In celebration of its 2017 centennial, JTA is highlighting stories from its archive.
(JTA) — Since its founding in 1917, JTA has documented the stories of Jews around the world, including unique tales of love, from a Jewish wedding that took place in a hotel room previously reserved for Adolf Hitler to “proxy” marriages that allowed Syrian Jewish women to escape to the United States.
So whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s Day (the day has its origin in Christianity, honoring Saint Valentine — many Jews prefer to affirm their love for one another on the midsummer holiday of Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av), these tales of romance from the JTA archive are worth a read.
Rabbis at a conference in Moscow discussed the fact that many Christian young women were electing to become Jewish in order to marry Jews. One participant told attendees that he had officiated at the marriages of 367 of such Russian converts to Judaism. The conference itself was organized to address the issue of anti-religion sentiment in Russia. According to the rabbis, the Jewish communists were barring every Jew going through a religious wedding ceremony from membership in the party.
A Jewish woman was among 37 immigrants detained in Palestine for entering the country without authority. But she was saved by a clever young man, by the name of Yerucham Shermeister. who “came along unobtrusively” and walked alongside her. He asked to marry her and when she agreed, he pronounced the Jewish ritual marriage vow and slipped a ring onto her finger. Shermeister, a citizen of Mandatory Palestine, then demanded that the prison superintendent release his wife, now a citizen of Mandatory Palestine like him. After obtaining paperwork from the rabbinate, he obtained his new wife’s release and the “happy young couple went arm in arm to their new life in Eretz-Israel.”
Six months after the Nazi leader’s death, a Jewish couple got married in a hotel room reserved for him. The bride was a 22-year-old Jewish girl from Poland, Bela Banesz, who was deported by the Nazis from Lodz to Oswiecim, the Polish name for Auschwitz. British Army chaplain Major I. Levy officiated the wedding at the Lorenz Hotel in Brunswick (Braunschweig).
The synagogue was “not a proper place” for kissing, ruled the country’s chief rabbinate, banning a “universal custom” of kissing the couple after the marriage ceremony. The decision was announced in every synagogue in Turkey. Well-wishers were instructed to line up to shake the hands of the bride and groom, as a long line of well-wishers waiting to kiss the couple was said to “annoy” the newlyweds.
Following Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Jews in Syria weren’t allowed to leave. However, a plan by which 12 Syrian Jewish women married Syrian Jewish men who were living in Brooklyn, by way of a “proxy,” allowed them to leave the country to unite with their husbands. The grooms said they selected their brides on the basis of information about the women provided by a community leader, who had traveled to Syria to meet with the Jewish community there. Morris Mann, one of the grooms, said he was “hopeful it will work out.”