Marco Del Monte and Elinor Hanoka planned a March wedding in Jerusalem, just for close family and friends. Instead, they stood under the canopy in the Great Synagogue of Rome, Italy, at a ceremony that became the object of international media attention, followed by 40,000 viewers on the Israeli embassy’s Facebook page.
Italian born, Marco, chef to Mr. Dror Eydar, Israel’s Ambassador to Italy, discovered his connection to his Jewish roots at Chabad of Piazzo Bologna in Rome, and, under the tutelage of Rabbi Menachem Lazar, he began to study Torah and adopt its ideals. Elinor had grown up in Israel as part of an observant Jewish family, but moved away from that lifestyle as an adult. While studying medicine in Rome, Chabad became her second home and she found herself returning to the traditions of her family. When the two decided to get married, it was obvious they would ask Rabbi Lazar to officiate.
With the country in lockdown and borders closed, their plans changed many times, until at the beginning of June, synagogues in the country began to reopen. Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome who officiates at the Great Synagogue, called Marco and offered to host his wedding there. Though the bride’s parents would not be able to attend, the couple were, in Marco’s words, “elated to finally get our chance.”
With a decimated local economy and a tragic national death toll of 34,000, these moments of joy are particularly poignant for the Jewish community of Rome. Though Italy’s capital was spared the ravages seen in the country’s north, the city has been struggling since tourism—its primary economic resource—has come to a screeching halt in February.
The wedding of Marco and Elinor was the second post-lockdown Jewish wedding in the city. Several weeks earlier, Itzik Mimun, an alumnus of Chabad Hebrew School and Clemmy Raccah, who attended and then led the Chabad camp in Tuscany, held their wedding in hotel gardens, officiated by Rabbi Yitzchok Hazan, Director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Rome.
Many couples have opted to push their weddings off so that they can still go ahead with the big party with all its trimmings, but Rabbi Hazan says he is impressed that Itzik and Clemmy decided to forgo the frills in order to keep their original wedding date. “When a couple decides their wedding date, it becomes a holy day in heaven, their decision makes it a day of blessing for them and the life they will build together, so it’s best not to play around with it,” he told Lubavitch.com. Instead of the three hundred guests they had planned to have celebrate with them, it was an intimate guest list of forty. But, says Hazan, it didn’t lessen the joy.
“Italy in general, and Rome’s Jewish community are still healing from the wounds. Let’s hope this joy heralds many more joyous occasions,” said Rabbi Lazar.