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Date: Nov. 25, 2014 - Source: Haaretz

Requiem for bygone days: Tel Aviv weddings aren’t what they used to be

In simpler bygone days, couples married in cafes and the gifts were ‘very, very, very minor.’

By Ofer Aderet | Oct. 23, 2014 | 

 haaretzlogo_transparent.png

1st_wedding.jpgThe 1958 wedding of Yosef Schleiffer and Zahava Wahl at Cafe Lorenz.Photo by Joseph Shalev album/Israel Revealed to the Eye

Once upon a time, back when there was less money but more class, wedding invitations weren’t usually sent by mail, and Facebook wasn’t even an option. The solution was to publish a small advertisement in the paper, titled “Instead of a personal invitation.”

Hundreds of invitations like this can be found in the archives of newspapers from that era. The ads didn’t include a telephone number or email address for an RSVP; instead, some bore the words “address for telegrams.”

The invitations weren’t personal. They were addressed to “relatives, friends and acquaintances inIsraeland abroad.” The names of the bride and groom were accompanied by adjectives such as “the young groom” or “the virgin bride.” Some of the invitations added, “We’ll offer refreshments to our guests.”

Shai Farkash of Studio Tchelet recently collected some of these ads from newspapers that no longer exist, including Hatzvi, Hapoel Hatzair, Doar Hayom, Herut and Davar. The ads he found were for weddings held at Cafe Lorenz, a veteran Tel Aviv institution that recently underwent a facelift. The café was established in 1886 by the Templer Franz Lorenz. Over its 130 years of existence, it has served the messianic Templers, the Nazi

Party’s representatives in pre­stateIsrael, British officers, secular Tel Aviv residents and Israel Defense Forces soldiers. In its glory days, it hosted film screenings and Purim parties, shows, conventions and weddings. Its famous habitués included author Shai Agnon.

The 1958 wedding of Yosef Schleiffer and Zahava Wahl at Cafe Lorenz. Photo by Joseph Shalev album/Israel Revealed to the EyeThe 1958 wedding of Yosef Schleiffer and Zahava Wahl at Cafe Lorenz. Photo by Joseph Shalev album/Israel Revealed to the Eye

In 1975, the café was closed and abandoned and began gathering dust. But two years ago, it was reopened after being restored and renovated. Today, it is part of the Neve Schechter­Legacy Heritage Center for Jewish Culture. The new owners have shown respect for the building’s past, and next Wednesday they will host a nostalgic evening there devoted to the weddings of bygone days.

In the run­up to the event, the owners contacted couples who got married there, looking for pictures, stories and memories. One of the stories they found was that of Yosef Schleiffer (Shalev) and Zahava Wahl Spiegel, who married at the café in 1958. This was a “special and complicated” match, according to their daughter, Dr. Nirit Shalev Khalifa.

Her mother, she explained, came from a religious Zionist Polish family that leaned politically right, supporting the Revisionist movement and its pre­state underground, the Irgun. Her father came from a militantly secular Russian family that leaned politically left: He grew up in the secular, leftist youth group Noar Oved VeLomed, and the family supported the Labor Party and its pre­state underground, the Haganah. In short, they were from “opposite poles of the community.”

3rd_wedding.jpgThe 1958 wedding of Yosef Schleiffer and Zahava Wahl at Cafe Lorenz. Photo by Joseph Shalev album/Israel Revealed to the Eye

To add to the tension, the groom came late to the wedding, because his scooter overturned on the way, and he broke his hand in the fall. “When he was late to the wedding, the Poles were fainting; they were certain the groom had run away. But in the end, he arrived in a cast and writhed in pain all evening.”

Nevertheless, the marriage prospered and the families learned to love each other. The bride’s family turned a blind eye to the groom’s habit of visiting on Shabbat. The groom’s family tolerated the “horribly sweet” gefilte fish served by their in­laws and agreed that “in spite of it, they’re good people.” But on politics, they never agreed. “That was left outside the relationship,” their daughter said.

crowd_in_courtyard.jpgCafe Lorenz, 2014.Photo by Ofer Aderet

Shoshana Forrer’s parents married in 1927. They met thanks to the grandmother of reporter Buki Naeh, who was a matchmaker, Forrer said, and the bride’s gown was designed by the artist Sionah Tagger. “These weren’t weddings like you have today, with bands and a deejay and noise,” commented Yitzhak Dekel, who also married at Café Lorenz. “The food was very simple,” added his wife, Shula, noting that young couples didn’t go to other weddings to sample the catering before choosing their own caterer, as they do today. Moreover, she said, her bridal gown was a dress suitable for wear in everyday life.

 

Miriam Nestor said there was no photographer at her wedding; the pictures were made by her granddaughter decades later, with Photoshop. “The gifts were very, very, very minor,” recalled Ida Blumenfeld. “No checks, no nothing” – except enough home soda makers that “I could have opened a shop. So afterward, we had gifts for others for several years. “There were no steaks or things like that,” she added. “We couldn’t afford it. We made our own cooked food, which was very tasty.”

 
 

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The Schechter Institutes, Inc.:

Box 3566, P.O.Box 8500, Philadelphia, PA, 19178-3566, Tel: 1-866-830-3321, schechter@thelapingroup.com

Jerusalem Campus: Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies:

4 Avraham Granot St., Jerusalem, Israel, 91160, Tel: 972-747-800-600, pr@schechter.ac.il, www.schechter.edu

Tel Aviv Campus: Neve Schechter – Legacy Heritage Center for Jewish Culture:

42 Chelouche St., Neve Zedek, Tel: 03-5170358, office@neve.org.il, www.neve-schechter.org.il