Three long-married couples from Ukraine who weren’t able to have a religious wedding decades ago amid Soviet suppression of religion celebrated Tuesday evening with traditional Jewish wedding ceremonies in Brighton.
Old trauma was replaced with new memories as the couples were married by eight rabbis-in-training from the Boston Rabbinical Institute, which is part of the Shaloh House Jewish Day School.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who attended the ceremonies, contributed $250,000 to the founding of the rabbinical school after a 2021 stabbing of a rabbi outside Shaloh House.
The couples, who now live in Massachusetts, were married many years ago in the former Soviet Union. But they were denied Jewish weddings due to policies outlawing religion, according to a statement from Shaloh House.
Rabbi Dan Rodkin said it was dangerous for people to practice any religion in the Soviet Union, whether it was Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. If a person was known to attend a synagogue, Rodkin said, they could lose their job or be kicked out from their university.
“If you were a religious person, you’re considered to be taking them back to ‘dark times,’” said Rodkin, executive director of Shaloh House. “Many rabbis got killed in the USSR. It was very rare they would do Jewish weddings.”
Tuesday evening at Shaloh House, each couple finally signed a Jewish marriage contract called a ketubah, received seven blessings, and tasted red wine under a chuppah, or wedding canopy.
Alexander Linkov and Rimma Linkova, of Chestnut Hill, said they were married around 40 years ago.
“We didn’t have a chance in Kyiv,” Linkov said. “Now, it’s beautiful.”
Sasha, the brother of Rimma Linkova, said he was about 14 years old at the time of her original wedding, and he was happy to see them celebrate Tuesday.
“It’s something they could not have had,” said Sasha, who declined to give his last name.
The brides wore veils, two dressed in white and one in purple. The men wore suits. They rejoiced in the comfort of faith and tradition denied them so many years ago in Ukraine.
After the three ceremonies were held, friends and family went to opposite sides of the room and joined hands to form two circles. A circle of women skipped around the three brides and a circle of men danced around the three grooms. A man in the corner played lively music on the piano and keyboard.
Felix Furman, of Swampscott, said he married his wife, Alexandra, in Kyiv nearly 50 years ago and moved to the United States about 30 years ago. Alexandra Furman was beaming ear to ear as the women danced around her.
Felix Furman said the celebration is a rejuvenation of their marriage. It had been his wife’s dream to have a traditional Jewish wedding, he said.
“It’s a miracle,” Felix Furman said. “We could not imagine this could happen.”
The third couple declined to comment.
Kraft said he came to support the couples and Shaloh House.
“All of us in the position to make a difference, whether in health care, economic opportunities ... or the free choice of getting married in your tradition, we need to protect it,” Kraft said.