Three Ukraine-born couples had the opportunity to have the chuppah v’ kiddushin they could not have when they first wed because it was forbidden under communism in their country. Shaloh House in Boston helped their dreams of a Jewish wedding come true.
Last Wednesday three Ukraine-born couples had the opportunity to have the chuppah v’ kiddushin they could not have when they first wed because it was forbidden under communism in their country.
It had all the telltale signs of a traditional Jewish wedding. But the three couples were already married — and had been for a collective total of 125 years.
“It was my dream for many, many years and dreams come true,” said Elisheva Furman, who first married her husband Fishel in Ukraine 50 years ago.
Held at Shaloh House, a Chabad organization in Boston that serves Jews from the former Soviet Union, the event was also an opportunity for Chabad rabbinical students to practice officiating at Jewish weddings.
Shaloh House launched a rabbinical training institute in 2021, after Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, an educator at the school, was stabbed eight times outside the building in a vicious attack that jolted Boston and especially its Jewish community.
“This wedding ceremony is a victory of love and kindness over oppression and hate,” said Rabbi Dan Rodkin, director of Shaloh House, in a statement. “It is a testament to the strength of the Jewish people and the resilience of these Soviet-born couples, who want to celebrate their union in accordance with their faith and heritage.”
Growing up, despite antisemitic repression, Elisheva and Fishel Furman both said their families maintained a strong Jewish identity and privately observed Jewish holidays. But it was too dangerous to show their faith in public. So when they got married, they did so only in a civil ceremony.
Their religious ceremony and the two others that took place Wednesday, individualized for each couple, stretched for more than four hours and featured a festive meal including traditional Ukrainian and Russian foods.
The event took place close to the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the couples’ homeland which is under ruthless bombardment that is devastating Ukraine.
Rimma Linkova, who’s been married to Alexander Linkov for 40 years, and one of the other couples being married, has a cousin still in Ukraine. They talk regularly, she said.
“It’s almost one year of the war and it’s still not ended. It’s very difficult. It’s dying for no reason.” Linkov said.
The third couple, named Sofya Hannah and Gedalia Gulnik, were joined by their daughter, Yelena Gulnik. Yelena shared that she was thrilled to see her parents have a Jewish wedding, something she said her father was initially hesitant to do after so many years of marriage. The mother of three, whose kids attend Shaloh House’s day school, was born in Odessa and came to Boston in 1994 with her parents when she was 12 years old.
“My parents never had a chuppah, they never had a religious ceremony. They were not familiar with many religious Jewish traditions,” Gulnik said. “But it was an amazing opportunity. I don’t think they would have ever done this if Rabbi Rodkin hadn’t offered.”
“The wedding has enormous meaning,” said Dmitry Linkov about his parents’ ceremony.
He was 5 when his family left Kyiv and settled in Boston. They lived secular lives when he and his younger sister was growing up, he said, but he and his wife, are active in Chabad in Chestnut Hill and have begun to keep shabbos and kashrus.
“What my parents have done tonight will be passed on for generations. It’s a blessing for our future generations,” Dmitry Linkov shared.
He hopes the Jewish wedding ceremony inspires other Jews from the former Soviet Union who fled persecution.
“They are celebrating for a nation,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing.”