For many brides and grooms, a wedding marks the best day of their lives. It is a day marked with love, a future of endless possibilities while surrounded by those you treasure the most.
But, with an average Israeli wedding costing NIS 100,000, the big day becomes a big burden.
“Some people who can’t afford a hall rent a dingy shul and put something together. How does an average bride and groom feel after being at a nice wedding for their friends and this is all they can afford? It’s devastating,” Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker of Colel Chabad, said.
As a solution for couples with limited budget options, Colel Chabad offers subsidized weddings. In 1998 the organization purchased two beautiful halls in Jerusalem, which are booked year round. The weddings showcase a multicourse meal, in a wide, open space that can accommodate 400-500 people. For those unaware it looks like any other wedding hall.
However, the couples only have to pay a nominal fee of $10 a person for the wedding. The Gutnick & Hadar Wedding Halls have been a life-saver for couples that want to share their joy with those near and dear to them, but don’t want to start off their lives saddled with debt that will take years to pay off.
As an organization dedicated to nurturing the people of Israel, Colel Chabad feels passionately about this project. That is because providing comfort to a bride in need is one of the noblest forms of tzedakah (charity). Referred to as Hachnosas Kallah, it is a mitzvah said to benefit the giver not only in this world, but the next. This particular mitzvah involves assisting a bride in financial straits, which is something Colel Chabad does a whopping 420 times a year.
That is because two weddings are held every day it’s permissible to have a wedding. That’s right, if it’s not Shabbat or a holiday, weddings are taking place at both halls year around. The weddings halls are in such demand, that couples need to book at least three months in advance in order to be accomodated.
“These weddings bring couples great joy.. It helps them make their wedding the joyful day they dreamed of and makes them feel like everybody else. After all, this is supposed to be the happiest day in their lives. Ultimately, we’re allhuman beings and don’t want anybody feeling inferior,” Lipsker added.
“Most couples have already been through enough tragedy in their lives that they don’t need an ominous cloud of impending debt overshadowing their day.” Lipsker explains. Many of the brides and grooms that are supported are orphans, with only one parent available to help pitch in for wedding costs.
Colel Chabad waives the nominal fee and offers a stipend so that the bride and groom not only receive a beautiful wedding for free, but also given a generous gift so they can properly begin their lives together.
Colel Chabad has a person on staff who checks on the young, orphaned couples regularly. Rachel Willhelm, who lost her husband at a young age, found herself with no source of income. She adamantly refused handouts, but was willing to work. She now helps Colel Chabad, by visiting homes and providing empathy to a delicate situation. On most visits she spots that something is not quite right. From a broken fridge to a couch in tatters, Willhelm then reports the issue to Colel Chabad and they then work to replace it.
Willhelm also helps coordinate weddings. Since she knows these families so intimately, when it’s time for a simcha (joyous occasion), she provides personal care to the bride and groom to ensure Colel Chabad can create them with a wedding they can look back at fondly.
Although, in theory, anybody could reserve these halls, Colel Chabad doesn’t run a financial background check on the couples. Lipsker acknowledges that those who can afford a beautiful wedding would probably go elsewhere. That’s because while the halls are grand and the food is top-notch, the options are limited.
“The people who come to us are ones that would like to have a decent wedding and not be embarrassed. If you are fortunate to be able to afford a wedding like anybody else, you likely won’t need this service,” he said. “If you don’t have that much money, this is a good option and Colel Chabad appreciates the support of those who understand the importance of supporting the next Bayit Ne’eman Be’Yisrael.”
Written in cooperation with Colel Chabad.
To donate to Colel Chabad please click here.