I recently mentioned the growth of Destination Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations, especially those not in Israel. The trend is real and it is growing, but why? The reasons are not complex issues and truly make sense. Probably first on the list is the desire to get out of the “keeping up with the Cohens” attitude prevalent in many places today. The events have grown to gigantic proportions, with themes and special effects beyond what we could have thought of a few short years ago. Obviously, the costs have skyrocketed along with this. The guest lists have gotten as large as weddings along with the planning and angst that are part of huge affairs. Do these “parties” completely overshadow the true meaning of the day ? Perhaps!
I’m told that “public speaking” is one of the most prominent fears among people of all ages. Just imagine the feelings of many youngsters when asked to “perform” in front of a large crowd of people, many of whom he or she doesn’t even know. Is this the experience and memory we wish our children to have of this wonderful coming of age event? I think not! Let’s not forget for a moment our “special needs” children. Many synagogues are just not able to accommodate them by creating a service geared to the abilities of the individual child and family. All too often the synagogue program is designed to meet the abilities of most, but not all.
The advent of large numbers of interfaith families has also created a desire for “Destination Bar and Bat Mitzvah” services. The non Jewish parent and certainly the extended non Jewish family may feel more comfortable in a destination setting with a service that is centered on the celebrant and family rather than the synagogue. There are no questions as to who can participate and in what way. Along with interfaith families are the families who have experienced divorce or the loss of a parent. The Destination Bar or Bat Mitzvah eliminates the stress felt by a child in these instances.
What about the adult, man or woman, who for any reason was not able to mark their coming of age with a religious service built around them? The Destination Bar and Bat Mitzvah deals with that in a way that a synagogue just cannot do, combining the service with a vacation in a beautiful locale.
There are more reasons why and there are the positive attributes of not only the customized service but the location also that I will address in the next blog. Stay tuned and you may find yourself and family celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah here in Mexico. There are a number of venues anxious to have you and yours !
The future is now. Read what those in the know are saying !
There is a rapidly growing trend of families choosing “destination” bar and bat mitzvah services and celebrations, outside their synagogues, should they belong to one and their home communities. Families are celebrating important life events and the celebrants want to spend longer, quality time with their families. “……the advent of destination bar mitzvahs shows that people are looking for more meaningful experiences” said Rabbi Bradley Solmsen of the Union for Reform Judaism. “It’s definitely becoming more popular”, said Rob Eshman, editor of Jewishjournal.com.
Rabbi Steve is now offering a number of options for becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Mexico. Watch this blog and/or www.mexicorabbi.com for more information soon, or write firstname.lastname@example.org now !
Developer Jack Perlman stands near the sign for El Taj, the flagship property of CondoHotelsPlayDelCarmen. These are the most beautiful, well appointed apartments I have ever seen, and they are run like a five star hotel, with all the amenities. So, for a unique intimate beach wedding and reception try their Indigo Beach Club or pool side at El Taj. I have officiated at both.
Although my intent is to “journal” my current life as a modern, progressive Rabbi, officiating Jewish and Interfaith weddings in Mexico, I thought perhaps a little background on how I got here might be in order, as well as it being a way to thank some people who influenced me.
It seems like yesterday (it’s years) that Cantor Debbi Ballard a/k/a MyPersonalCantor, emailed me to ask if I was available for a wedding a particular week-end. I replied that I was and she put me in touch with a couple who were planning their wedding in Mexico and so began the transition from South Florida independent Rabbi for life-cycle events to Destination Wedding Rabbi. The couple informed me that their wedding was at a Riviera Maya Resort but they were using an outside wedding planner and coordinator; enter the next influence in the person of Denise Courtney, who with her husband Sergio have become great friends. After a few wedding trips to Mexico, Denise said it would be nice for me to meet this former New Yorker who developed properties in Playa del Carmen and she arranged for me to meet and have lunch with Playa del Carmen’s most ardent fan and the developer of a variety of properties, Jack Perlman. Jack became an instant friend, advisor and supporter. On a subsequent trip, he spent an entire day with my wife, Annette and me showing us very inch of Playa del Carmen, called just “Playa” by locals and convincing us it truly was the only place to live. “Just feel the vibes, feel the energy”, I believe he said !!! I shall be forever grateful to Jack for his influence and assistance in my move to Playa.
Rabbi Steve with Ina, Gregory and their family under their Chuppah at Dreams, Puerto Morelos, July 4, 2013
Helen first contacted me requesting a renewal of vows for her parents who were married 32 years ago. I soon learned that her folks were from Latvia and Ukraine, met when they were young and not afforded the religious freedom to have a Jewish wedding so they had just civil papers from the Republic of Georgia. After their move to The United States, with their two children, they began to learn about their heritage and religion. So, Helen asked, “could we have some Jewishness in the “renewal” ceremony”? The answer to that was an obvious, “of course” ! I then suggested that as long as they had not had a Jewish wedding ceremony, why think of this as a renewal? Why not treat it as their wedding ceremony ?!….and we did. Fast forward to July 4, 2013 on the beach at Dreams (Puerto Morelos) at 6:00 PM. Ina and Gregory thought they were in Mexico with their family to celebrate Ina’s upcoming birthday and the fact that their anniversary was July 4th (not a meaningful day in Russia). They did not know of their children’s plan for a Rabbi to officiate at their Jewish wedding ceremony. They thought they were meeting the family at the beach and then off to dinner. You cannot imagine the look on their faces when they saw the Chuppah. The folks at Dreams had done a great job of providing a Chuppah, and two tables, all covered in white. So, we gathered, this delightful couple, their son, daughter-in-law, and grandson along with their daughter and her fiancé, and me, their Mexico destination wedding Rabbi. We began with a signing of the Ketubah, then a traditional ceremony, including the customary Blessings, Sanctification with wine, Ring exchange (ha-ray aht), seven wedding blessings (sheva brachot) with another cup of wine, and ending with the breaking of the glass. “Mazel Tov” !!! There was not a dry eye, including mine as I blessed them all, thanked G-d, and asked G-d’s Blessing on the United States of America for the freedoms we all too often take for granted.
Over the last few years, I found myself traveling to Mexico for Destination Jewish and Interfaith weddings more and more often. It seemed like every time I turned around my wife Annette was dropping me at FLL (Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport) and I was off to Cancun. There was more and more need for a modern, progressive Rabbi for Jewish and Interfaith Weddings in Riviera Maya, the area from Cancun to Tulum. We began to vacation in Cancun and become familiar with the area as to housing, shopping, health care and more. I also felt that as a Rabbi, I could be of great service to the Jewish and Interfaith couples wanting a destination personalized wedding ceremony, officiated by a Rabbi without the myriad of expenses incurred by bringing one in from the USA or Canada. So, we began the process of moving and by December 24, 2012, we had packed some belongings, that we dropped at Hyde Shipping, delivered our car to them at Port Everglades and flew to Cancun. I may, along the way, share some of the trials and tribulations, but overall a great move and truly an adventure.
Living in Playa del Carmen is wonderful. The first months have flown by and this month, July is amazing. The first week was unusual and I loved it and all the couples. I had a wedding on the 1st, the 4th, and two on the 6th. The wedding on the 4th was unique as they had been married for 32 years. A touching story that I’ll talk about in the next blog, but for now Shabbat Shalom, and stay tuned in. The story of a modern, liberal Rabbi moving from South Florida to Riviera Maya, Mexico is just beginning.