In what has become one of their most joyful and uplifting projects, Colel Chabad has been running a program helping orphans finance and arrange weddings for the past 15 years. The organization, which is 227 years old, is “consistently growing and looking for more ways to help,” Rabbi Mendi Blau, director of the organization, told Breaking Israel News.
In response to the demand for funding for weddings, two years ago Colel Chabad established a subsidiary division named Simchat Moshe, whose purpose is to grant funding as well as consulting help for the arranging of weddings for orphans. Assistance is offered on a case-by-case basis.
Simchat Moshe determines which people need help funding their weddings, each according to their need, and assists them with financial grants of $2,500 and up.
The organization also owns two special venues that they have dedicated for the use of brides and grooms in need of help. The wedding halls, both called Ulamei Gutnik, are located in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem and were donated by Yosef Gutnik, a wealthy philanthropist from Australia.
The twin halls host over 400 weddings per year, one on every available night, excluding Fridays, days of mourning and periods during the Jewish year when it is prohibited to get married. To use these halls, the only fee required is payment for the cost of food, which is capped at $13 per guest and is also highly subsidized by the organization. All overhead and accompanying costs are covered by Colel Chabad.
Ulamei Gutnik has had other positive effects: due to the affordability of the Simchat Moshe halls, prices have come down in neighboring wedding halls, making them more accessible to couples with low budgets as well.
Should an orphan choose to hold his or her wedding outside of Ulamei Gutnik, Simchat Moshe will sponsor up to fifty percent of the catering costs.
“It is amazing to see these people that are coming from nothing and how it affects their lives to be able to have a somewhat normal wedding,” said Blau.
A separate organization by the name of Chesed Menachem, also run by Colel Chabad, helps orphans, both single and married, pay for various educational programs, including post-secondary degrees.