Celebrating Weddings at the Ontario Jewish Archives
Life cycle events such as weddings figure prominently in the collections of the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA). Photographs along with textual records such as invitations, rabbi registries and ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts) provide evidence of the growing Jewish community, and how it established itself in Canada during the first half of the twentieth century and into the post-war period.
There is a rich vocabulary around marriage rituals that is deeply rooted both in Jewish tradition and contemporary culture. Elements drawn from contemporary culture reflect the social trends of the moment—from hair style, fashion, food and music. Conversely, Jewish wedding customs have their roots in millenniaold traditions from finding one’s bashert (soul mate), to the signing of the ketubah, to the chuppah (wedding canopy), and to the breaking of the glass at the ceremony’s finale.
Though these shared customs connect us to tradition across time and place, the wedding is also a reflection of the couple’s individual backgrounds. From the photographs presented here, we can glean information about their synagogue affiliation, their familial heritage, and even where they lived. This material also tells the narratives of important demographic shifts. As the community moved north from the city’s downtown neighbourhoods, the smaller shuls and home weddings gave way to fashionable suburban-style synagogues.
Whether examining a highly formal, early-twentieth-century studio portrait or a glamorous 1940s bridal portrait, these images offer an opportunity to get lost in the romance and history of a flourishing community. L’chaim!