The Ketubah Story

More and more marriages are putting it in writing—and it’s not only Jewish wedding couples who are adopting the Ketubah as part of their wedding ceremony, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

One of the largest suppliers is—a trendsetter in design and online service well-known internationally for museum quality work, was founded originally here in Toronto by Michael Shapiro and reports that Ketubahs are being ordered for all faith weddings as well as to mark significant days. Ketubahs also commemorate milestone occasions such as anniversaries.

Wedding couples are able to order from hundreds of unique designs from classic to modern to suit every budget and timeline. Many parents also like to purchase the Ketubah as a gift. Since it is often viewed as a precious family heirloom and passed between generations, the style, look, and wording are significant decisions.

Choose from an extensive range of limited-edition artist creations that can be personalized and customized—from wording to colors to the craftwork involved. This may be beaded, canvas, gold or silver leaf, crystal work, luminous—the variety is limitless.

Lovely paper cut Ketubahs, considered a traditional Jewish fine art since the Middle Ages, are also a specialty.  Fine art archival paper cut Ketubahs can include your personal details incorporated into the design—which can involve 18 layers of paper cuts!

Once you’ve found your style, you’ll need to decide colors, theme, language, and the amount of personalization. This is when you’ll choose whether to include names, wedding date, and location, which are integrated (seamlessly!) in the calligraphy—or the rabbi can write in the names in blank spaces.

You may need to check with your rabbi before you order —you’ll be asked to specify text and the company offers many options including Reform/Orthodox/Conservative or Humanistic —also ‘Canadian Reform” and LBGTQ.

You can also choose an “Interfaith” selection or write unique words to reflect your beliefs, vows, or that are meaningful to you both.

Regardless of which you choose, the Ketubah is often the heart of a Jewish or interfaith wedding. The Ketubah has profound history behind it and is seen as a symbol of the couple’s devotion to each other and the marriage.

Traditionally, the Ketubah catalogs the husband’s obligations to his wife and establishes provisions for her protection. The traditionaltext closely resembles the one codified 2000 years ago.

Two witnesses sign the Ketubah—friends or distant relatives/close relatives do not sign—and generally consider it an honor to be asked. (The bride and groom don’t sign traditionally/it’s not the same as signing the register or license in a church wedding. However, there are choices that have lines for the bridal couple to sign if they so choose.

The rabbi may read out the Ketubah under the Chuppah—Jewish tradition is that it is a significant part of the ceremony.

Costs for the Ketubah range from budget friendly—as low as the $150 range—to $1000 and everywhere in between. However, if it involves a lot of artisan work, such as for crystal creations, gold leaf, or a complex paper cut Ketubah—for example, an 18-layer piece of archival art with all your personal details incorporated—this may set you back even more.

But the finished piece is likely to become of historical importance to your family—and be viewed as a truly unique and original piece of fine art that also happens to commemorate your wonderful marriage!

To see more examples, see





The Perfect California Wedding

Brett and Arthur—

Brett and Arthur enjoyed a wonderful wedding ceremony in October when they were married in the lovely surroundings of Healdsburg, in California’s Sonoma region, by Rabbi David Gellman.

“It was an interfaith wedding—Arthur is from England and it was important to have a ceremony that paid homage to both Christian and Jewish traditions for the families, and also was personalized exactly the way we wanted it,” recalls Brett.

“There were a number of special Jewish elements we wanted to include such as the Ketubah, seven blessings, smashing the glass, wine, and the Chuppah. Whatever we did decide was very meaningful and special to us. I carried the corn dolly Arthur’s mother had once walked down the aisle with at her ceremony in England and that his grandmother before her carried at her marriage.”

Arthur is from Sevenoaks in Kent, and Brett calls America’s key wine county home. The couple met in 2010 and were co-workers and good friends for a long time—until a change in employment opened the door and saw the friendship change as they became a couple. Brett and Arthur both work in biotech in food technology and live in the Bay Area.

“We wrote our own vows. Arthur felt very strongly about doing this,” says Brett, “and we were very pleased. They were perfect.”

The wedding was held at a lovely restaurant venue in Healdsburg, which is always on the list/wins awards as one of the 10 top small towns in the US and is the home base for three of California’s top wineries.  The ceremony took place outside, where the weather was wonderful (for October!) and for the 130 or so guests. Then everyone moved inside for cocktails—and the day ended with dinner and dancing on the patio.

