The Wedding of Andrew Ingall and Neal Hoffman
A Covenant of Love

Sunday, June 2, 2002
22 Sivan   5762
New York City

Huppa ceremony at the Brotherhood Synagogue
Lunch and klezmer dance party at Metronome Restaurant and Lounge

We are very happy that you can share our joy on this special day. Today, we stand under the huppa to proclaim our lifelong covenant of love with one another. Reflecting how much we value family and community, we invite you to participate as aydim, witnesses, and to help us fulfill the commandment of celebrating…of making a simha.

This booklet helps explain today’s ceremony and celebration, as well as other events of the weekend. Please bring it to the restaurant; it contains the sheva brachot, the Seven Blessings, which will be recited after the birkat hamazon, Grace after Meals.

Our ceremony incorporates rituals and customs from the traditional Jewish wedding, mostly Ashkenazik (Eastern European).  We have altered some elements to reflect our personal sensibilities and experiences. We call this ceremony a brit ahava, a covenant of love, to reflect our aspirations for an equal partnership.  Like other Jewish families, we agree to share responsibility for the continuity and well being of the community, by participating in tikkun olam (repairing the world).  The Jewish wedding is considered to be a holy event.  We view the commitment to partnership as one of many ways people can participate in this journey to holiness.

We thank Rabbi Roderick Young, Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST), who has worked with Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum to provide our synagogue and the larger community with spiritual leadership. We are honored to have Rabbi Young as m’sader (officiant) for our brit ahava, and to have had the benefit of his spiritual guidance over several months in our journey to the huppa and to our partnership beyond the huppa.

We thank those of you who responded positively to our request to donate to Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Kolot, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Cancer Institute Gift Fund, the New York Restoration Project, and the New Israel Fund.

We appreciate the family and friends who have advised us about so many aspects of this celebration and who have honored us with their participation.  In particular, we thank Andy’s parents, Michael and Carol Ingall; Neal’s father, Martin Hoffman, Marty’s partner Elaine Kimmel, and Andy’s Grandmother Bess Spiro. They have provided guidance and support since the day we each told them we’d met our beshert, our soulmate. We are truly blessed to have been surrounded by so much love and wisdom all of our lives. Each of us is also blessed to have grown up with sisters--Andy’s sister Marjorie Ingall, and Neal’s sisters Tracey Diamond and Barrie Stachel--who have continued to be our closest friends and confidantes.  Our lives are intertwined with their lives and those of their families--our brothers-in-law Jonathan Steuer, Jeff Diamond and Paul Stachel, and our nieces and nephews (from oldest to youngest) Amie Diamond, Samantha Stachel, Allison Diamond, Andrew Stachel and Josephine Ingall. All are sources of comfort, joy, love and strength.

For Neal, this is a bittersweet moment. He feels the presence and absence of his mother, Shirley Hoffman, every day, but especially today. Neal’s mother, together with his father, helped create a world of love and stability for her children. This brit ahava and celebration reflect the life Shirley led and the life she’d hoped for Neal.

Although this brit ahava is meaningful to us spiritually, socially, and emotionally, it has no legal status. Except for Vermont, Hawaii and California (and a few nations of the European Union), states do not legally recognize domestic partnership, let alone gay marriage. Before this ceremony, we completed last wills and testaments and living wills, as well as power of attorney, health care proxies, and right to hospital visitation documents for each other. We advocate for the legal recognition of loving relationships like ours. This ceremony is, for us, a public and political act. We dedicate it to the memory of our friend Sam Mintz Strauss, a gay man who came of age in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Back then, merely socializing with other gays and lesbians was grounds for harassment and arrest. It is on Sam’s shoulders, and on the shoulders of so many other gay and lesbian people, that we stand today. We are thankful for the social and political progress that has given us the courage to create this public ceremony.

The Weekend’s Events

Today’s ceremony was preceded by several events, purposefully planned to lead us to the huppa.

On Friday afternoon before shabbat, our friends Daniel Barash and Mark Jacobs, whose wedding last year inspired us to create our own, assisted us in a mikva ceremony. The mikva is a ritual bath used to mark life transitions and to separate the holy from the everyday. According to writer Anita Diamant, "entering the mikva is a private transforming moment."    Although the ritual traditionally takes place in moving water, we dunked and splashed in the privacy of Marjorie and Jonathan’s lap pool in the East Village.

Afterwards we welcomed the shabbat with our immediate families, joined by Daniel and Mark, at Marjorie and Jonathan’s home.

Together with several family members, we celebrated shabbat morning with our CBST community and its Liberal Minyan. Alongside Carol, Michael, Marty and Elaine, we were called up to say the blessing before the Torah reading. The tradition of being called up on the shabbat before the huppa ceremony is known in Yiddish as aufruf.

