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13 Weddings

Wedding Description, 1944, by Sally Solomon: An Excerpt from Hoogly Tales




“I started my wedding-day, the morning of 20th August, 1944, with the Mikvah, ritual bath, following the custom in our community for the bride-to-be. Accompanied by my friend next door, we walked to the home of Sir David and Lady Ezra in Kydd Street for the immersion, and I remember feeling happy at the sight of wonderful birds and animals greeting the morning in their private zoon on the premises. Everything after that felt like a dream.

Some hours later, I found myself walking on Daddy’s arm, down the marble floor of one of the grandest synagogues in the world, the Maghen David, gliding between lofty pillars, under glittering chandeliers. Six bridesmaids in pretty white frocks with matching poke-bonnets and carrying posies, followed behind my long train, each on the arm of an escort, some in uniform, others in mufti. It was a setting for a queen.

A hush gradually descended from the high ceiling as the bridal procession slowly approached the raised platform, at the back of which is the sanctuary where the Scrolls of the Law reside in their silver casings. Gerry was waiting there with his best man, his cousin Wilfred.

We took our places under the canopy, and the ceremony commenced. It was an unusual one, conducted jointly by the reverend Albert Morris, the synagogue’s own hazaan (minister), and Rabbi Seligson, Chaplain of the United States Armed Forces in Calcutta. To have been surrounded by both our parents, relatives and a congregation of loving friends, was a gift from the Almighty.”

From this point onwards I can only remember the booming, melodious voice of the hazaan, rising up to the topmost rafter with the blessing:

Baruch attah Adonai alohaynu melech haolam… and the hummed response of the entire congregation:


I could hear nothing else because I was, in these crucial minutes, entering a new phase of my life, saying goodbye to a part of me that would be gone forever. The crash of a broken glass Phut..ak! brought me back to the ceremony, shutting out the past with a timed finality. With one swift stroke, Gerry had dashed to the floor the china cup from which we had both sipped wine, and shattered it into smithereens. The congregation murmured approval. The traditional “breaking the glass”, a dramatic piece of theatre, symbolizes the destruction of our temple, also the existence of both joy and sorrow in our lives.

We stepped down from the raised dais and entered the curtained room with the Scrolls of the Law and made zoor, kissing the Sefer Torah in their silver castings.

”Now,” Gerry whispered, as we left, “we have to sign the Ketubah."

I have, at this moment, taken this marriage contract out of a very rusty tin container and unrolled the stiff paper to read what Gerry and I pledged on that Sunday, “the first day of the month of Alool in the year 5704 since the creation of the world…in the City of Calcutta situated on the River Ganges….”

(From Hooghly Tales, p 144 – 146, David Ashely Publishing, London, 1998)