It was the Orthodox wedding of the century.
With over 25,000 guests in attendance, Shalom Rokeach, the 18-year-old grandson of the Chief Rabbi of the Hasidic Belz Rebbe Dynasty, married his bride Hannah Batya Penet, 19, in Jerusalem, Israel.
The Belz Rebbe Dynasty was originally established in the town of Belz in Western Ukraine during the 1800s. Founded by the Rabbi Shalom Rokeach, Sar Shalom, the community grew in size until the outbreak of World War II. In 1939, the Nazis destroyed the community’s grand synagogue and Rabbi Shalom’s great grandson, Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, barely escaped to Israel. Unfortunately Rabbi Aharon Rokeach’s family, including his wife, children and grandchildren did not survive. Taking in his brother’s son as his future successor, Rabbi Aharon reestablished the Belz community in Tel Aviv. Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, acknowledged as a leader of Hasidic Judaism, built schools and yeshivas throughout Israel. Since then, the Belz movement has grown immensely, establishing itself in countries throughout the world.
Shalom Rokeach, the only grandson of the Chief Rabbi, is widely thought to be the future heir of the community. Guests came from all over the world for the lavish wedding ceremony and celebrations lasted until dawn.
The bride was dressed in a long, white lace gown.
She wore a heavy crystal encrusted lace veil, recalling the biblical marriage of the Jacob and Leah, whose face was so heavily veiled that Jacob thought she was Rachel at their wedding ceremony. Her beautiful veil also shielded the modest bride from the stares of her guests as she stood under the chuppah.
The groom dressed in black and wore a fur shtreimel hat, the traditional attire of the Belz Rebbe Dynasty. Rokeach is expected to become the future leader of the community, as he is the only grandson of the Chief Rabbi.
Ultra-orthodox Jewish weddings consist of two ceremonies: erusin, the betrothal, and nisuin, the wedding ceremony.
After the ceremonies, the celebration began with the mitzvah tanz, a dance where members of the family and honored guests dance with the bride and then with the groom. The bride holds the end of a long sash while her father, the groom’s father and various wedding guests hold the other end in the dance.
Afterwards the guests enjoyed a festive meal, which lasted well into the night. The crowds were so big that several streets in Jerusalem had to be shut down.