On Saturday evening, we gathered at the Little Red School House in Greenwich Village to mark the end of shabbat and to welcome the new week. Our friend Rabbi Joel Alter led the havdala ceremony before an informal dessert reception. This event provided an opportunity for our loved ones to renew old ties and create new ones. Adding silliness and spectacle to the weekend’s events, some family members and friends gave performances.  Our friends Katherine Marx and Gwynneth Malin acted as badkhanim (wedding jesters). We called this evening of song and antics "That’s Not Entertainment."

In preparation for the brit ahava, we have fasted from midnight Saturday night until after the huppa ceremony.

Signing the Ketuba

Prior to the huppa ceremony, Rabbi Young led a ceremony for the signing of the ketuba, the contract for our brit ahava. The ketuba was designed by our friend Stephanie Caplan ( Stephanie used a motif she calls "Rothko 3" to depict abstractly three landscapes where we spend much of our time: urban, mountain, and desert. The text is a modification of the traditional ketuba, reflecting the principles of our brit ahava. Professor Carol Ingall gave a drash, a brief lecture, on the torah portion of the week. Rabbi Young recited el malay rachamim in memory of Neal’s mother. Our three sisters signed the ketuba as witnesses.

The Huppa

The huppa is a canopy representing the spiritual and physical home we will create together, a space open to family and friends. Designed by our friend Ellen Wertheim and sewn by Andy’s Aunt Gilda Spinat, our huppa consists of three sections of organza silk. Seven additional silk pieces are sewn on the center panel in a pattern suggesting building blocks. The scarlet, purple, gold, and blue colors of our huppa are the ones once used to adorn the aron hakodesh (holy ark) built by the Israelites on their journey through the desert before reaching the land of Canaan.

From the sheva brachot, the seven blessings that are part of the traditional wedding ritual, we have distilled seven themes that are meaningful to us. Anita Diamant points out that only two of the blessings specifically refer to the wedding, but "taken as a whole, the sheva brachot locate the couple under the huppa within the whole flow of Jewish history and theology" . The following people artistically interpreted the themes on the seven silk panels:

* Tradition and Reinventing Ritual - Barrie Stachel, with Paul, Samantha and Andrew
* Learning and Creativity - Ellen Wertheim
* Community - Tracey Diamond, with Amie and Allison
* Justice and Compassion - Susan Hicks
* Family - Marjorie Ingall, with Josie
* Love and Companionship - Renee Rivera and Jenny Worley
* Joy and Gladness - Chana Pollack and Irys Shenker

Ellen Wertheim incorporated an aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, into her panel’s depiction of learning and creativity to symbolize today’s new beginning.

We begin the day by singing hinei ma tov, led by Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, Tamara Cohen and Miya Rotstein, acknowledging the simple goodness of having gathered together today.

Hinei mah tov umah na’im shevet ahim gam yahad!
Hinei mah tov umah na’im shevet ahyot gam yahad!
Behold, how fine and how pleasant when families and friends dwell together! (Psalm 133:1-2)


Margot Leverett, clarinet
Music: Doina

Huppa Bearers
Our friends Liz Galst, Aaron Knappstein, Sara Levin, and Aviva Weintraub created a universe for us in which we orbited loosely around each other for a long time. Through them, we became increasingly aware of each other until at last we were ready to see each other more clearly and open our hearts to one another. By holding up the huppa and standing with us on the bima, our friends represent that universe.

Rabbi Roderick Young

Family Members
Music: Firen di Mekhutonim Aheym/Driving the in-laws home

Bess Spiro, escorted by Andy’s aunt Nancy Hirschtritt
Martin Hoffman and Elaine Kimmel
Michael and Carol Ingall
Amie Diamond, Allison Diamond and Haley Goldblatt
Barrie Stachel, Jeff and Tracey Diamond
Marjorie Ingall, Jonathan Steuer, and Josie Ingall

Re’im Ahuvim, Loving Companions
Andrew and Neal
Music: Lustige Hasidim/Happy Hasidim


Before entering the huppa, we will each circle the other three times and then join hands to create a seventh circle.  The circling connotes protection and uses the mystical number seven, which represents the seven days of creation. For us, it also represents the journeys that have led us to this moment and the lifetime journey that we begin today.

At this point, we ask that no further photographs be taken until the end of the ceremony.

Mi adir al hakol  Splendor is Upon Everything
Rabbi Young will offer an invocation, then bless the first cup of wine.  It will be shared with all those around the huppa. We are using Andy’s silver kiddush cup, given to him at his bar mitzva.  Rabbi Young will also recite an adaptation of the traditional birkat erusin, the betrothal blessings.  These blessings were once recited a full year before the actual wedding, but ever since the eleventh century, the Jewish wedding has combined these two previously distinct rituals.

