Mazal Tov! – Amira’s Wedding

By Marlene Booth

Amira Booth Soifer Wedding ChuppahLet me set the stage. Our daughter Amira wanted to get married at Raananah, a very small Jewish  bungalow colony, originally Labor-Zionist, in New York state, in which Avi’s family spent time every summer since the late 1930s. Raananah, the Hebrew word for “young, tender, fresh,” was founded by idealistic Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland who wanted to spend their summers living communally, in a limited way, and raising their children in the fresh air with other Jewish children. They created a setting in which speaking Hebrew and Yiddish and engaging in political arguments long into the night was normal. Raananah was connected to Israel in many ways, and David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir were among its many visitors.

Avi’s mother, Ahuva, whom many of you know, and who is still going strong at 98, spent time during her late teens in Raananah. Avi and his siblings, joined by Marlene, and then our children, Raphi and Amira, all enjoyed summer relaxation, swimming, playing ball, chasing fireflies, walking by themselves on Raananah’s paths, and being among family and friends.

Unlike other bungalow colonies in which bungalows were rented by different people, Raananah voted in members – 39 families – who bought a bungalow and returned to Raananah’s bucolic 40 acres every summer. If you want to know more about Raananah, you might check out a film I made about it in the late 1970s, available on DVD in the Temple Emanuel library. For now, suffice it to say that Raananah, located about an hour’s drive north of “The City,” outside a small town called Highland Mills, NY, is far from Honolulu in many ways. Planning a wedding from this distance proved challenging, particularly because of Raananah’s rural setting.

Amira Booth Soifer Wedding PartyWhat could not be planned was the weather. For 4 ½ days before Amira’s wedding, it rained. The grounds of Raananah, where we planned to install a tent for the reception, were soaked. What to do to prevent our friends and family from slipping and sliding in the mud? Haul in hay? Put down wooden planks?

Miraculously, at about noon the day before the wedding, it stopped raining. The sun came up, the ground dried, and the day of the wedding turned out to be gorgeous.

Booth Soifer FamilyAmira, who works as a high school English teacher in Jackson Heights, Queens married a wonderful Irish/Italian man, Al Esposito, who works doing quality assurance for computer software programs, whom she met through online dating several years ago. Though Amira worried that the wedding we jointly planned would be too exotically Jewish for Al’s family, they were among the first to head to the dance floor to dance the hora.

The bride looked lovely, if I do say so myself, the groom handsome, and the mood of the day was joyous. Our son, Raphi, who taught this year at a university in Rio de Janeiro, where he has lived for the past 10 years, served as Amira’s “brides-man,” and also MC’d the reception with warmth and humor. Avi, a confirmed non-dancer, nonetheless danced with his daughter, who is Avi’s height, and the two looked very happy.

Soifer FamilyI had the honor and genuine pleasure of co-officiating the wedding, as I’ve had ample training at Sof leading a service, with Amira’s college friend, Chirag, a software engineer and sometime stand-up comic, who made us all laugh with his descriptions of Amira and Al’s courtship and his longing for a relationship of his own. We loved celebrating with our siblings, cousins, and friends from our years in Boston, and we look forward to bringing Amira and Al to Hawaiʻi, when they have time, to celebrate their love and optimism with our Sof family and friends.

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