“The ceremony was everything we could have wished for. Rabbi Gellman did a wonderful job. In the spirit of transparency—I have to say that I woud have wanted David as our wedding officiant even if he hadn’t been my dad’s second cousin! He married my brother and sister-in-law a few years ago in Savannah, Georgia. It was a beautiful wedding, and I wanted the same for us.”

Wedding Venues-GTA

Weddings 101!


Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

It’s no secret that picking the perfect date for your wedding is only the start of what may turn out to be a very long list of To Do’s. You may be planning a cozy gathering and simple ceremony or a more lavish wedding. But choosing to hold your ceremony and reception in a hotel that can easily cater to all your needs to ensure your special day is memorable (and worry-free) is an excellent idea.

“Here at the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, in the heart of downtown, we pride ourselves on being extremely flexible. We’re very pleased to help make your wedding as perfect as it can be, whether it’s a large gathering or an intimate wedding or reception,” says Heidi Meisinger, Service Manager – Events.

The hotel caters to weddings and gatherings of all sizes and inclinations. This means that nothing is impossible. “Our goal is to make your wedding perfect.  So whether you wish to plan a last minute upscale bachelorette party, a romantic ceremony on our lovely terrace, overnight or extended stay accommodation for guests and the bridal party, or only the wedding ceremony and reception, we are happy to help.”

The Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, has a number of options for ceremonies and receptions—but there are group size limitations on the various spaces—so it’s good to get these details out of the way as soon as you can.


The hotel is able to deal with short notice bookings and Sunday and Friday weddings are also fine. They are pleased to accommodate to meet customized requirements for your ceremony —and any requests for your interfaith jewish wedding. The staff work with you. They are happy to meet dietary requirements and work with you or your planner on the menus. “We are a one-stop shop,” says Heidi. “We are pleased to give you access to our list of preferred vendors to assist with details for your special day.”

Whether you’re not sure of the theme for your wedding reception, the style and color of bouquets—or the wedding photographer, the hotel is there to provide guidance. You are also welcome to bring in your own suppliers. The hotel’s flexibility in welcoming your own vendors and rentals, unlike many other venues—helps ensure that everything on your wish list is included.


The hotel also offers packages with excellent choices for key items such as table settings, champagne flutes, custom menu cards, linens, staging, and dance floor. Your bridal party and guests may be staying in the hotel—or not. The Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, will be happy to discuss arrangements with you including preferred accommodation rates for you and guests, menu tastings, preferred valet parking rates, and a stay for bride and groom in the lovely one-bedroom honeymoon suite.

“Whether you simply need recommendations for vendors we know and love, or assistance with planning customized menus and accommodations, we will go through your requirements with you. Services on site, plus in-house beauty and spa facilities, make planning easier.

However, Heidi says she always recommends that couples utilize the timely services of a wedding planner to ease the demands on the bridal couple and families. “I find that couples who employ a wedding planner seem to be very much less stressed. They are calmer and happier and more relaxed on the wedding day itself. So a wedding planner is a key component—but if you don’t have one, ask for our recommendation—or just ask for guidance on the details. We’re happy to assist whenever we can.”

If you’re planning a ceremony, book your venue and your rabbi or officiant as soon as possible. Then an ideal next step would be to call Heidi to ask about the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto’s wedding packages or discuss your customized ceremony needs.



This is the first in our series on perfect wedding venues—please stay tuned!

Backgrounder on Purim

Purim in 2020 starts on Monday, March 9 and ends on the evening of Tuesday, March 10th. As you probably know, this is not a public holiday but a Jewish holiday that commemorates the delivery of the Jewish people from oppression and tyranny in the Persian Empire, which then spread over “127 lands” and is recounted in the Book of Esther (4thcentury BCE).

Esther rose to be Queen of Persia but failed to disclose to the King that she was Jewish. Her mentor was Mordecai, leader of the Jews and Esther’s cousin. Haman, the King’s Prime Minister, is determined to destroy the Jewish community in Persia because Mordecai refuses to bow down to him. He picks a date by lottery. However, his plans are foiled by Esther. With Mordecai’s counsel, she reveals to the King that she’s Jewish and exposes and denounces Haman’s intent. This turns the tables on the oppressor and, instead of being the focus of Haman’s decree, the Jews are able to “destroy their enemies by royal proclamation.” Mordecai is appointed Prime Minister.

