RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — The Brazilian reality TV show “Wedding Factory” gives 15 couples seven days to prepare for their dream wedding. The show, now in its second season, also gives each pair around $300,000 to spend on the happy occasion.
An episode of the show that aired Saturday got dramatic, and not because of disagreements about centerpieces or hors d’oeuvres — but because of Judaism and rabbinic taboos about interfaith marriage.
Allan Pavlovsky de Boucherville Borges, a Jewish participant on the show, and his non-Jewish fiancée Carolinne Salvio Fróes wanted to find a rabbi to officiate their wedding. However, the producers of the shows failed to find one who would do so because Carolinne isn’t Jewish. The show’s host said over 70 rabbis turned down the offer to go on the show.
“So do you want to stay on the show and not have a Jewish wedding?” the host asked the groom on air. “Or do you leave, have her prepared in the traditions of the religion and get married later?”
The couple decided to go ahead with the wedding and made it as Jewish as they could. The ceremony included a huppah, guests wore skullcaps, the groom wore a tallit and broke a glass, and people shouted plenty of “mazel tovs” and “l’chaims” while dancing to Jewish-themed music. Traditional non-kosher Jewish food was served. The couple’s extravagant requests included a replica of the Western Wall in the ballroom and a seven-story cake decorated with Stars of David.
One rabbi, Gilberto Venturas, who was ordained by an Orthodox seminary in Israel but helps facilitate conversions in Brazil that are not recognized in Israel, agreed to confer blessings on the couple, but did not wholly participate in the ceremony.
“I can’t perform the ceremony because it’s not compatible with the fact that one person is Jewish and the other is not,” said Venturas, who also started a Facebook group called Synagogue without Borders to teach Jewish traditions to Jews and non-Jews. “I can facilitate the conversion and, after one or two years, I’ll wait for them to perform the wedding ritual.”
In the end, the rabbis should be happy — Carolinne is committed to converting soon, and the couple will spend their honeymoon in Israel.
“Out of all of my girlfriends, Carolinne was able to teach me something new and teach me about religion,” Borges told one of the show hosts.