Daughter of Tucson’s first Chabad rabbi weds in traditional celebration
Special to the AJP
While some don’t recommend it, the workplace tends to be a feasible platform for social hookup and romance. In the case of Feigie Shemtov, 24, of Tucson, Ariz., daughter of Chani and Rabbi Yossie Shemtov, and Yehuda [Yudi] Ceitlin, 25, of Montreal, Quebec, son of Adina and Rabbi Aaron Ceitlin, that was not even an option — at least not at first. She worked in her hometown running a preschool and youth programs. He was based in Philadelphia, Pa., active in the not-for-profit and media fields.
Although Ceitlin was chummy with Shemtov’s uncle and great uncle — Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Chabad-Lubavitch’s social and humanitarian arm, and Rabbi Avraham Shemtov, chairman of the movement’s umbrella group Agudas Chassidei Chabad — the pair’s paths didn’t cross. Even as Ceitlin and Shemtov moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., to assume new jobs, the Big Apple managed to keep them apart.
It was a new project that Ceitlin, a writer and broadcaster, took on that found him the girl of his dreams. Teaming with Yossi and Mica Soffer, owners of Unique Image Advertising, a New York-based PR firm, he launched www.COLlive.com, a Jewish community news and information service, in September 2008.
“I’ve known Feigie for a long time,” Mrs. Soffer recalls. “We designed work for the organizations she directed in Tucson — Gan Yeladim Early Childhood Center, Kids in Action and Camp Gan Izzy. I always thought to myself, this girl is so amazing — so many good qualities, very dynamic, smart and capable — how will her parents find anyone good enough for her?”
After working with Ceitlin, the new Jewish website’s editor in chief, “I found out Yudi had similar good qualities,” she says, and she decided to fill the ancient role of the matchmaker. At a wedding in Crown Heights, where the bride and groom happened to be cousins of Ceitlin and Shemtov, Mrs. Soffer approached their parents with the idea.
With their parents’ blessings, the pair went on a few dates and soon realized Mrs. Soffer had indeed made an excellent match.
From there, things moved quickly.
Their wedding, held Dec. 17, 2008, is by all accounts the first Chasidic wedding in Tucson. Preparations held a challenge for the families. “We had to find an outlet that would allow an outside kosher caterer and a large enough space to accommodate our guests, as well as provide kosher food for all of the out-of-town guests for the duration of their stay,” says the father of the bride, who serves as the director of Chabad of Tucson and spiritual leader of Congregation Young Israel.
They found the staff at the Hilton El Conquistador in Oro Valley very accommodating and preparations for the Dec. 17 wedding were on their way, with some 500 showing up for the joyous event. Jose Garcia, a non-Jewish hairstylist at Tucson’s Plaza Elite Salon & Spa, was among the crowd who witnessed the wedding ceremony held under the stars under a traditional chuppah supported by four wooden poles. “I’ve been to many different wedding ceremonies and none were as beautiful as this one,” he says.
As for the party afterward, “it was a warm, beautiful, freilach (joyous) event,” says Leah Richter, office manager at the Arizona Jewish Post, who was one of the guests and couldn’t help being drawn into the spirited dancing on the women’s side of the ballroom. “I was struck by the fact that even though everything was separate, we were all sharing in this special simcha together. As Rabbi [Yossie] Shemtov said in his speech at the reception, we were really a community.”
Yudi wore traditional Chasidic garb, including a black Borsalino fedora and a long jacket that belonged to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. Feigie wore a custom-made ivory tulle gown, inspired by Vera Wang design, made by Reizes Designs of New York. The florist was Creative Arrangements by Sylvia (Tucson); photographers were Britta Van Vranken, Meir Dahan and Menachem Serraf; the caterer was Phil Tewel Catering; the wedding cake was by World of Chantilly; and the music was by Bensimon, with vocals by Yoni Ziegelbaum.