a rabbi is “to stand around and watch.”

I received my (Google) Glass on December 31, 2013. As one year bled into another I had no sense of how Glass might change or reinforce my perspective on being a Rabbi.

All I knew for sure that week was that I had to officiate at the wedding of Ari and Noelle on January 4, 2014 in northern Georgia. I carried Glass with me on this first ever attempt to observe and record a significant event in someone else’s life.

I knew I could not actually whip out my Glass, unannounced, during the wedding ceremony because brides have been known to hyperventilate if wedding services don’t go as planned!

Luckily for me, there is always a small semi-private ceremony that comes before the public wedding ceremony, called the signing of the ketubah (a Jewish wedding contract). There were only about twenty people gathered in the room that night for the signing of the ketubah.

I asked Ari and Noelle if they minded if I took their picture, before the ceremony, with Glass. Without dropping a beat they both said “Sure!” I should have known Glass would not freak them out, even on their wedding day. Noelle is a cardiac nurse and is around myriad technologies every day, which help manage the treatment of countless cardiac patients. Ari, the groom, is an avionics engineer, who helps design and implements airplane technologies. In other words, this is a guy who uses advanced technology, as well, every day of his life!

So I took Ari and Noelle’s first wedding picture with Glass and then began to put them away.
But before I could put my Glass away one of the groomsmen said something like “Yo! Let me try those on!” I had not anticipated that all of the groomsmen were engineers or IT guys.
The bridal party had a great time, as they took pictures of each other with Glass just before the wedding commenced.

What do I most remember of that first Jewish wedding ever recorded by Glass? I have pictures of the most intimate moment of the ceremony and of those who were present in that small room as we signed their license (ketubah).

A few minutes later Ari and Noelle came to the huppah (the Jewish wedding canopy). I put my Glass away, as I watch them speak their vows. With the help of Glass I had accomplished what my Rabbi has told me was my purpose years before. I had stood around at an important event in someone else’s life and wearing Glass that day had made me infinitely aware that I had participated in something infinitely deep and something infinitely holy.

The Importance of Marriage

Fifty years ago, “93 percent of children born in the United States were born to married parents. By 2010 that number had plummeted to 60 percent.”

That’s a quote from Sen. Marco Rubio’s speech given last month at the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, a government initiative instated by Lyndon B. Johnson to boost opportunity and income of the nation’s poor.

What does marriage have to do with fighting poverty? It’s no secret that the two correlate, but the causality has been under the microscope for decades. Economists have discovered that if unmarried couples were suddenly married – the poverty rate would drop significantly. There are few marriages where both parents work full-time that are below the poverty line, while an alarming one-third of single mother homes dip below the poverty threshold.

And these economic impacts don’t even take into account the mental and emotional effects on children growing up in unmarried households. Studies show that children raised by two parents are not only more likely to achieve in school, but less likely to be asthmatic or hungry or to have behavioral problems.

Even with the acknowledgment that married homes tend to be a more financially and even emotionally stable environment to raise children in, some researchers are claiming that marriage is not the cure to poverty, but that poverty is the barrier to a successful marriage. Young people in poverty are disillusioned with scaling the financial ladder. Upward mobility doesn’t really seem possible, and adding marriage and family planning to an already daunting climb doesn’t seem to be a novel idea.

Try as they might, economists, sociologists, politicians and scientists from all fields of study are not going to be able to quantify everything that makes and breaks a marriage or increases the amount of marriages happening each year. There are too many factors, most of which are of a personal and irrational nature, to be able to predict fiscal and emotional pros and cons of tying the knot.

Yes, there is a correlation between decreasing poverty levels and increasing marriages (including LGBT marriages, mind you.) But marriage is, at the end of the day, just one of those institutions that is really no one’s business except for yours, your loved ones’ and whoever or whatever else helps you make that decision. Getting and staying married can have tremendous effects on you and your family’s quality of life and at the end of the day, can make your household a happier place to exist. That’s nice. We like happy existences.

If you and your partner are ready to get married, please call Rabbi Lebow of Atlanta Jewish and Interfaith Weddings. Rabbi Lebow will help start your marriage with the appropriate measure of grace to set the tone for the rest of your lives together.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/magazine/can-marriage-cure-poverty.html?_r=0

*Video courtesy of Rendersen25

2014 Wedding Trends

Marriage is a timeless institution, but all institutions undergo periods of change. When planning a wedding, many brides and grooms decide to go with a more traditional ceremony and reception, even for interfaith or same-sex couples. In 2014, some wedding industry analysts are preparing for interesting changes to the celebration of holy matrimony.

Making sure that the bride is happy with her special day has always been the top goal for any wedding planner, and it still is. Where some brides used to express themselves by going way outside of tradition, many expect this year’s brides to favor more conventional dresses and photography sessions. Unlike the “Trash the Dress” natural photography sessions of the past few years, many couples are choosing formal portraiture, sometimes even with a more non-smiling, serious demeanor.

Reactions to technology use at these special occasions have also prompted some interesting party ideas on either end of the spectrum, as this piece published by WSJ.com shows. Some wedding receptions are starting off with a phone check-in at the door so that guests can appreciate the day with the couple and their families instead of checking their social networks. On the other hand, some want their guests to take pictures and post plenty of status updates about the wedding day, some even going so far as to create a hashtag for the event. These couples tend to provide charging stations so tweets can be sent late into the night.

