For the first time in 60 years, members of Shanghai, China's Jewish community celebrated the wedding of a community member at the historic Ohel Rachel Synagogue. The event also included a Moroccan henna ceremony.
The bride, Audrey Ohana, has lived in Shanghai with her family for the past 10 years. She met her groom, Denis Gi'han, in a business meeting two and a half years ago. They officially started dating last summer.
The wedding celebrations began March 11 with the henna, which includes making a henna dye and painting the bride's and her guests' hands.
"The henna was part of the wedding," explained Ohana, "and a way for us to perpetuate our Moroccan custom in a country that has nothing to do with where we come from."
Wednesday night, the bride had a mikvah party at the Shanghai mikvah, where her friends danced as she entered and left the mikvah the night before her wedding.
The wedding itself was March 13 at the Ohel Rachel Synagogue, a Sephardic synagogue built in the 1920s for the once large Sephardic community living in Shanghai. Since 1952, the synagogue has been in the possession of the Chinese government.
"For this special occasion, the Chinese government gave permission for the synagogue to once again be used," said Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, who directs Chabad-Lubavitch of Shanghai along with his wife Dini Greenberg.
Some 250 guests came from all over the world to celebrate the historic wedding. Hotel kitchens were koshered, and the visitors attended large banquets cooked by Moroccan chefs at Chabad's Shanghai Jewish Center.
A chuppah, or Jewish wedding canopy, stands ready inside the Shanghai, China's historic Ohel Rachel Synagogue for the wedding of Denis Gi’han and Audrey Ohana.
"The wedding was very moving," said Dini Greenberg, who taught the bride the Jewish laws of family purity
in preparation for the wedding. "It was very fitting for the Ohanas to celebrate the first wedding to be held in the synagogue, as they have contributed so much to the growth and success of our community."
"What the Greenbergs did for our wedding, the way they put their heart and efforts into it, will always remain in my mind," said Ohana.
Ohana and her family "are very involved in helping and supporting the community," said Shalom Greenberg, who officiated at the wedding. The family arrived in China one year after the Greenbergs, and Maurice Ohana, the father of the bride, serves as president of the local Jewish community.
"We are the same age, and I can tell without exaggerating that we both learned from each other, got to know each other and became close friends, although coming from two different cultures and levels of religious practice," the bride said of Dini Greenberg. "We grew up together in a way throughout those years in Shanghai."
Dini reciprocated the sentiment.
"What made the wedding extra special for us is that Audrey is a very dear friend, and our families have been very close all these years," she said. "As Shanghai is an expatriate place, our community truly becomes like family."