Officiants

Halachah (Jewish law derived from the Talmud) allows a wedding ceremony to be performed by anyone familiar with marriage laws; it needn’t be a rabbi. It is also perfectly acceptable to have more than one officiant, a fact that can ease the way for couples who come from different traditions, or simply different congregations, and want both to be included.  Some elaborate society weddings could include several officiants; for example, Deborah Kaplan and Efrem Potts, married at Chizuk Amuno in 1949, had three rabbis and one cantor at their ceremony.

[My fiancé] adored Ed Israel, who was Rabbi of Bolton Street [Har Sinai], that’s where we met. We went to Rabbi Rosenau [of Eutaw Place Temple, Oheb Shalom] and said that we were going to get married. He was very caustic when we said, “We want you to perform the prayer, and Rabbi Israel will marry us.” He said, “I am perfectly capable of performing a marriage ceremony.” Well, we still had Ed Israel. He said, “Let me handle it.”

Fiola Shapiro married James Blum at the Lord Baltimore hotel, September, 1930. Interviewed by Elaine Eff, “Weaving Women’s Words: Baltimore” Oral History Project of the Jewish Women’s Archives, 2001. JMM OH 627

Handwritten ledger listing the marriages performed by Rabbi Benjamin Szold of Temple Oheb Shalom, Baltimore, from 1859 to 1892.  Gift of Temple Oheb Shalom. JMM 2004.97.83, MS163/191

Rabbi Aaron S. Pearlstein, center, officiated the marriage of his sister-in-law Sandra Ruth Kronsberg and Gerald Skalka, June 17, 1984.  The wedding was held in the backyard of the bride’s older sister Rose Kronsberg Levin, in Rockville. Courtesy of Peggy Kronsberg Pearlstein.  CP 2017.8.6

Historical records for Baltimore show that there were several religious figures who were prominent in the local marriage scene, including Rabbis William Rosenau of Oheb Shalom, Schepsel Schaffer of Shearith Israel, and Samuel Rosenblatt of Beth Tfiloh, and Cantor Abba Weisgal of Chizuk Amuno.  Dr. Louis L. Kaplan, though not an ordained rabbi, was another beloved figure in the local community who was frequently asked to officiate at weddings.  Like his compatriots, Dr. Kaplan took his duties seriously, writing personal sermons and working closely with the engaged couple to help prepare them for married life. 

Handwritten notes for a sermon, and thank you card from the bride.  Dr. Louis L. Kaplan officiated the marriage of Lee Meyerhoff and Nelson Hendler on October 20, 1974.  Gift of Dr. Louis L. Kaplan. JMM 1994.205.241

Letter written by Dr. Louis L. Kaplan to Irwin and Elizabeth Nusbaum Epstein, thanking them for the gift they sent him in appreciation of his conducting their wedding at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, 1949.  Before her marriage, Mrs. Epstein had worked as Dr. Kaplan’s secretary at Baltimore Hebrew College.  Gift of Irwin Epstein. JMM 2016.23.1

Under the Nuptial Canopy (1975), a collection of sermons by Rabbi Samuel Rosenblatt, long-time rabbi at Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation.  The book, which includes works from the late 1920s through 1974, names each couple for whom the personalized sermon was written. Rabbi Rosenblatt inscribed this copy to Tena Sussman and John Smeyne, who were married by him on December 26, 1961 at Blue Crest North (though their sermon is not the book). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Smeyne. JMM 1994.56.2

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