Two non-Jews throw a Jewish wedding for the ages at Marin JCC

On Aug. 27, 2010, Melody Horowitz walked into the lobby of the Osher Marin JCC — as she had every workday for more than 20 years — but that day turned out to be very different from all the others.

That was the day that Horowitz (who works in the early childhood education department at the JCC) met Roy Walling (a JCC member who works out at the facility’s fitness center) at the front desk.

Melody Horowitz and Roy Walling

It was love at first sight.

Within two weeks, the two were engaged, and they were married June 17 — at the Marin JCC, of course. The wedding was officiated by Cantor David Margules from Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael.

The twist, however, is that neither Melody, 50, nor Roy, 69, is Jewish. At least not officially.

Melody pointed out that the Rodef Sholom community “has been my family for 25-plus years,” ever since she married her first husband (which is how she got the surname Horowitz); they raised their children in the Jewish tradition.

“I learned how to be Jewish through my children’s Jewish education at the Marin JCC preschool and the religious school at Rodef Sholom” and also via her ex-husband’s family, Melody noted.

“I haven’t ‘officially’ converted, but that does not mean I’m not Jewish,” she added. “Ask my children. Oy vey!”

Her wedding to Walling, also divorced, included traditional Jewish elements, such as a chuppah and the smashing of the glass. Melody’s father, the Rev. Ron Barton helped lead the ceremony.

“It was simultaneously as traditional and interfaith as possible,” Melody explained.

The wedding was held during a Friday Shabbat Luncheon event at the Marin JCC — which is a weekly event for seniors coordinated by Melody.

“The seniors are the reason we did this,” Melody said. “Life is so precious at this stage. We wanted to include them in our celebration and make it one, big, happy hurrah for all of them.”

The couple also was surrounded by family, including Melody’s sons and her 94-year-old grandmother from Los Angeles, and Roy’s son, daughter and grandchildren.

Given that it was as much a party for the seniors and JCC staffers as for the bride and groom, the couple tried to keep it all in the (JCC) family.

The reception featured entertainment by JCC music teachers and regular Shabbat Luncheon performers such as Rita and the Cosmos, a local a cappella group. There was also a lot of Israeli folk dancing (one of Melody’s favorite activities) and the wedding was photographed by professional photographer Norm Levin (who regularly brings his father to Shabbat Luncheon programs).

Melody and Roy, who retired six years ago from his loan servicing company and is now working in a related business, live in San Anselmo, but are planning to move soon to Novato.

Something old: Under the chuppah, Roy gave Melody his grandmother’s gold wedding band, which his mother also wore.

Something new: Melody wore new jewelry, including a necklace and earrings, for the occasion. “And the Jewish religion and culture are certainly something new for me,” Roy noted.

Something borrowed: Melody wore a wedding dress that she borrowed from one of the moms from the Yad b Yad mommy-and-me classes she coordinates at the JCC. “It was the dress of my dreams,” Melody said as she described the traditional, off-the-shoulder ivory silk dress as looking “like a waterfall.”

Something Jew(ish): “So many things were Jewish, like my Jewish sons walking me down the aisle, the Israeli dancing and the Shabbat blessings we did, as we do at every Friday Luncheon,” Melody said. “But the most important Jewish part of the wedding were the seniors, who are all Jewish. We wanted to include all the Jewish wedding traditions for them.” 

 

Unions features recently married couples that had an interesting meeting, courtship or wedding (or any combination thereof). To share your tale, or to nominate a couple, send e-mail to [email protected]

Renee Ghert-Zand
Renee Ghert-Zand

Renee Ghert-Zand is a Jerusalem-based freelance journalist. She made aliyah from Palo Alto with her family in June 2014.