As the world weds
By Amanda Koehn
Visitors to the Kent State University Museum this spring and summer can explore weddings from around the world through fashion and accessories in a new exhibition. Items and traditions from a Jewish wedding are included in the exhibit, thanks to a connection made through National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland.
The exhibit, “As The World Weds: Global Wedding Traditions,” is on view through Aug. 27 at the museum. It offers insight into different wedding traditions through families’ kept garments and other mementos, sharing their sentimental value and cross-cultural customs. It draws from the museum’s rich holdings of wedding dresses and associated items as well as personal collections of treasured pieces, according to a news release.
Jewish wedding traditions and fashion are represented in the exhibit through items belonging to Jen Boroff, who is NCJW/Cleveland’s director of communications.
Boroff tells Celebrations she was first contacted by Leslie Resnik, a board member for both the museum and NCJW, about featuring her items. Boroff’s dress, ketubah, accessories and her husband’s grandfather’s tallit draped over their chuppah are among the items on display.
Boroff, who married Robert Boroff at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Cleveland on June 30, 2012, says her love of weddings and interest in sharing Jewish culture with those who may know little about it inspired her to take part in the exhibit.
“What I love most about Jewish weddings is the culture and traditions,” says Boroff, an Orange Village resident. “And items, like my husband’s grandfather’s tallit and our ketubah, are bringing those family traditions to the forefront. We loved integrating that into our ceremony.”
Sara Hume, the museum’s curator and a professor at Kent State, tells Celebrations the idea for the exhibition originated from knowing the museum has a robust collection of wedding dresses, as people will offer the museum dresses passed down through their family – heirlooms that are special, but they don’t necessarily have a use for at home. The museum wanted to explore wedding attire within larger cultural traditions, where visitors will see a traditional American white wedding dress next to other cultures’ choice items, such as a sari or Chinese robe.
“The way fashion is usually presented, there’s sort of this dichotomy between western fashion and non-western ‘traditional dress,’” Hume says. “I see weddings as this way that fashion, across cultures, is traditional. There are all these rules and these practices that each culture develops and has these dresses that sort of defy what we think of as fashion. So, it’s a way of … looking across cultures and seeing these commonalities by looking at the ways each different culture has developed traditions.”
It was important to include a Jewish wedding, in part because of the many traditions involving beautiful items like the chuppah, the glass to break and beyond, Hume explains. The chuppah and other items incorporate textiles and heirlooms into the ceremony beyond clothing, she says.
“When we think of American (weddings), it doesn’t mean everyone’s exactly (the same),” she says. “There are lots of cultural differences among people, and (Jewish people are) an important group to represent.”
Hume says it has been interesting to see visitors’ responses to the exhibit. They relate stories from their own cultures, or personal experiences attending weddings from other cultures, to what they are seeing in the museum.
“You have people who identify with certain things, and they sort of feel represented by having something from their culture there,” she says. “I’ve had students come forward and tell me about Jewish traditions they are familiar with and the differences between Reform or Orthodox, and how they would interpret things differently.”
Boroff adds that NCJW/Cleveland offered a bus trip to Kent to view the exhibit and she received many kind words from community members about her items on view.
“It was really fun to see our wedding come to life more than 10 years later through this exhibit,” she says.
The Kent State University Museum is at 515 Hilltop Drive in Kent. For more information and photos of the exhibit, visit astheworldweds.wordpress.com.