Summer lovin’

In honor of the Jewish holiday of ‘ahava,’ celebrated today, enjoy these stories of couples finding each other.

By
August 14, 2019 15:45
Summer lovin’

YERACH & NAVA.. (photo credit: OFIR FARKASH)

‘It was like we had never been apart’

They reconnected on Facebook in 2013 when Paul Serkin was 56 and Susan Frankel Rubin was 53. What’s the moral of their story? Susan replies: “There’s always hope.”

Paul and Susan originally met in 1972 at a Shabbaton of the Orthodox youth group NCSY. Paul was then a university student and an NCSY adviser and Susan was a high school student in Trevose, Pennsylvania. What do they remember from these early years?

Paul: “I actually had a crush on Susan, but I didn’t think it right for an adviser to cross boundaries.”

Susan: “As a teenager, I once wrote down the alphabet and next to each letter I wrote the names of guys I could potentially date. There were some 25-30 names. Paul’s name was on that list.”

Over the years, they moved in different directions and lost contact with each other. Each married, had children and divorced. In 2009, Paul, whose roots are in Binghamton, New York, moved to Israel, where one child was living and two others arrived within a short time.

In June 2013, he told an interviewer: “At the moment I’m in no rush to remarry.” One month later, Susan friended Paul on Facebook. It was the perfect social media platform for reaching out to all her friends living in Israel and telling them about her plans to visit her son, who was then studying in Israel. She posted: “I’m going to be at the Inbal Hotel in January. Stop by to say hello.”

Paul stopped by and stayed for about three hours. He reflects: “As we sat together in the hotel lobby, we were both so comfortable with each other. It was like we had never been apart; like we were soulmates.”

For over four years, they maintained a long-distance relationship. Paul, a Yeshiva University graduate, was busy developing a business called Paul the PCGuy and became known in Jerusalem’s Anglo community for his solutions to both hardware and software problems. Before making aliyah, he had been director of technology at Bellevue Hospital in New York.

 Susan, a graduate of Stern College for Women, was living in Staten Island and was busy taking care of four children and working as director of therapeutic recreation at the Atrium Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing.

Paul recalls: “During those years, I’d spend a week or two in New York and Susan would spend a week or two in Jerusalem. After a while, it was obvious that we were headed in the direction of marriage. Actually, I always had a thing for redheads. In retrospect, it was silly for us to wait for so long to get married.”

Susan: “On one of my visits, Paul and I went to visit a mekubelet, a woman kabbalist. She demonstrated powers which were almost unbelievable. When I told her that I’d like to get married again and asked her who I should marry, she turned to Paul and said: ‘Him!’”

They were officially engaged in the fall of 2018 when Susan came to Jerusalem for Rosh Hashana. What works for them as a couple? They both agree: Compromise. She asked him to forgo sandals on Shabbat and wear shoes and socks. What did he ask her? “To give up her entire life and move 6,000 miles away.”

Paul and Susan were married on June 30 in Bergenfield, New Jersey, in the backyard of Susan’s daughter’s house. Rabbi Chaim Noson (Nate) Segal officiated. Mazal tov.

Huppah as home
Yerach Meirsdorf met Nava Berenshtin in 2017 when they were students at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem. SRS is affiliated with the Conservative movement, known as Masorti in Israel. In advance of their Talmud class that was taught chevruta style (learning with a partner), 40-plus students were asked to fill out questionnaires. Yerach, then 32 and in his last year of the seminary, was paired with Nava, then 27 and a first year student.

Nava smiles: “Nothing was asked about our dating partners, so there was no reason to mention that Yerach and I had just started dating. In fact, I had taken the initiative. He called me only after I Facebooked him with my phone number. He wanted a ride to Tel Aviv, where I was then living. I dropped other plans for that evening and told him that I had two free tickets for a concert. He immediately accepted, and the rest is history.”

The questionnaires did reveal that Yerach and Nava shared a common background. Both came from Orthodox Zionist families and transitioned to Masorti Judaism as adults.

Nava was raised in Petah Tikva, went to religious elementary and secondary schools, then entered national service for religious girls before getting a degree in theater from Emunah, a Jerusalem college for religious women. She changed trajectories when she spent three years in Los Angeles teaching theater and Hebrew in LA Jewish schools. “That’s where I came to appreciate a world outside of Orthodoxy that welcomed the full participation of women.” When she returned to Israel, Nava enrolled in the MA program at the Schechter Institute.

Yerach was raised in the religious neighborhood of Har Nof in Jerusalem, studied in yeshiva and then did his army service. His spiritual journey began after he received a B.Ed from Herzog College. He admits: “I kept it a secret that I was walking to a Masorti minyan every Shabbat. After two years I saw a poster advertising the MA program at the Schechter Institute.” He earned his MA and in December 2017, Yerach (Yerachmiel) Meirsdorf was ordained as a rabbi by the SRS. He currently serves as rabbi for the NOAM Masorti Youth Movement in Israel.

“I still thank Rabbi Holzer for pairing us together in the chevruta,” says Yerach. “I think it helped our relationship. Today we do almost everything together.” They currently offer classes in their home in the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem. In an official Masorti Movement blog, Yerach and Nava are called “leading lights of the Masorti movement in Israel.”

When planning their wedding, the couple heeded the message of their spiritual mentor, Reb Mimi Feigelson, that their huppah (wedding canopy) represents their home: open on all sides to welcome all people. Yerach comments: “In particular we wanted our parents to feel comfortable. I spent much time studying with my father, an Orthodox rabbi, to make sure that our marriage ceremony would be Orthodox kosher.”

Nava continues: “Still, we wanted the ceremony to reflect our core beliefs. Here’s how we managed: Yerach followed the Orthodox custom of badeken when he covered my face with a veil. But then I covered Yerach with a tallit. Traditionally, to complete the kiddushin (betrothal) process, the groom puts a ring on the bride’s finger. We did kiddushin with a tallit instead of a ring. In deference to our families, our ketubah was signed by two male witnesses. But a week before the ceremony, we signed a spiritual ketubah and both male and female friends were our witnesses.”

Yerach and Nava were married on March 6, 2018, at the Ein Kerem National Park in Jerusalem. Mazal tov.

Dr. Hakimian has interviewed more than 150 couples on various continents to answer the question ‘How do couples meet and marry?’ Contact her at leah_hakimian@yahoo.com.


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