This wedding was different from any other wedding I’d ever attended. Due to a long string of unfortunate circumstances, the kallah had almost no one from her side in attendance. The chasan was also in a similar predicament, and had no one to be there with him on his special day. Needless to say, the chuppah was a sad one. Not only because of everything this couple had been through, but it was evident to the few guests who actually showed up that this wedding was a “meis mitzvah.” In other words, there were almost no attendees.
As soon as the chuppah concluded, I ran outside and called whomever I could think of, begging them to rush over to the hall. Since this was a last-minute request, no one was able to come except for one person. I then went back into the hall and sat down for the meal. Aside from a handful of relatives and close friends, the hall was virtually empty. I envisioned the look on the faces of the newlywed couple as they made their grand entrance into the ballroom, anticipating all of the merrymaking. I knew they’d be horribly disappointed, and the most important night of their lives would be ruined. I was dejected, but I knew I’d tried my best.
When my friend finally did arrive, she recommended that I call the Tantzers. “This kind of thing is their specialty!” she exclaimed. “They’ll fill up the hall in no time!” I was skeptical, but it definitely couldn’t hurt to try. After a quick Google search, I was on the phone with a Tantzers dispatcher. I explained the situation and stressed that time was of the essence. “The chasan and kallah will be coming back from pictures in a few minutes!” I lamented. “We need people ASAP!” The dispatcher calmly assured me that volunteers would be arriving at the scene momentarily. Indeed, before I could even finish my appetizer I started to notice a few young women trickle in. Fast-forward 20 minutes and the place was packed! Then the music started. The simchah I experienced that night was beyond amazing. Dozens of volunteers had dropped whatever they were doing and rushed over to this wedding with absolutely no advance notice, much like a Hatzalah member would run to an emergency. The kallah was overjoyed by this epic surprise. The dancing went on for hours and the energy in the room was contagious—a far cry from the quiet wedding I’d anticipated.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, on the other side of the mechitzah a similar scene was unfolding. A number of young men and bachurim had been yanked from their supper tables and chavrusos. Within minutes they had hurriedly put on their suits and hats in order to bring joy to the chasan and kallah!
While most people danced in order to bring joy to the chasan and kallah, I was dancing from a different kind of joy, proud to be a member of klal Yisrael.
Intrigued by this special organization, I recently called up Mrs. Esty Elias of Boro Park, one of the managing coordinators of the Tantzers.
“How did Tantzers begin, and what exactly do they do?” was my first question.
“The Tantzers was founded six and a half years ago by Zelig Friedman, Shauli and Zisha Rosenblum, and Don Stern. About a year later Don got very busy with a new business and left the organization, but he still performs for us regularly; he’s a singer. Our women’s division was founded almost two years ago. While there was definitely a need for it from the very beginning, there was a limit to how much we were able to take on at the time. So we decided to concentrate on the men first and make sure everything was running smoothly before setting up the women’s division. Today, we have over 150 people volunteering on a regular basis.
“You’d be surprised how many weddings there are where people, for whatever reason, doesn’t have many friends or family. When the Tantzers attend weddings, our volunteers become their friends and family. They dance, they’re mesamei’ach all the guests, and they make it very lebedik. Each ‘side’ thinks that these people are from the other ‘side.’ We’re a unique organization. No one else is doing what we’re doing.”
“Do the female volunteers focus only on the kallah, or do they try to engage other people as well?” I ask.
“The goal is to make the whole wedding a very special occasion. We bring along our own wedding shtick. We focus on the mothers and sisters as well.”
“Does anyone at the wedding know that you’re the Tantzers?”
“I doubt it. We try to be very discreet. I myself once went to a wedding and didn’t know that our people were there! I think what usually happens is that when the chasan and kallah watch their own wedding video, they turn to each other and say, ‘I have no idea who these people are, but they’re amazing!”