Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Soviet Jews, Denied Traditional Religious Ceremony in Ussr, Are Wed in Mass Remarriage in N.j.

June 24, 1986
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Twenty Soviet Jewish couples walked down the aisle to a religious Jewish wedding here Sunday at the Loew’s Glenpointe Hotel and to their own place in history. Surrounded by family members, they made their way to 20 separate chuppahs for the largest mass remarriage of Soviet Jews who, denied a traditional religious ceremony in the Soviet Union, were wed according to Jewish law and their own fondest desire.

The ceremony was arranged by Bris Avrohom, a Jersey City-based Lubavitch affiliate organization, and by Friends of Bris Avrohom, the sponsor who enabled the extraordinary project to be realized. (See Daily News Bulletin, June 19.)

Shirley Gralla, chairperson of the Friends, was thrilled to see the fruit of her hard work come to be. “This is a real celebration of freedom, the heritage they were never permitted to have,” she said at the celebrations following the ceremony, as dancers wove around, lifting the 20 brides and grooms high above on chairs in the separate male and female circles traditional among Orthodox Jews.

“We’ve made a lot of people happy. We hope this will go on in many other areas of the country and the world,” she said, beaming.


The oldest couple married Sunday were David Pilmenstein, aged 80, and his wife Nina, 70, of Moscow, who were married in a civil ceremony in 1946 in the Area Office of Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages. There, they simply signed the registry and were married. The Pilmensteins had been refused a visa twice, but made it to freedom in 1981. Their oldest son, losif, remains in Moscow, a refusenik.

The Itskovs — Dobrusya, 70, and her husband, Isaac, 72 — were married in 1936 in Gomel, Byelorussia, in a civil ceremony. Sunday their second wedding was a joyous golden anniversary of their 50 years together. Their grandson, Gary Shokin, formerly of Vilna, arrived with them and seven other family members in 1980. Together they expressed pride in the “reality to get married in a Jewish ceremony. It was very important,” the three of them agreed, smiling broadly.

A year and a half ago in Chicago, 10 Soviet Jewish couples were married in a group ceremony sponsored by FREE — Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe. Sunday’s wedding was the largest held yet.

Recommended from JTA