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Soviet Jewish Couple Reweds in Jewish Ceremony in N.j.

July 1, 1980
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A young Soviet Jewish couple who immigrated to the United States at the beginning of April were wed a second time last week at the Jewish Center of West Orange, New Jersey.

Gennady and Natalya Podolsky Grinberg, who live in nearby Irvington, New Jersey, had always wanted to be married in a Jewish wedding. But they probably never expected it to happen so soon.

“This is something that they always wanted to do in Russia,” said Rabbi Stanley Asekoff, who performed the wedding Thursday night. The Grinbergs were formally wed in Gomel, Byelorussia, in a civil wedding two years ago. Thursday’s ceremony served as their reintroduction to Jewish life and customs, Asekoff said. Gennody, a mathematician, is currently studying English language and looking for a job in computer programming. Natalya was a music teacher in Russia, and she is now studying accounting.

The wedding was attended by 180 members of the Jewish Center’s congregation and outsiders, each of whom was asked to contribute $5 to pay for the affair. The children of the West Orange temple acted as ushers and bridesmaids, since the wedding also served to teach them first-hand about Jewish marriage ceremonies.


Members of the Haverim, the Havurah organization of the “Jewish Center, wanted their children to attend a Jewish wedding so they agreed a few weeks ago to find a couple who would benefit from one. Almost as soon as the idea occurred to them, Leslie Hechi, a Haverim member who does resettlement work with Soviet emigres at the YM & YWHA in East Orange, found the right people for the wedding.

It made little difference that the Grinbergs were already married, since Gennody “told me that he had been-looking for a rabbi to hold a Jewish wedding for him.” Hechi said. After Hecht introduced herself, someone in the resettlement center suddenly congratulated Gennody on his successful emigration. “No,” Hecht said Gennody replied. “Jews say ‘Mazel-tov’.”

“I immediately felt he had some sense for Yiddishkeit,” Hecht added. She gave Gennady’s name to Rabbi Asekoff, and he made the final arrangements with the Haverim for the wedding. “I’m getting married in August and I was more excited about his wedding than about my own at that point,” Hecht said.

Asekoff said that even though the Grinbergs live outside West Orange, “I would hope we might adopt them and make them part of the community.”

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