Go to our YouTube channel–the Rabbi David Gellman Show–for a reading of the Book of Esther and an explanation of the holiday.

Celebrating Purim

The day before Purim is often a day of fasting, but Purim is considered a joyous community celebration and usually marked by reading from the book of Esther in the evening and the following morning.  It is also celebrated by giving mutual gifts of food and drink to friends (two gifts is the tradition), plus two gifts of food, money, or clothing to the poor. It’s also traditional to enjoy a festive joyous meal with family and friends of meat and wine (and other intoxicating beverages!)— and children and adults often dress up in masks and costumes—usually from the Purim story.

If you’re ready to dress up and party—now’s the time to start thinking about it. There’s a great shop in the east end of the GTA that covers everything you need to wear for parties—(weddings as well—especially if you’re a fan of vintage!). Reflections (Vintage) have some amazing masks.

You can check out their wares online (Dominique and Karen are the proprietors) or in person at the store—here’s the link:  to view vintage and new theatrical costumes, clothing, and accessories.

A Wonderful Wedding on the Shore of Lake Ontario

Hollie and Rodney—

Remembering the day of his daughter’s wedding, the father of the bride said that, even though it was September 6th, it was baking out and sunny—and so hot you could have walked into the lake.

Niagara’s only lakefront winery (Konzelmann Estate Winery) was the spectacular setting for the wedding of Hollie and Rodney a few seasons ago but still remembered very fondly by all who attended.  After the ceremony on the waterfront, the bridal party and guests moved inside for the reception on a lovely September afternoon that felt more like the height of summer.

“We wanted an orthodox Jewish wedding, although it was an interfaith ceremony, and we called a few people looking for an officiant,” says Peter, Hollie’s father. “Rabbi David Gellman was by far the best choice.” It was important to have the chuppah, ketubah, and other Jewish elements and everything was discussed and neatly woven into the ceremony exactly as the couple wished.

The ceremony was truly a family affair—Hollie’s brother Benjamin and his wife Mia, a musical collaborative duo known as Azalea, provided prerecorded music for the ceremonial procession and performed live for the first dances after the ceremony and before dinner in the reception hall.

The bride’s family hails from Australia originally but has been in Canada for nearly 25 years and the groom’s family is from the Maryland area, in the U.S. So Niagara was a perfect gathering spot, easy to reach for guests from Maryland and around Ontario. One of Hollie’s cousins also flew in from Adelaide, Australia—so it was truly an international guest list.

The bride and groom had known each other for about five years after meeting at Seneca College. Rodney is in the fire protection business. As it turns out, one of the best courses in this field in North America happens to be at Seneca in Toronto—where Hollie was then taking an aesthetics course. They had a long-distance relationship for a while and now, a few years beyond what Hollie describes as an “amazing ceremony” are happily settled outside Washington D.C. where Hollie keeps very busy as a young mom. “We now have a lovely grandchild—a little boy,” says proud grandfather Peter.

Asked about the wedding, Hollie says, “It is hard for anything to stand out since everything was so perfect! Both David and Alex attended—and were punctual, very friendly, looked fantastic, and extremely well-organized. David spoke very clearly and explained things as he went along, which helped people who hadn’t experienced a Jewish wedding before.  The ceremony was very inclusive and everyone was able to participate. Parents helped with readings—it was all amazing and perfect and detailed beautifully,” says Hollie.

*Listen to Azalea on YouTube.


Wedding Planning 101— #2

Wedding Photography and What You Need to Know

Top of the list of questions when you’re planning your wedding is how do you want to capture this significant and wonderful event in your life?

Couples often think they can economize on the photographer—since everyone carries a camera on their phone these days. This is not a good idea. It’s the professional shots that will portray the essence of your wedding and that you and your loved ones will likely frame and keep on display to capture the wedding in your memory forever. In Ontario, photography usually takes up 8 to 10 percent of a typical wedding budget.

As part of our ongoing series on how to make sure your ceremony and special day lives up to your dreams, we’ve asked a number of wedding specialists to share their best advice. Thank you to GTA wedding and fine art photographer Paula Visco for her best suggestions for bridal couples.

Paula was the photographer at a lovely wedding officiated by the Rabbi at the Vaughan Estate at The Estates of Sunnybrook for Yulia and Leo.

