by Menachem Posner – Chabad.org
As the sun set over Phnom Penh, locals, tourists and guests from all over the world gathered for the first Jewish wedding known to be celebrated in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The bride, Shlomit (Irina), had met Rabbi Bentzion and Mashie Butman, co-directors of Chabad Jewish Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, several years ago and begun her journey to Torah observance.
The groom, Vadim Mitropolitansky, is an Israeli who now lives in Bangkok, Thailand. When the two decided to tie the knot, they chose to do so at the Chabad center in Phnom Penh.
The rooftop ceremony was followed by a festive dinner in the newly finished event hall on the Chabad center’s second floor.
Local Cambodians, friends, relatives and Chabad families from both countries swirled in dizzying circles, following the lively music supplied by the keyboardist who had flown in from Israel for the occasion.
“In times of joy, as well as sadness, community takes the place of family in this part of the world, where most Jews are here without family,” says Rabbi Butman.
Living in a country with no kosher catering, bakery or even stores, the Butmans are accustomed to using ingenuity and hard work to pull off events large and small. A wedding, however, presented its own set of challenges.
“Beautiful centerpieces and a delectable dessert table is what the guests saw,” he continues. “But everything there was the product of the hard work of my wife, Mashie. It would not at all have been possible without her.”
The Butmans were joined by Chabad Rabbi Boruch and Mushka Hecht, who came with their children from Bangkok. The Hechts have been in frequent contact with the couple, helping them prepare for the Jewish home they have now established.
In taking the traditional place of parents, the Chabad couples walked the bride and groom down the aisle to the white chuppah canopy that overlooked the Phnom Penh skyline.
On a personal note, Butman points out that the wedding took place on the 10th anniversary of his and his wife’s own wedding. “They could not have given us a better gift than to be part of a wedding of two Jewish people who will be founding a beautiful home based on the foundation of Torah and Judaism.”