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(photo credit: Meredith Price)
As soon as Moshe Kupfer met Maya Case in October 2004 at Bar-Ilan University, he liked her. "I tried to give her hints by bringing her chocolate and her favorite colored crayons," says Moshe. "But it took a long time for things to evolve to the point where I could ask her out."
Maya, 26, maintains that Moshe went from being a friend to a good friend to her best friend and then her husband very slowly. On their first date in the spring of 2005, the couple attended a concert together. "We still say it's all a joke because our first date was on April Fool's Day," says Maya, grinning fondly at Moshe.
On August 30, Moshe proposed to Maya with a T-shirt and a permanent marker. "Moshe had 'The Perfect Match: Will You Marry Me' printed on a shirt with a tennis court and four boxes below it to check-yes, no, maybe, and I need more time," Maya explains. "And the marker was permanent so the answer had to be final."
And perhaps proposing with a T-shirt was an auspicious beginning since the newlyweds, who were married on March 21, 2006, recently started a company, Kosher Clothing, that prints T-shirts with original puns on the word "kosher."
Maya's mother, who was born in Iraq, moved to Israel with her family as a baby. In her early twenties, she traveled to the United States, met and married an American man from Michigan, and decided to make her life there.
"My Mom went to the United States for a long vacation and never left," says Maya, whose parents moved to Florida after they married.
Maya's older sister made aliya seven years ago and just welcomed her first baby, Lia, into the world. Her younger brother is in a pre-dental program in Florida, but is considering making aliya after university.
"My parents are planning to move here in three years," says Maya. "My Mom will be a returning citizen and my Dad will make aliya."
One of eight children, Maya's mother has three sisters and four brothers. Aside from one sister who also lives in the United States, the rest of the family resides in Israel.
"I have loads of cousins here, and we're one big, happy family," says Maya. "I missed having that in the United States."
Born in Florida, Maya started playing tennis at the age of five. By eight years old, she was competing in tournaments all over the United States. "When I got to middle school, I was playing tennis at least six hours a day," says Maya, who chose to be home-schooled so she could pursue athletics. Right before college, Maya decided to go pro and began playing for the World Tennis Association. After less than a year, she decided to accept a tennis scholarship at Florida Atlantic University.
"I came to a point where it was either pursue pro tennis or get an education," says Maya. "Making it in tennis as a pro wasn't a sure bet for me, so I decided to play competitively while getting an education."
Maya, who majored in Management and Information Systems with a minor in Biology, graduated as the valedictorian of her class in 2003. "I was a very disciplined child, maybe because of tennis," says Maya with a shrug. "I guess it just stuck with me in college."
The day after Maya landed in Israel nearly two years ago, she received her identity card and started her MBA at Bar-Ilan University. "I wanted to do it quickly and get it out of the way," says Maya, who chose the ten-month, accelerated MBA program. Since then, she has completed her MBA, gotten a job, started a company, moved from her grandfather's house to her own apartment and gotten married.
"We have both religious and secular friends," says Maya, who met the majority of her friends through the MBA program at Bar-Ilan, her current job or playing tennis. Most are English speakers who live in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. "But I come from an extremely large and close family, so we see them a lot too."
Although Maya currently has a day job at Motorola and her husband Moshe is a freelance writer, the couple recently started their own company, Kosher Clothing. "We are both business-oriented people, and we were inspired by our entrepreneurship class in the MBA program," says Maya. "We also wanted to do something that would give back to the community so we donate 1 percent of our profits to the IDF and other non-profit organizations."
The idea behind Kosher Clothing, which produces T-shirts with catch phrases like "Cute and Kosher" or "Bite Me, I'm Kosher," is to sell clothing with puns on the word "Kosher."
"We like using the word kosher because you can do a lot with it. It's an ambiguous and rich word, and people react to the slogans." Maya and Moshe say that in the near future they are going to start selling printed boxer shorts and baby clothes too.
During the working week, Maya spends her days at Motorola testing software and managing marketing strategies for hi-tech modules in English. At least four times a week, she and Moshe work out at the gym on cardiovascular machines and lifting weights.
"I get tired watching Maya on the cardio machines," says Moshe with a big smile as he gently gives Maya's shoulder a squeeze. "I prefer the weights."
When she's not working at Motorola or exercising, Maya helps Moshe with their new business. She works on the website, fills orders and invents new slogans.
Maya shares a cozy, family-owned apartment with her new husband on Rehov Hashalom in Tel Aviv. The couple enjoy being close to their gym and Azrieli Center. "We have a nice porch and two bedrooms," says Maya. "For now, it's great."
"I try to play as much as possible despite having a really busy schedule," says Maya, smiling at Moshe. "We spend a lot of time with my family and friends, and I like to read, watch movies and scuba dive." Although she still plays an occasional game of tennis, Maya says she no longer competes. "Motorola has a doubles team, but that's just for fun."
A native speaker of English, Maya also speaks Hebrew fluently and understands Arabic. "It was hard for my mother to speak to us in Hebrew at home because my dad would not have understood," says Maya. Maya grew up with English at home, speaking Hebrew only when they were in Israel on holiday. "My maternal grandparents are from Iraq and speak Arabic together, so I can understand a lot of Arabic too but don't really speak," explains Maya. Since making aliya two years ago, Maya's Hebrew has vastly improved. "I could always speak Hebrew really well, but now my reading and writing is much better too."
"I grew up celebrating the holidays when I could, but not doing much more than that," says Maya. "I didn't pay any attention to kosher laws, and as I got older, I became even less affiliated with my religion."
However, when Maya arrived in Israel, she was invited to bring in Shabbat with some observant friends from Bar-Ilan. "After my first 'real' Shabbat, I fell in love with it. I like the peacefulness of not having television and cell phones and all of the other distractions," says Maya. "I keep kosher and am Shabbat observant now. I'm getting back to my roots."
With an American Ashkenazi father and an Israeli Sephardi mother, Maya says she always thought of herself as a mixed breed. "I grew up with a stronger focus on my Mom's customs, and here in Israel I'm very close to my maternal family, but I still feel half Israeli and half American."
"I want a full house," says Maya, glancing fondly at Moshe. Three kids, two dogs and a few birds make up the current wish list. "A house near the beach would be nice too," she adds.
The young newlyweds are hoping that Kosher Clothing will succeed and expand, but if not, they are determined to try their hand at other business ventures. "We plan on staying in Israel," says Maya. "It would be too hard to go back after being 'Israelified.'"
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