Mme Bahorel (mmebahorel) wrote in little_details,
Mme Bahorel

Calling anyone with a knowledge of Jewish history

I want to kill one of my characters because she met the boy, who was supposed to be just a small plot point, and got infatuated, and now she wants to go to his wedding, so I can't gloss over it.

The problem? Not so much that I have to write a Jewish wedding, but that I have to write a Jewish wedding in 1820 in southern France. A poor Jewish wedding in 1820 in southern France.

It being 1820 in Southern France, these are Sephardic jews. I've been able to find enough on Jews in France to know a) they are Sephardic Jews, mostly come from Spain a couple hundred years earlier; b) at that time (well, about twenty years prior, so close enough) the Sephardim were the most westernised in dress, culture, and attitudes (the Ashkenazim around Strasbourg were not granted citizenship until after the Sephardim of the south because they were considered so backward, and the Sephardim encouraged the distinction because it was in their favour); c) they were ghettoised but mostly because they were foreigners and did not have the same right of settlement - by 1820, helped along by the revolution and citizenship under Bonaparte, they had the same rights and obligations as all other frenchmen (except for my character, sort of, because he is a foreigner, but he has naturalisation rights like anyone else and will take advantage of them once he has been in the country long enough).

So I know all kinds of political issues, how kosher butchers were included with priests and rabbis as enemies of the state in revolutionary France, the arguments for and against citizenship. What I don't know is ritual.

I have to write the wedding from the perspective of a female Christian observer. (she has to go - she won't let me forbid her.) Someone in the family will likely explain to her what is going on. She will be chaperoned by her father (but I think I'm correct in assuming that she will have little contact with him due to traditional gender segregation). I can find all kinds of things for a modern Western (Ashkenazic) wedding; I can find quite a bit for a modern Eastern (Ottoman empire Sephardic) wedding. I cannot find what I need for a Sephardic wedding.

Moreover, though this could change: the boy is actually Ashkenaz out of Switzerland, but a proponent of assimilation (his parents were ejected from one of the German-speaking cantons not long after he was born, and after a childhood of wandering, he ended up in Strasbourg, which had a mixed Jewish population - he admires and prefers the assimilationism of the Sephardic population). Is this as odd as the conversion, in Christianity, from some protestant sect to Catholicism, or is it more like going between Protestant sects (with differences in focus perhaps but generally less of an overarching religious identity than of finding a church you like)? I know there were often marriages between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and I know that there were some variations in ritual: would the community, the bride, or the groom determine the ritual?

I'm a little afraid to go to the one place I haven't looked: I'm almost certain that in books on the Rothschild family there is a descripton of at least one person's wedding. However, these are people with a lot of money, and my characters are a step above dirt poor (as in, they are not starving, but they never feel economically safe). Also, the Rothschilds have to be Ashkenaz, don't they, having come out of the German states? And would ritual vary based on country? One of the Rothschild women married Sir Moses Montifiore, who has to have been Sephardic because his family came out of Italy and the initial synagogue in London was Sephardic only - the poor Ashkenazim were forced to build their own - but I'm making an assumption here. It's backwards from my couple, sort of, but the community was Sephardic, and the time frame is almost identical. Except that was rich people in England, while I have poor people in France.

I just need something that describes in a certain amount of detail what would have happened. I've been working on this for months and months - it's totally stalling development of the rest of the story while I agonise over this wedding.

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