Re: Witnesses at Jewish weddings #general

Judith Romney Wegner

From: Jill Anderson <jill.anderson@...>
I have copies of three marriage certificates for weddings which took
place in London in the early part of this century. I was expecting to
recognise the names of some of the witnesses, but didn't. Was there a
ruling about who was able to be a witness? Were members of the family
A Jewish wedding is technically a legal transaction, therefore it requires
a minimum of two witnesses to attest the recitation of the ketubbah --
which the bridegroom's unilateral promise to fulfill the religious duties
of a Jewish husband in matters both sexual and economic. These witnesses
MUST be persons known by reputation as observant Jews.

In Jewish law, family members are not automatically excluded -- but many
times nowadays they are simply not considered eligible because they are
known or assumed NOT to be not fully observant Jews. It has thus become
customary in the United Synagogue for the persons conducting the ceremony
(normally rabbis and other officials of the Synagogue) to act as witnesses
and sign at the foot of the ketubbah.

Concerning "weddings in London in the early part of this century" about
which you asked, here are some personal examples: My grandparents'
marriage in 1903 was witnessed by three people, one being the "Minister and
Secretary" of the synagogue, the other two unknown to me -- but presumably
at least one of those two must have been known as observant. My parents'
wedding in 1932 was witnessed by three people -- one being my father's
brother, who was far >from 100% shomer mitzvot -- but the other two were
the synagogue "secretary for marriages" and my mother's cousin --
presumably known to be observant. My own wedding in 1956 was witnessed
only by the two rabbis who performed it -- even though there were
observant relatives present who would have qualified. My guess is that
by mid-century (when so few United Synagogue members remained totally
observant) it had probably become almost routine to leave the witnessing
to the persons performing the ceremony. (Come to think of it, those are
paid officials)

Judith Romney Wegner

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