Late night wedding parties are also becoming the option du jour for many couples, especially younger ones. Booking a reception venue into the wee morning hours, or moving the party to a bar, is becoming much more common among newlyweds. The major consideration with this, of course, is to make sure that accommodations or designated drivers are taken care of for your friends and family.

There are many simple ways you can make your wedding your own during 2014. If you want a one-of-a-kind wedding officiant who will give your ceremony a good amount of grace with a touch of humor, call Rabbi Lebow at Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings. He’ll provide the perfect lively spark to help you commemorate your special day.

*Video courtesy of huelinepictures

In 2014, Let Love Be the Best Protection

22800641_S(1)Many of the resolutions we make every year as January approaches tend to focus around our relationships and emotions. Many people want to be in one, or improve the one they’re in, or work on themselves until they feel ready for one. All over the world, people are seeking more honest and genuine expressions of love that people have sought to repress in the past.

In Pasadena, CA, the Rose Parade will be kicking off the 2014 year with a display of pure love with one of the world’s largest televised same-sex marriages. One of the floats in the parade, sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, will hold a marriage at 9:30 AM between two life partners. The couple, Danny Leclair and Aubrey Loots, have been together for 12 years.

The title of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s float is “Living the Dream: Love Is the Best Protection,” and it underscores what the organization feels is the main message of holding this televised ceremony. The organization is very proud of its work in promoting medical services and AIDS advocacy in America and the world beyond, and they see marriage as a big step in this process. In this article published by LATimes.com, a spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation mentioned that marriage among same-sex partners can reduce the spread of HIV and promote stable relationships among any group.

Of course, there has been some pushback, which sometimes happens with major public events like this. There have been social media initiatives among those who feel that the Rose Parade isn’t a venue for this celebration. However, the response of the parade organizers has been especially heartwarming. Given the theme of this year’s Rose Parade, “Dreams Come True,” Ged Kenslea, the Foundation’s spokesman, said that the wedding is the perfect realization of this theme, as people from the LGBT community all over the country can rejoice in a dream come true.

Here in Atlanta, dreams are coming true every day for same-sex and interfaith couples. When you need someone to officiate your wedding, call Rabbi Lebow at Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings. He brings a professional demeanor and a sense of fun to every ceremony.

Reconciliation, and a Renewment of Love

Weddings are a time of great joy and contentment, but they should also reflect the story of the couple who has come together to tie themselves in holy matrimony. For those who have faced more of a struggle to reach this day, a marriage ceremony can be more about reconciliation and a renewment of love. At Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings, we’re ready to cherish the love that brings together any couple and makes them want to profess their commitment to each other in front of their closest friends and family.

Many assume that when a couple separates, that the future is sealed off for them. To them, marriage vows that have been broken through divorce cannot be mended. However, there are plenty of instances where divorce has only been a temporary state and the renewing of vows has only strengthened the future of a couple. As the holiday approaches, now is a great time to be reminded of this power of love.

One of these stories of redemption after breaking up comes to us from this article published by Minnesota’s Star Tribune. When Kawayn Johnson returned home after serving a tour of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which drove him to a state of alcoholism.

As his struggles with drinking worsened, his wife, Clarise, divorced him. Life continued to spiral for the Johnsons, and the family ended up homeless. Then, about a year ago, Clarise and Kawayn reunited, after which Kawayn pledged to give up drinking and get healthy. After a time, the couple decided to remarry, and the outpouring from their new community was astounding.

A local baker donated a two-tier wedding cake for the occasion. The retired minister who officiated the wedding offered a reception lunch at his own house. A local jeweler even passed on a pair of wedding bands that the couple was able to keep as evidence of their vows. The couple still has a long way to go to regain their former life, but with this foundation of love, Clarise has been able to find work and Kawayn was able to maturely face his own personal demons.

The power of love is one that we here at Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings love to cement for couples who have decided to wed. No matter what your personal story is, we’ll find a way to help you celebrate your special day the way it deserves to be celebrated.

*Video courtesy of yurksemesh

A New Source of Love in Our Society

Welcome everyone to the matrimonial merriment that is Atlanta Jewish & Interfaith Weddings! Powered by the unique and effervescent personality of Rabbi Lebow, we serve Jewish and interfaith weddings of all kinds throughout the Southeast. In this world of growing understanding, we’re seeing that love of any kind is the true answer to today’s problems. Rabbi Lebow is happy to share that message with any couples who wish to openly express their love and commitment.

972848_10151889989779989_460653421_nThese are interesting times for weddings in this country. Slowly, the walls have been crumbling down and same-sex couples from coast to coast are finally making public the private love they’ve shared for years, sometimes decades. With the removal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which negated public benefits for same-sex couples, LGBT marriages are a new source of love in our society.

However, some are finding that clearing away one problem has only led to another. In many cases, same-sex couples also happen to be from different faith backgrounds. It is this difference in background that, in a growing number of examples, is starting to pose the biggest obstacle for marriages.

Take for example the story of one female couple from this article published by The New York Times. Together for 30 years, their love withstood decades of moral mishaps in our country’s legislation. With same-sex marriage legalized in New York, however, the couple found that their different backgrounds (one Presbyterian, the other Jewish) made it difficult to find proper officiating for the weddings. Some ministers still have issues dealing with love that forms across religious aisles.

There is no reason to keep your love hidden from the world as tolerance for all forms of spiritual and emotional connection is growing in our society. Situated in Atlanta, Rabbi Lebow can contribute to interfaith and same-sex weddings all over the Southeast, including areas of Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina. If you’re planning an interfaith wedding in this area, call him today to take the anxiety out of booking the right minister!