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Finding Past, Future at One Festive Wedding


Officiating at the wedding were Rabbi Haim Asa, Reform, and Rabbi Ariel Asa, Orthodox. Father and son.

Asa the younger, 28, was ordained only 19 months ago, and this was his first marriage ceremony. Fittingly, the bride was his sister, Eliana, 23.

As she and Jeffrey Marcus exchanged vows beneath a white canopy, each dabbed at tears, as did the father of the bride. Later, Rabbi Asa the younger laughed: "I do a bris (a circumcision), the baby cries. I do a wedding, the bride and groom cry."

The ceremony in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel ballroom was Orthodox. Although the bride's father heads a Reform congregation--Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton--three of his four children are Orthodox.

Of his son the rabbi, he says, "At his age, I went to the future to find the past. He went to the past to find the future." Today, Ariel is assistant rabbi of a Savannah, Ga., congregation.

The wedding was both solemn and joyous, with words of commitment in Hebrew and in English. Rabbi Asa spoke to his sister the same loving words he had written for her Bat Mitzvah in 1983. At the time, he was studying in Jerusalem.

And in keeping with Orthodox tradition, the couple asked seven friends to come forward and give a blessing. This prompted the elder rabbi to say, "I think I'm going to become an Orthodox rabbi. It's so easy. You don't have to do anything."

Reading aloud the ketubah --the traditional Jewish marriage document that must be read publicly on the day of the marriage--he noted that the contract would become invalid in exactly 3 1/2 minutes when, according to the Hebrew calendar, a new day started.

He pretended to speed things up a bit, explaining that otherwise "I will have to pay for another wedding tomorrow night."

An unnerving prospect. Rabbi Asa and his wife, Elaine, had invited 500 for dinner and dancing. As the music started, he led her onto the dance floor, then quickly remembered that Orthodox celebrations start with the men dancing together, the women dancing together.

This celebration was part carnival, part athletic contest. As one young guest put it, "We take off our properness."

The men hoisted Marcus on their shoulders and carried him around the floor. The women raised Eliana aloft. Some men wore masks, one or two comic wigs. They danced. They drank. They skipped rope. They sang.

Toward midnight, as the crowd thinned, one guest surveyed the scene and concluded, "The mother of all Orthodox weddings."

Haim Asa surveyed the scene and said, "At midnight I throw the bill off the balcony of the 26th floor, and I jump off after it."

A Knot Plot

Barbara Jones-Hedges, who's on a crusade to keep alive the 3,000-year-old art form of Chinese knotting, doesn't even blush as she hands you a business card that reads: "Absolutely knot."

With her spools of silk and nylon cord (50 colors) and basic repertoire (93 of the 365 known knots), Jones-Hedges was on hand one recent Sunday to teach a workshop at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, where she lives.

She's been hooked on knotting since seeing a demonstration in 1986. Finding that she "had a knack for it," within a year the Laverne woman had quit her job as an accountant and was teaching full time.

"It's not a terribly lucrative living," she acknowledges. "Nobody has ever heard of it."

In class, she traces knotting's evolution from decoration for clothing (those frog closures on Chinese gowns) to jewelry to wall hangings. Then, step by step, she shows how to make the intricate knots by looping, weaving and tying the cord, using the fingers as tools. There are pretzel-shaped knots and button knots and intricate twists.

If Jones-Hedges has to Americanize knotting to sell it, well, OK, so long as the art form itself remains pure. Once they've mastered pretzel-shaped knots and coin-shaped knots and button knots, students bedeck their knot necklaces with kachinas, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Smokey the Bear.

If you want to make her mad, just call it macrame. Macrame, she'll sniff, is a knot newcomer. "All knots come from Chinese knots."

But, alas, she says, Chinese knotting could become a lost art. Just as children in America don't want to learn to weave or spin, children in China are not interested in knots.

The Candy MAD Can

It seems that the tooth Alfred E. Neuman is missing is not his sweet tooth.

MAD magazine's most famous personality ("What, me worry?") will soon be appearing at a store near you on boxes of MAD Idiotic Fruity Candy. It's Alfred, all right, a la Carmen Miranda with a pile of fruit atop his head and a gold hoop in one of his oversized ears.

Alfred the candy man debuted at a recent L.A. trade show as the pride of the folks at BerZerk Candy Werks in Memphis. They think Alfred's irreverent enough to appeal to the 8-to-14 set; still, they hope over-the-hill MAD fans will also buy Idiotic Fruity Candy.

After all, would those readers--who have bought 500 million copies of MAD since it hit the stands 40 years ago--let Alfred down now?

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