Yulia and Leo.

After many wedding shoots in a wide range of venues, circumstances, and places—including destination weddings, Paula is an expert. She suggests, “Consider a wedding planner. It makes everything that happens before the wedding and at the ceremony easier on the couple and the families.”

Paula has been shooting weddings, engagements, showers, maternity shoots, and family portraits since 2012. Her portfolio also includes destination weddings from Brooklyn, N.Y., to the Caribbean and she offers complete wedding packages, customized services, and also a la carte.

Today’s typical wedding package might include the rehearsal, ceremony, family groups, reception, and some of the wonderful elements that you want to remember, from table settings to the bridal gown. Discuss these with your photographer and prepare an itemized list—do you want to record the arrival of the flowers, the makeup artist doing his (or her) thing, or a still life of the head table?

Keepsake pictures of the elements that make up your day are a wonderful part of today’s wedding photography that your mother and grandmother probably don’t have.

Paula’s top 6 wedding photography tips?

  1. Hair and makeup frequently run late. Plan to finish 30 minutes before the official photography. Perhaps even take photographs of this intimate part of your pre-wedding fun—a photo of mom and daughter sharing a quiet moment often turn into a keepsake forever photograph!
  2. Always have a very detailed list of family members for key photographs—which the photographer’s assistant or one of the bridal party should be aware of. Otherwise, distant relatives or friends may squeeze into close family groupings.
  3. Keep in mind that family and relatives may be delayed or events intervene so your reception starts late. Ensure that a bridesmaid or wedding planner secrets away some snacks for the couple and others in the wedding party to keep the energy going.
  4. Snacks (and time outs!) may be important, too, for page boys and flower girls—or even for elderly relatives, who may be participating in the ceremony.
  5. Have treats or quiet playthings for any children involved—and assign someone to keep an observant eye to prevent any little ruckus that might break out if tiredness sets in.
  6. Consider your surroundings when making color choices—especially if you’re planning on a wedding outside. “Muted colors or tones for the bridesmaids, for example, are often nicer—so as not to compete with nature’s wonderful colors.”

Paula’s main tip for wedding photography?

“Choosing a photographer you can trust and that you like—who is experienced and can guide and advise so you have photographs you will treasure forever is very important.”

It’s not usually the memory of the limo or the menu or the invite that will travel with you through the years—as the images of you and your families and friends uniting on this wonderful special day. Spending a little time beforehand to make sure your wedding is captured exactly the way you hope is vital.



York University /Bnai Brith—Anti-Israel Mob

B’nai Brith Canada reports from Toronto that  “An attempt to shut down a pro-Israel event on a Toronto university campus has failed.”

B’nai Brith Canada says that:

“Members of Reservists on Duty, an organization that tours North American campuses “to speak with knowledge and confidence on behalf of Israel,” were hosted by Herut Canada at York University’s main campus on Wednesday evening. Earlier in the week, posters appeared all over the campus urging “No Israeli soldiers on our campus!” – leading to security concerns ahead of the scheduled event.

“Officers of the Toronto Police Service and private security personnel were on hand to enable attendees to enter the event, despite the best efforts of protesters outside to block them.

“Some protesters, rallied by the group Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) York, chanted, “Viva, viva intifada!” The term intifada, in the Israeli context, refers to two historical waves of Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians…

“At one point, police were forced to intervene to prevent physical violence and injury.

“The Toronto Police Service and York University should be commended for ensuring that this event could be safely held,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “Enraged mobs cannot be allowed to prevent lawful and peaceful gatherings from taking place on campus.

“Further investigation is required into how a registered student group was permitted to glorify terrorism and attempt to intimidate those peacefully assembling on campus. There must be consequences for violent behaviour.”

For more details, see Bnai Brith Canada

Never is Now—


If you’re going to be in or near New York City on November 21st, please consider attending the annual summit of the Anti-Defamation League’s—Never is Now.

ADL’s signature annual event, the Never is Now Summit is, at its core, a one day conference focused on understanding contemporary drivers and dynamics of anti-Semitism.

“However, we cannot look at anti-Semitism in a vacuum given the daily reminders that any type of hate or bias ultimately hurts us all. Experts, academics, and leaders in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and all forms of hatred will speak at this event.