Kinyan  Acquiring a Partnership
Following ancient tradition, we will each place a ring for the other into a communal pouch as tokens of partnership. We will then lift the pouch together and recite the blessing one says upon seeing a rainbow. This expresses our hope that a trustworthy covenant has been made. Our brothers-in-law Jonathan Steuer and Jeff Diamond will act as ring bearers.

Baruch ata adonay eloheynu melech ha’olam, zocher habrit vene’eman bivrito vekayam bema’maro.
Blessed are you, Eternal One, who remembers the covenant, remains faithful to it, and fulfills its word.

We will then take the rings from the pouch, place them on each other’s hands, and recite an adaptation of the traditional vow:

Haray ata m’kudash li b’taba’at zo k’misoret yisrael.
With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the traditions of the people Israel.

We will also recite the verse associated with donning tefillin, the small leather boxes that one straps to the forehead and arm during weekday morning prayers:

V’erastich li l’olam.  V’erastich li b’tzedek uv’mishpat uv’chesed v’rachamim.  V’erastich li b’emuna.
I will espouse you forever. I will espouse you with righteousness and justice and lovingkindness and compassion. I will espouse you in faithfulness.

We will each place a ring on the other’s right index finger, which is considered to be a direct route to the heart. We will then move the rings to the fourth finger of our left hands.

Rabbi Young will read aloud the ketuba that we signed before coming to the huppa. Then he will deliver a drash.

Sheva brachot
Rabbi Young will recite the sheva brachot, the traditional seven blessings that mark the nissuin  As in other parts of today’s ceremony, the blessings have been slightly altered.  The sixth and seventh blessings refer to re’im ahuvim, loving companions.

Adapting a Sephardic tradition, Neal’s Aunt Arlene Russo and Andy’s Aunt Belleruth Naparstek will wrap us in a tallis (prayer shawl) prior to Rabbi Young’s recitation. The tallis represents a huppa within a huppa.  Aunt Arlene and Aunt Belleruth represent all of our aunts and uncles, who have been sources of love and support. Their participation in this part of the ceremony also serves as our acknowledgement of the roles that so many gays and lesbians play as aunts and uncles, providing love and support to children of friends and family.

The first of the seven blessings is the blessing over the wine. In contrast to the first cup of wine, shared by many, only the two of us will drink from the second cup. We will use a kiddush cup purchased in the old Jewish ghetto in Venice and given as a gift many years ago by Neal’s sister Tracey.

The following friends will offer blessings based on the same seven themes depicted in the huppa:

* Tradition and Reinventing Ritual - Natan Meir
* Learning and Creativity - Joanne Jacobson
* Community - Yehuda Hyman
* Justice and Compassion -Marilyn Neimark and Alisa Solomon
* Family - Colleen Kelly and Dan Jones
* Love and Companionship - Nina Browne and Carl Biers
* Joy and Gladness - Stephanie Singer

Breaking the glass
Like many other parts of a wedding ceremony, the breaking of the glass is a well-known custom without real religious significance. It is meant to mark the transition from the solemn, formal ceremony to the joyous celebration to follow. We will each break a glass to remind ourselves of our shared responsibility to participate in tikkun olam, repairing the world.  We bought colored glass from the Chelsea flea market and have wrapped it in a silk scarf that belonged to Neal’s mother.

Yichud  (Togetherness)
After the ceremony, the couple traditionally spends some time alone.  Yichud is considered to be the final part of Nissuin.  We will depart by ourselves for the Metronome, where we will break our fast together.

After the Ceremony

Take some time to enjoy the synagogue and its anterior courtyard. Stroll around Gramercy Park, smell the flowers, and make your way to the Metronome. It’s on Broadway and East 21st Street, a leisurely eight-minute walk from the synagogue. The celebration will start at 1PM.  Before entering the Metronome, look north (right) to view the splendor of two of New York City’s architectural jewels, the Empire State Building and the Flatiron Building.

The celebration at the Metronome will include:
* An hour of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and refreshments
* Frenzied Klezmer dancing accompanied by Margot Leverett and her ensemble, along with any shtick or frivolity you’d like to offer
* A tasty lunch, preceded by our fathers reciting the motzi, the blessing over the bread
* More klezmer dancing. As we are the last of their children to couple, we will show tribute to our parents with a song and dance called the mezinka, which in Yiddish means the youngest daughter. (What can we say?!)  The wreaths to be placed on their heads were made by Amie, Allison, Samantha and Andrew
* Dessert
* Birkat hamazon, led by Rabbi Oren Postrel
* The repetition of the sheva brachot chanted by Andy’s Great Uncle Sid Gottler

Music by Margot Leverett  (clarinet), with Art Bailey (accordion), Mark Berney (trumpet), Marty Confurius (bass), and Grant Smith (drums)
Photography by Shana Dressler (
Event management by Alli Hertz and Mac McClelland, Metronome Restaurant and Lounge

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