Josh Glancy

I never thought I’d marry ‘in’, but now my chupah awaits

It’s a relief to have found a partner I love and to be able to marry in the religion that is rooted so deep in my marrow


Groom smashing the glass in a Jewish wedding, under the huppah

July 07, 2022 15:08

So I’m marrying in then. After all that. After all the cross-wearing girlfriends and familial disagreements and tortured internal wrangling; the visions of taking my child to choir practice or camping or whatever it is that gentiles do with their kids on weekends; wondering whether any of my family would turn up to my wedding, or whether I’d impose some form of arduous and unsolicited conversion process on my beloved.

In the end none of it mattered, because later this month, under a chupah in Devon, I’ll be marrying a Jewish girl by the laws of Moses and Israel, grinding a lightbulb into dust with my heel, wearing my tallit if I can remember which drawer of my old bedroom it’s currently sitting in, celebrating a tisch but “going easy on the whisky” as my rabbi has told me to, doing that terrifying thing where the blokes chuck you up and down inside a table cloth, and then not going easy on the whisky because my speech will be finished and the rabbi will have gone home.

It will be a Reform wedding, which is not what I grew up with, but it will also be the full chatunah, as they say in Israel, or chuseneh, as they say closer to home in Golders Green.

Life’s outcomes often seem inevitable when you look back at them and now that the wedding is here, it’s difficult to imagine not enacting all these terribly familiar rituals. Would it even be a wedding without a belting rendition of Od Yishama? Do the nuptials even count if you haven’t sweated through two shirts on the dancefloor and caused a misguided uncle to slip a disc while chair hoisting?

For a long time I honestly didn’t expect it to work out like this. I spent pretty much my entire twenties in a serious relationship with a very not-Jewish woman. It was a serious, loving relationship and had various things been different, it might conceivably have ended up in marriage. I was rather fed up with Judaism at the time and felt alienated by the culture that I’d been so deeply immersed in since birth.

My faith had waned and I couldn’t work out what it was I wanted from being a Jew. I resented the imposition. Instead, after a few years promenading around Oxford, like many pretentious Anglo-Jewish men before me I started to fancy myself as an English gentleman, a sort of latter-day Benjamin Disraeli, effortlessly flitting between the two cultures taking the best of both. A Jew to the gentiles and a gentile to the Jews.

I started to consider, seriously consider, whether I had the guts to marry out. I began to harden my heart to the possibility. But could I face the distress it would cause others? Deep down, if I was being honest, could I imagine going through with it? Could I have properly crossed the aisle? Would I have still opted for a male child’s circumcision? What would be the right kind of Jewish education to provide in these circumstances? I never quite answered these questions but I imagine things might have ended in some sort of messy though workable compromise. They usually do.

Anyway, some combination of choice and circumstance made the decision for me. I ended up living in New York, where it turned out that I simply wasn’t capable of putting in the kind of determined hard work required to not meet a Jewish girl. More importantly, I found one I adored, someone who felt refreshingly at least 3,000 miles away from home, both the Anglo and the Jewish bits.

A part of me does wonder what it would have been like to marry out and how it would have changed me. I might have experienced living in south London, mastered DIY, developed an interest in fly-fishing, started listening to The Archers. Perhaps my son would have been a boy scout. Perhaps my grandchildren would have been baptised. I guess now I’ll never know.

It’s a relief, ultimately. To have found a partner I love and to be able to marry in the religion that is rooted so deep in my marrow. The rituals that I might once have scoffed at suddenly feel almost precious, binding me willingly into a long and unbroken tradition. It feels good to belong. And even better to have found my own way there.

July 07, 2022 15:08

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