“It takes a village to raise a child,” says the African proverb, and in the tony village of Great Neck, New York, the family helps to match 'em up. “For me and Ilan, it worked,” says Michelle Nabavian. “Our families knew when to get involved and when to stay out.”
Her uncle, Payam, was the first would-be matchmaker. He started dropping hints about bringing together Michelle with his friend, Ilan Hakimian. But it took a snowstorm in January 2011 to make things really happen.
“I prayed that God would help me find my bashert, [meant-to-be spouse]” says Esther Avital, “and my prayers came true.”
Esther Avital Gottesman was not born Jewish. She was born Heather Fuller to Christian parents in Santa Ana, California. Around the age of 10, she didn’t want to be Christian anymore. She didn't like having to pray through an intermediary and she had a teenage obsession with Adam Duritz, lead singer of Counting Crows, who was Jewish.
The father, Dr. David Kreiner, married a nurse. Their son, Dr. Jason Kreiner, married another physician. Rites have changed in 37 years.
“I knew I’d marry someone who is hard-working,” says Jason. And indeed Robyn Epstein was working hard when the two met. In the fall of 2006, Robyn was beginning her first year at Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and Jason was a second-year student.
Want to meet your match? “Come to the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan,” advises Daniel Singer. That’s what he did.
He wasn’t just visiting. Daniel is the senior cantor of the temple, and so attends the Havdallah service marking the beginning of a new week. On Saturday evening, March 28, 2009, he was there as was Tamara Engel, a greeter from the temple, who is known for her good deeds and is an amateur matchmaker. “It’s like Tamara has a Rolodex in her head,” says Daniel.
Two rabbis in the making swore to themselves the same sensible vow: They would never fall in love with a fellow rabbi, bli neder – without making a formal commitment.
In the fall of 2006, Erin Glazer, 26, started her third year at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York (HUC-JIR). She made friends with two new arrivals, second-year students who had spent the first year studying in Jerusalem.
Stoically, Saul Sudin says that when he met his future wife, one thing was clear: “We did not look like a match.”
Both were pursuing a life in the arts – he wanted to be a filmmaker, and Elke Engelson wanted to be a professional illustrator. He was a senior, she was a freshman. They met in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute.
On paper, they didn’t seem like a match. “Like so many other people, I too had my shopping list when I started dating,” says history teacher Grace McMillan. “And I might have overlooked Pete were it not for a colleague.”
Tying the knot is not the first choice of every couple these days. Joyce Silver and Jesse Koch got hitched in part because of the grandchildren.
A new trend in retirement is for couples to live together outside the marriage bond. In fact, unmarried seniors living together are the fastest growing segment of cohabitants in the United States. People don't want to put up with loneliness. They want to live together. But they are likely to remain unmarried to avoid tax issues and inheritance questions.