“This year’s agenda for 2019 focuses on hot topics like global anti-Semitism, extremism, anti-Semitism on campus, cyberhate, immigration and much more and features such speakers and leaders as Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Executive for The Jewish Agency for Israel, the composer of Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land Benj Pasek, the Associate Vice President of Public Safety at Northeastern University Michael Davis, Wade Henderson, the former President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and many other guests.”

Also making an appearance will be media personality “Dr. Ruth” Westheimer, the Associate Professor of History at The Catholic University of America, a serving British MP, and many others who are well-known leaders in their fields.

The ADL was founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. ADL is a global leader in exposing extremism and delivering anti-bias education, and is a leading organization in training law enforcement.


Please see the full list and reserve your seats for this one-day conference.  HERE





Recognizing the World’s Oldest Nun

“Life is wonderful… however, too short.”

A number of media sites from The Vatican News to the European Jewish Congress added the details to an intriguing story in the UK’s Independent recently, which reported on the passing of the woman believed to have been world’s “oldest nun.”

Sister Cecylia Roszak passed away in the Polish convent in Krakow where she had lived for the last 90 years. She was 110.

Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Institute had awarded Sister Cecylia and her convent sisters the “Righteous Among the Nations” medal given to non-Jews who risked their lives to help Jewish people during the war.

Born in 1908, Sister Cecylia joined the Dominican monastery when she was 21. InSister Cecylia1938, she went to Vilnius (today in Lithuania) to open a new convent. But plans were scrapped when war broke out.

The sister sheltered about a dozen people who had escaped from the ghetto there from the Nazis, one of whom was activist and writer Abba Kovner, who later testified at the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

The Vatican News reported that at her funeral in Krakow before she was laid to rest in the city’s historic cemetery, was a massive bouquet of flowers sent in remembrance by Wanda Jerzyniec. Sister Cecylia had sheltered Wanda, along with her brother, after the Germans shot both their parents in Vilnius in 1944. (The authorities had arrested her superior and officially closed down the convent in 1943.)

After the war, Sister Cecylia returned to Krakow—where she worked as an organist and cantor for more than 80 years.

The Mother Superior at her convent says that a favorite expression of Cecylia’s was, “Life is wonderful, however, too short.”

Wedding Planning 101-Before Your Day

What you need to know:

Before the Wedding # 1—

If you’re planning a wedding, the best advice is to first choose the officiant and the location—so you have the date, time, and place of this great event in your lives secured.

Then you’ll likely be thinking of your wedding gown, and where to hold and how to plan the reception, how many guests and what and when to serve, and then you’ll probably wonder about dancing and entertainment, photographers and videographers.. You’ll be careful to ensure that you not only have all the arrangements made to your satisfaction—but that you have the best possible suppliers—from venue to the limousine to the hairstylist—so that everything is perfect, on time, and done with the least stress to everyone concerned.

Obtaining referrals for all elements, whether it’s catering or bouquets that you’re looking at—and reading reviews, testimonials, and references—is an essential safety measure.

Unexpected Wedding Events

There are many moving parts to a wedding and if couples are working and busy with family and other commitments—a wedding ceremony can involve a ton of unexpected elements and decision making to juggle and manage.

Hiring a wedding planner is often the ideal solution, especially if you’re looking at more than a simple ceremony with a limited guest list. The Rabbi has officiated at weddings with planners and without—and is able to offer guidance to simplify and make it easier on you, either way.

Note: Rabbi David Gellman is happy to provide names if you need them to give you options and point you in the right direction. (Please see Wedding Vendors & Venues or call us and ask).  Most reputable suppliers have networks of contacts they know and trust and it takes the worry off you.

Wedding Costs in Ontario

Since one of the starting points for wedding planning is budget, here is a reference breakdown of average wedding costs in Ontario/circa 2019—*

  • The average cost of a wedding is $30,717.
  • The average cost of a wedding venue is $11,046. The average cost
    of a wedding DJ is $1,442.
  • The average cost for catering is $63 per guest.
  • The average cost for a wedding cake is $353.
    Multiple tiers, decorations, and fillings can be more expensive.
  • The average cost of wedding favors is $262.
  • The average cost for independent catering is $8,178.
  • The average cost of bridal party gifts is $253

* These are average costs/taking into account big and small weddings and associated events.  It may be key to note that 31% of couples said they exceeded their wedding budget!