Terror Victim’s Bridal Gown Is a Bridal Canopy for Thousands
by Nancy Hochman – chabad.org
On a recent evening in Jerusalem, Elianna Rosenstein and Itamar Kutai were wed under a deeply symbolic chuppah embellished with embroidered gold Hebrew letters and flowers encircling a picture of the Holy City. They are the most recent of the several thousand couples to be wed under that particular chuppah—sewn from the wedding dress of Nava Applebaum, a young bride-to-be who was murdered 20 years ago in a terrorist attack the night before her wedding.
When Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, spiritual leader of Chabad of the Five Towns on Long Island, N.Y., joined the couple and their families under the chuppah, he spoke with deep emotion about their choice to be married under a canopy sewn from the wedding dress, which represents “our eternity and resilience in the most tangible of fashions.”
While under the chuppah, the rabbi told Chabad.org, he had “flashbacks” of congregants telling him about how a trip to Israel to attend a wedding had been canceled at the last moment due to a terrorist attack.
Just before the groom shattered the glass, representing the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Rabbi Wolowik said, “I was thinking of all those shattered weddings that did not happen, in contrast to what is now happening between Elianna and Itamar,” both of whose families worship at Chabad of the Five Towns. Elianna’s parents, Lawrence and Tami Rosenstein, and Itamar’s parents, Golan and Bashi Kutai, introduced the bride and groom, who now live in Israel.
On Sept. 9, 2003, Nava Applebaum and her father, Dr. David Applebaum, were killed when a terrorist detonated explosives inside a coffee house in Jerusalem’s German Colony, where father and daughter were enjoying time together a few days before her wedding. Applebaum was head of the emergency department at the Shaarei Zedek Medical Center and widely recognized for having saved the lives of scores of terrorist victims. Ironically, while seeking Applebaum to treat the victims of the attack, the hospital staff soon learned that he had been brought in among the severely wounded. Both father and daughter died that night.
Elianna said she chose to be married under the Applebaum chuppah because she connected to the story of joy, sadness and renewal that it symbolizes.
A week before her wedding, Elianna and her mother visited the home of Devorah Applebaum, who personally presents the coveted and treasured chuppah to new brides. “She hugged my mother and me, and told me how grateful she was that we chose to use her chuppah,” said Elianna. “My mother was amazed by Devora Applebaum’s strength.”
Elianna says she learned about Nava’s chuppah while working for OneFamily Together, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit that provides financial, psychological and legal support to the thousands of soldiers and civilians in Israel, and their families, who have suffered terrorist attacks.
Several weeks after Itamar and Elianna’s warm and festive wedding, Rabbi Wolowik reflected on the feelings of transcendence that the chuppah—and the joy of the wedding—evoked. He said, “I imagined as we were dancing here, Nava was dancing in heaven, knowing that she’s not forgotten.”