Hello, lovebirds, and welcome to “I Got Married in a Pandemic,” an ongoing series about couples who managed to have weddings despite a raging pandemic. Our first couple is Rabbi Jen Gubitz and Matan BenYishay (whose backstory is so cute that it was covered by The New York Times!).
Here’s how it all went down, in Gubitz’s words:
“We were supposed to get married on Memorial Day—Rosh Hodesh Sivan! My husband has family in Israel and England. We needed time for them to come in. And I’m a rabbi, so I needed time to not be working!
“Then the pandemic hit. I think we all thought it would be a minute, and we were wrong! We originally just postponed until Aug. 30. For us, the most important thing was going to be the ceremony and the ketubah and family. It was low-tech and we didn’t have many vendors to begin with, which was great. We’d never hired a florist, so we never had to fire a florist.
“I was actually working on supporting couples through this. I partnered with a friend and colleague, Rabbi Karen Perolman in New Jersey, who’s a rabbi and a bride, to run a workshop called ‘With This Mask I Thee Wed.’ We ended up having 50 couples, all of whom were in the same situation, just to talk through some thoughts about what to do.
“It was funny; Matan was hearing me talk about this with my colleague, but we hadn’t really decided what we were going to do. So, he wisely said, ‘Can we talk about it, too?’
“On the original date, we ended up having a tisch online that Rabbi Rachel Saphire of Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley led with my classmate Rabbi Leora Frankel. Rachel is one of my best friends of 20 years. Another friend, Brett Lubarsky, participated in making it a digital experience, and it was phenomenal. We put on our wedding clothes and it was basically like going to a party—toasts, roasts, blessings. They had everyone turn in a digital chuppah square, and then it turned into one big digital chuppah, which was really amazing. We had our own chuppah hanging on the wall behind us. It felt like we got married! It was beautiful and really exceptional.
“I’d been working like a crazy person, and we didn’t have time to think about it more than that. And I’d been saying, ‘I’m not getting married without my parents. There’s no way; I’m not doing that.’ Once we could get a marriage license again, I wondered, well, what could we do? It happened to be that July 26 was the last moment before the High Holy Days really kicked into full gear, so we decided on that date. We found out that the Loring Greenough House in Jamaica Plain was doing micro-weddings. We were their first one!
“We had 15 people. My sister drove 12 hours nonstop from Ohio, two of Matan’s siblings came, my brother flew in, our parents were on Zoom and my childhood rabbi participated on Zoom. It was officiated by Rabbi Saphire and Cantor Hollis Schachner.
“Matan is one of five siblings, and his dad is one of five. He has a huge overseas family, and it meant that even cousins who never could have made the trip were able to attend. It meant cousins in England, my best friend who lives in Germany, my buddy in Los Angeles—it didn’t matter where you were, you could participate. Our parents did the priestly benediction from Zoom. It was really beautiful.”
“A neighborhood guy, Jesse Shaw, built the chuppah. We got sushi from JP Seafood Cafe, beer from Turtle Swamp Brewing and cupcakes from Party Favors, all single-serve. It was local. We had Noah Weinberg, a teacher at Gann Academy, do the music, which was incredible. And I’m a hard sell because I usually do weddings! My sister made matching masks that said, ‘Spread love, not germs.’
“We sourced a lot of things we needed to borrow from our neighborhood, from an ‘Everything Free JP’ group—tables, music stands. It felt so supportive. On the back of our cars, it says, ‘Just married’ in car paint. We left it there, so now people honk at us to wish us congratulations! People were really gracious.
“We had a socially distanced horah. Of the 15 guests, five were clergy—so they knew what to do! They explained it to our friend who isn’t Jewish: ‘It’s like “The Hokey Pokey” but bigger!’ They all danced around in a circle, spaced out, not touching each other. It was funny and sweet. All I ever wanted was a horah. That’s all I ever dreamed of my whole life, and so it was great!
“Then we went home, changed clothes and took the dog to the park.”