Sailor, Expert In Knots, Ties the Matrimonial One

By Jacob Savage

Published July 08, 2005, issue of July 08, 2005.
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The June 19 wedding of Sarah Hoenig, 21, and Eric Kinzbrunner, 22, began with all the pageantry one would expect of an Orthodox ceremony. In a pre-wedding bedecken, the bride’s veil was lowered. The marriage contract, or ketubah, was signed at the groom’s table, or tisch, and the blessings were chanted and the glass broken under a traditional wedding canopy, or chuppa. But as far as pomp was concerned, that was only half the story. The groom, this year’s only Orthodox graduate of the United States Naval Academy, did not leave his midshipman self outside the chapel door.

Kinzbrunner, along with five of his Navy classmates and one Marine, wore full military dress. And as the newlywed couple left the chuppa, they walked underneath the six intercrossed sabers of the groom’s fellow officers.

Not to be outdone, the groom cut the first piece of the wedding cake with his 34-inch Navy sword, which had been ritually cleansed, or toveled, for the occasion. The band, which played mostly Jewish songs, also performed the occasional naval ditty.

Guests were fascinated by the former midshipmen’s presence. Several couples lined up to pose for photos alongside the young ensigns, and one attendee said that the “dashing young men added an air of dignity” to the proceedings.

Unfamiliar with some of the wedding’s Jewish rituals, the Navy ensigns and Marine were initially hesitant to join the customary single-sex dancing that followed the marriage rites. But soon the young officers lost their reserve; one of them remarked that traditional Jewish dancing was an opportunity for a “good old-fashioned time with the guys.”

At one point, the bride’s friends tried, unsuccessfully, to lift her onto a chair. Heeding the call of duty, the Navy officers came to the rescue: They lifted the bride and brought her over to Eric, and the couple danced high above the crowd. Before long, the military men were dancing with some of the Kinzbrunners’ black-hatted friends, celebrating the marriage along with them. According to one guest, the event was the “most unique wedding experience anyone had seen.”

The Kinzbrunner-Hoenig wedding was held at Temple Beth Ahm Israel in Cooper City, Fla., with Rabbi Edward Davis officiating. The bride, who goes by the name Suri, graduated in May with honors from George Washington University. She majored in psychology with a focus in cognitive neuroscience. The groom graduated from Annapolis, Md.’s United States Naval Academy with a degree in aerospace engineering. The bride is the daughter of Leonard and Ellen Hoenig of Hollywood, Fla. The bridegroom is the son of Rabbi Barry and Anita Kinzbrunner, of Aventura, Fla. The couple lives in Washington, D.C. They plan to relocate to Pensacola, Fla., where the groom will train and serve at the Pensacola Flight School.

Jacob Savage is entering his senior year at Princeton. He is majoring in history with a certificate in creative writing.

This week, the Forward begins Human Rites, a new column devoted to chronicling ritual celebrations and commemorations. No less central to Jewish life than the calendar’s holidays, events such as weddings and bar mitzvahs offer a break from the everyday, a unique opportunity for reflection and communal expression. With this column, we hope to explore the full cycle of Jewish life — from the brit milah to the memorial service — and in the process get a glimpse into how Jews are leading their lives. If you would like to direct our attention to an upcoming occasion, please send us an e-mail at

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