01 June 2021

Ever been to a Jewish wedding? Here's your chance!

Barb Goffman

I've heard fiction readers say many times over the years that they love learning new things. They don't want lessons like in school, but getting an inside look at a profession or learning what it's like to live in a different part of the world, these are experiences readers seek out.

I had this idea in mind when I was planning to write my newest short story, "A Tale of Two Sisters." It's published in Murder on the Beach, an anthology with eight short stories, most of them novelette length (as mine is), which was published last week. All the stories are set, as you can imagine, on a beach. All different ones. The stories take readers to the shores of Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, California, and Wisconsin. The Wisconsin story is mine, set at a beach resort on Lake Michigan.

Because my story takes place during a wedding, I wouldn't have the opportunity to take readers on a tour of the Wisconsin town. And because my story is written from the perspective of the maid of honor, I couldn't give an inside look at a wedding-related profession, such as a wedding planner or a caterer or a photographer. What kind of inside experience could I give people that they might not know much about?

What if, I thought, I set the story during a Jewish wedding? That's not that exotic to me, since I'm Jewish. My family and a lot of my friends would probably feel the same way. But a lot of people have probably never been to a Jewish wedding. The customs and traditions would be interesting. Readers could experience going to a Jewish wedding without having to get dressed up or buy a gift. And thanks to the power of exposition, it would be like having a Jewish friend sitting with them throughout the event, providing short explanations of the things going on. Jewish readers would probably enjoy the story too, I figured, because they may never have read a story that showcases these traditions. 

Once I decided to write the story, I realized I've only been to three Jewish weddings in the past decade, and I wished I'd taken notes. My memory isn't what it used to be. Thankfully, I have several friends who offered their recollections, and I used some of their last names in the story as a thank you. 

So, if you've ever wondered what the hora is, I've got you covered. The ketubah, that's in there. Ever wondered why you'll see some brides--and sometimes some brides and grooms–circling each other? You'll want to read my story because all will be revealed. 

Lest you think the story is all about culture and tradition, don't worry if that doesn't interest you very much, because while a Jewish wedding is the setting of my story, and while I hope readers will find it interesting, my main goal in writing "A Tale of Two Sisters" was to entertain the reader. More specifically, I wanted to make people laugh. The editors of the anthology said they wanted light funny crime stories, so that is what I set out to write, and I believe I succeeded. Multiple readers have told me in the past week that they found my story "hilarious." That made my heart sing. It wasn't enough to make me break into a hora (since you need multiple people for that), but I did do a Snoopy dance in my chair.

a tiara might play a role in my story

If you want to learn more about the anthology, especially the stories by my co-authors, you're in luck. We're having a launch party on Facebook on Friday, June 4th. Each of us will talk about our stories for a half hour, and there will be videos and giveaways. The fun will run from 5-9 p.m. ET. Feel free to pop in and out as time allows. I'll be speaking (typing) from 7-7:30 p.m. ET. For the full schedule, and for the event itself, please go to the Destination Murders page on Facebook by clicking here.

Murder on the Beach has stories by Ritter Ames, Karen Cantwell, Lucy Carol, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Shari Randall, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Cathy Wiley, and me. It's out in ebook form from all the usual suspects (at a discounted rate until Friday, I believe), and in another week or so the trade paperback version should be out too. I hope you'll check it out. This is one book that will make you smile while showing you that sharks aren't the only danger near the water.


  1. Congratulations! I hope Murder on the Beach will do very well.

  2. Congratulations! I hope Murder on the Beach will do very well.

  3. Congratulations,Barb, and the other authors. I'll try to make the roll out.

  4. Really looking forward to reading this one, Barb! You're my kind of writer - grin (not to mention sister).

  5. Mazel tov!
    I have not been to many weddings at all in my life, and unless you consider the countless times that I have watched the movie "The Chosen",(I am totally in love with Rod Steiger as the rabbi),or even "Yentl", no,I have not been to a Jewish wedding. I am looking forward to this one, as I do all of your stories, Barb. You can always make me laugh and keep a smile on my face long after.

  6. I love the premise. And yes I've been to lots of Jewish weddings. Best wishes.

  7. Thanks, everybody, for commenting and for your good wishes. Mel and Tonette, thanks also for your kind words about my writing. You've made me happy. :)

  8. I went to an Orthodox Jewish wedding in the late '80s. Both sets of parents & all the grandparents who were still living, took part in the ceremony, like two entire families joining together. It was really interesting & fun!

  9. Forgot to tell you, mazel tov! I look forward to reading the stories.

  10. I've never been to an Orthodox wedding before, Elizabeth. I bet it's very different from the Conservative and Reformed ceremonies. And thanks for the mazel. I hope you love the book!

  11. I too read to enter into another culture. I've been to a few weddings but only one Jewish wedding. We sat next to a friend of the groom who explained all the details to us--it was lovely, even though I've forgotten most of it.

  12. You don't just read to enter another culture, Susan. You enable readers to do the same thing with some of your books and stories. If anyone wants to armchair travel to India, you should check out Susan's work.

  13. Barb, I promised to reveal the smashing glass trick.

    As you know, the bride and groom gather under the chuppah (canopy), where in more conservative weddings, the cantor or rabbi sings Im Eshkakech Jerusalem. The groom then stomps on a glass (typically delicate stemware or, for a dramatic pop, a light bulb) safely wrapped in a napkin by the best man. Everyone shouts, “Mazel tov!”, and the feasting and celebration begins.

    As you point out, everything has a deeper meaning. The shattering of the glass following Im Eshkakech traditionally evokes a remembrance of Jerusalem, but it’s also imbued with other meanings– an implication that any fissures in the couple’s relationship will disappear with the cracks in the glass, that it implies a breaking down of barriers between faiths and families, and, according to Anita Diamant, a not so-subtle hymenal reference about consummating the marriage.

    Unless the best man is a practical joker.

    In such cases, the best man secretly substitutes a heavy shot glass in the aforementioned napkin. Then, when the poor groom galumps the glass, nothing happens. He whumps it again… the napkin-wrapped glass sinks into the grass or carpet. No matter how hard he jumps on it, it won’t break.

    And that begets the tradition of the bride stomping on the best man.

    1. Yeah, I've never heard of that so-called joke.


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