Campers learn Jewish tradition

Mock wedding lets youth at Camp Gan Izzy bring experience to life

of the Journal Star
Posted Jul 03, 2008 @ 09:35 PM


The groom was 10, the bride was 9 and the rabbi wore shorts.

A few dozen young people took part Thursday in a mock Jewish wedding at Camp Gan Izzy, a Jewish day camp run by Lubavitch Chabad of Peoria at Peoria Academy.

The three-week camp is held annually as a way to impart Jewish values, teach Jewish traditions and have some fun. Each day has its own theme. Thursday's revolved around a traditional Jewish wedding.

The mock ceremony followed the outline of a real Jewish wedding, which the campers got to see in the form of a video of Rabbi Eli Langsam's nuptials. Some of the details differed, however.

For example, the blessings to be imparted over the groom took the form of popular children's songs, such as "Old MacDonald," and Camp Gan Izzy chants, like "I'm a Jew and I'm proud and I'll sing it aloud, that's what forever I'll be!"

The huppah, or canopy, held over the heads of the couple was made from plastic table covers instead of a prayer shawl and hoisted on sticks rather than poles.

And the glass cup broken at the end of the ceremony to shouts of "Mazel tov!"? Paper, not plastic.

But the sense of joy at a Jewish wedding that Langsam wanted to impart in the demonstration was authentic.

"There's a lot of dancing," the rabbi said.

The celebrants gathered into separate circles of boys and girls, joined arms and danced around to the disco-ish music, sometimes spinning off into silliness before being reined back in by one of the seven counselors.

Finally the group gathered around a chair, first hoisting the bride, Samantha Savage, and then the groom, Joshua Eckhart.

Throughout the dancing the kids stole back to tables to nibble on the wedding feast of popcorn, pretzels and Twizzlers.

Adam Raso, who was the groom in last year's demonstration, presided over the ceremony as the rabbi this year, complete with a black hat and rubbed-on beard. Before the wedding, he walked around with two notebook sheets filled with facts about Jewish weddings that he would recite later.

"The bride always has to cover her head," he told one observer.

"Everybody wish mazel tov to the bride and groom, who's sitting over there," said Rivkie Shuchat of Toronto, one of the camp counselors, before she ran over to Eckhart with mock tears of joy, screeching, "Oh, I can't believe it!"

After the dancing subsided, a few skits and songs were performed as the celebration wound down, but not before a final blessing was sung.

Mindy Eckhart arrived in time to see the last part before picking up her son, the groom.

"The camp is fabulous," she said. "He just loves it. They make it fun, enjoyable. It's like the kids don't know they're learning, but they are."

The camp, the name of which stands for Garden of Israel, continues the next two weeks.


Michael Miller can be reached at 686-3106 or [email protected].

Bridegroom Joshua Eckhart, 10, of Washington parties hard after his mock wedding to bride Samanth...
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Bridegroom Joshua Eckhart, right, 10, talks with Shay Adler, also 10, before walking down the ais...
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"Rabbi" Adam Raso, far right, 9, of Peoria officiates the mock wedding ceremony of Joshua Eckhart...
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"Newlywed" Samantha Savage, middle, 9, looks a little overwhelmed as her "husband" and his friend...
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Wedding guests dance during the reception following a mock wedding Thursday at a jewish day camp ...
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