From Orthodox Yeshiva in Jerusalem to Officiating Interfaith Weddings in Texas: An Interview with Rabbi Gruber
Today I'm excited to bring you the next blog in our series highlighting Jewish artists, wedding and event planners, rabbis and other community leaders who are dedicated to making Jewish communities inclusive and welcoming. Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Rabbi David Gruber of Interfaith Wedding Rabbi. As you'll see below, he has a fascinating story: he is an 8th generation rabbi trained in an Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, who is now a a Jewish secular humanist in Dallas, Texas. He officiates interfaith weddings across the United States and around the world, including in Chile, El Salvador and Mexico. Check out the interview below to hear his story and learn about his work!
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your story?
I am an 8th generation Rabbi--it's kind of like the family business. I was born in the US, but my family moved to Be'er Sheva, Israel when I was 8. After serving in the army, I became ordained as an Orthodox rabbi. Along the way I had married a Sabra, and we were looking for a little bit of adventure, so we enrolled in a program that places rabbis in far flung communities. I ended up in Wellington, New Zealand as the rabbi of an Orthodox congregation. From there we moved from Kansas City to Toledo, OH and then on to Dallas, Texas, where I was running an Orthodox day school.
And then suddenly I had an epiphany, which isn’t supposed to happen 12 years into a successful career. I realized that I didn't believe in Orthodox Judaism any more. Which is a sticky problem when you’re running an Orthodox high school. So I had to do a lot of reading and thinking to figure out, and I emerged from that finding myself somewhere a little left of Reform.
What happened next?
Obviously I couldn’t continue doing what I was doing for a living. There isn't a guidebook for people like, me so I knocked around for a little bit. My wife, who’s always been way smarter than I am, suggested that I could do interfaith weddings.
I filled out a form on the Interfaith Family site indicating my willingness to officiate interfaith marriages, thinking no one would get back to me. It was interesting filling out the form, because it seemed like they were asking really weird questions. Because I came from being an Orthodox Jew, the whole deal was you do xyz and you don’t do abc because that’s what God told you to do. Once I shifted away from that and stopped believing the Torah was written by God, I now had to figure out what guided me.
Now I consider two questions: Does the following act follow the golden rule? Will the following act increase positivity in the world? When I started doing interfaith weddings, it didn’t even enter my mind: oh I won’t do it on Shabbat, or I won’t co-officiate with non-Jewish clergy, or that I would demand that couple raise their children Jewish. It truly didn’t occur to me that people would do interfaith weddings only under those conditions.
So I said yes to everything on the list for Interfaith Family--I didn't have 12 different conditions that need to be satisfied for me to want to officiate your wedding. I got a call half an hour after submitting the form—they said: you out in Texas, we need to talk to you!
Can you tell me about the process of preparing for wedding?
I meet each couple 3-4 times before their wedding. I start by just asking them a lot of questions. The logic behind that is that I don’t want to shoehorn a couple into my ceremony. I want to create the ceremony around the couple and with the couple. Then I meet with them together again, and they've written and talked, and then I put together a full draft of the ceremony all based on their discussions. Afterwards, I meet with them one final time make sure it’s exactly what they were looking for.
Can you tell me about some of your favorite couples?
Some of the most fun stuff I’ve done lately has been officiating in Spanish. I’m about to officiate my 6th fully Spanish, no English whatsoever wedding this Saturday. That’s a fun experience.
I've done weddings in Spanish for couples in Chile, Bolivia, Mexcio. Right now I'm working with a couple where she is El Salvador and he is in Washington DC. The wedding is in El Salvador, so we decided to do the whole thing in Spanish. I've also done Spanish weddings in Chile, Bolivia, and Mexico.