Clem Richardson – NY Daily News
Devorah Benjamin has a simple reason why she, Shmuly Brashevitzky and a host of volunteers work so hard to “make” memorable weddings for Lubavitcher Jewish couples who can’t afford to do it themselves.
“The wedding is the foundation of a life, of a home,” Benjamin said. “It’s the beginning of everything, your children, your grandchildren.
“When you lay a foundation of a home, you want it to be really strong.”
Benjamin, 37, founder of Keren Simchas Chosson V’Kallah (Fund to Bring Joy to the Groom and Bride) in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, knows about weddings.
The mother of two conservatively estimates that she’s either coordinated or otherwise been involved in more than 4,000 Lubavitcher weddings around the world since founding KSCVK some 15 years ago.
“I bet it’s much more than that,” said Brashevitzky, 44, KSCVK’s program director.
“Some weeks I can have five weddings in which I am running the show,” Benjamin said as workmen bustled about a banquet hall in the Talmudical Seminary Oholei on Eastern Parkway. They were setting up for a wedding taking place later that night, on what would have been the late Grand Rebbi Menachem Schneerson’s 81st wedding anniversary.
“Tonight I am the coordinator, but I’ve been involved in weddings in Russia, the Ukraine, Vilna [Lithuania], France, Sweden, Denmark, England, Australia, Israel, and all over the United States.
“I’m going to Grand Rapids, Mich., to do one, I just got back from Alabama, and I go to Washington, D.C., for another next week.”
KSCVK helps couples and families with everything wedding related, from finding a location, musicians, caterers and photographers, to buying a suit for the groom or a wedding present for the groom to give to his bride.
“I have a man who donates pearl necklaces to KSCVK for grooms to give their brides,” Benjamin said. “I don’t know how he does it, but every time I get down to the last one, here comes another box of necklaces.”
Clients run the gamut, from working families who don’t have the thousands of dollars to put into a wedding, to families who marry several children off in a year, to “orphans” – men or women with one or both parents deceased.
Since many Lubavitcher marriages are arranged, often between couples living in different countries, some brides and grooms arrive here without money even for wedding clothes.
“A lot of the boys from Israel and Russia just don’t have money,” said Brashevitzky. “We give them the full wardrobe.”
Even weddings with a foreign-born bride or groom can have hundreds of people present as community members show up to welcome the couple into the fold.