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Hasidic kids star in nuptial video

Young boys dress as bride, groom and guests in biblical reenactment at Brooklyn school

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Little boys dressed as a bride and her mother in a reenactment of the marriage of the biblical characters Isaac and Rebecca. (YouTube screenshot)
Little boys dressed as a bride and her mother in a reenactment of the marriage of the biblical characters Isaac and Rebecca. (YouTube screenshot)

A scene videotaped by a passerby in Hasidic Brooklyn last week could have been mistaken as a case of child marriage. Fortunately, it turned out to just be an educational reenactment of a biblical story.

A clip posted to YouTube shows small children dressed in traditional festive Hasidic dress (lots of miniature fur hats and silk coats) progressing through the various parts of a Jewish marriage ceremony. We witness the chasson’s tisch (groom’s table), the bedekken (the veiling of the bride), the bride circling the groom under the huppah, the breaking of the glass, and celebratory dancing.

But don’t let all the ultra-Orthodox trappings fool you. This was supposed to be the marriage of the biblical patriarch Isaac to the biblical matriarch Rebecca, a couple which lived millennia before Jews started wearing the clothing of 17th century Polish nobility.

The kindergarten class at Talmud Torah Tiferes Bunim Munkacs in Boro Park was learning about the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca in the Chayei Sarah Torah portion, so it made sense to the children’s teachers to have them reenact the biblical event.

“We are constantly trying to teach the children in a way so that they can live what they are learning,” said Rabbi Asher Frankel the school’s preschool director.

“We do a lot of this kind of thing. For instance, when the same class was learning about Noah’s Ark, we took them on a ride on a three-storey ship and someone dressed as Noah came out with some animals and surprised them,” Frankel said.

“And amazingly, a real rainbow appeared, giving the children the opportunity to make the bracha (blessing) for seeing a rainbow,” he added.

In bringing the story of Isaac and Rebecca’s marriage to life, some of the students dressed as women, replete with lacey gowns and long-haired wigs.

Could little boys walking around (and being filmed) in drag possibly contravene the Jewish religious prohibition against cross-dressing?

‘A lot of children don’t find fulfillment in learning. It seems distant to them, so we bring it to life’

“It’s not an issur (prohibition), especially at this young age,” explained Frankel.

According to the preschool director, he and his fellow educators believe in educational innovation. Making kids sit and learn texts for hours on end doesn’t cut it these days, even in the ultra-Orthodox community.

“A lot of children don’t find fulfillment in learning. It seems distant to them, so we bring it to life,” said Frankel, who is clearly not wedded to old-fashioned cheder (religious school) teaching methods.

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