If [Jewish couples] wanted to run away from their parents to get married, would either go over to Elkton or they’d come out to Rockville to get their license. So invariably they would say to [the county clerk] Mr. Watkins, “Is there a synagogue in town?” Of course, there was no synagogue. Mr. Watkins didn’t know too much about synagogues and rabbis; he says, “Tell you what you do, go down and see Mr. Steinberg. He’ll help you.”
Joe Steinberg, explaining how his father – who moved to Rockville with his young family in 1908 – would host weddings over his general store, after drumming up a minyan from across Montgomery County and Georgetown. Oral history collection, Montgomery History.
Unlike many other religions, there is no stigma or problem with a Jewish wedding being held in a non-religious facility; because weddings don’t have to be performed in the synagogue — in fact, some Orthodox traditions discourage or even forbid marrying in the synagogue itself — the engaged couple is free to choose an appropriate site that suits their tastes, guest list, and budget, be it a small social hall or a large hotel, a shul or a home.
What if you didn’t live in Baltimore? In Maryland’s more rural areas, many couples imported rabbis from Baltimore or DC, and held weddings in stores and apartments owned by friends and family. The local Jewish communities, though small, were happy to rally around and help make the couple’s simcha a success.
Wedding invitation, in English and Yiddish, for the marriage of Selde (Celia) Maril to Isaac H. Becker, Grand Army Hall, Baltimore, May 2, 1897.
Gift of Rose Cooper and Deborah Becker. JMM 1987.186.3
Wedding invitation for the marriage of Sallye Shapos to Harry Bass, Friedland’s Hall, October 30, 1932.
Gift of Joyce Hyman. JMM 1996.159.5
Rabbi Samuel Hurwitz of Ahavas Sholom Congregation advertised his services in the synagogue’s 1923 Chanukah Concert program. The Yiddish text points out that he has a “special parlor” at his residence for marriages, and that he will “beautify your simcha with spiritual speeches.”
Program: gift of Toby Gordon. JMM 2010.17.3
Wedding invitation for the marriage of Nettie Cohen and Herman Adler, Lehmann’s Hall, February 19, 1882.
Gift of Robert L. Levi. JMM 1992.263.14
Wedding invitation for the marriage of Eva Aliss Myerberg and Joseph Waldman, Eden Street Synagogue, October 30, 1921. A separate card invites the recipient to the reception at the Chateau Hotel “immediately after the ceremony.” The recipient noted on this card, “will be there with bells on.”
Gift of Lollie Smith. JMM 1997.58.7
Wedding invitation for the marriage of Fannie Applebaum and Harry Shavitz, “Lloyd Street Synagogue” (that is, B’nai Israel) with a reception at Claggett’s Hall, April 13, 1902.
Gift of Myrna and Ben Cardin. JMM 2016.27.1
Contract for the reception of Lee Labovitz and Phillip Kramer, 1929. Jacob Labovitz, father of the bride, signed this lease for an evening of “dinner and dancing” at the Knights of Columbus’ Alcazar Hall, Baltimore, for $200. The couple were married at Shaarei Tfiloh before the reception.
Gift of Paul and Janet Kramer. 2017.35.7
Wedding invitation for the marriage of Carrie Kaufman and Moses Manko of Salisbury, Hazazer’s Hall, January 3, 1892.
Gift of Charles Hamburger. JMM 1991.91.8