A rabbi anxiously walked into a bar.
Andrew Scheer, the rabbi in question, was about to have a first date with Avital Zipper. Mr. Scheer’s vocation was frequently a deal breaker once a woman learned of it.
“I love being a rabbi — it’s a great honor — but I would have to dance around what I did for a living and when I told them. It was like they were 12 years old again and speaking to their rabbi at their bat mitzvah,” said Rabbi Scheer, 31, who is Modern Orthodox, grew up in Woodmere, N.Y., and is a Jewish chaplain for the Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System and the New York City Department of Correction.
“The girls I was meeting were lovely, but they were expecting a doctor or lawyer,” he said. “Being a rabbi really impeded my dating life.”
Until Nov. 11, 2015. After trying JSwipe, JCrush, JDate, even OkCupid, Rabbi Scheer seemed to have found success on Tinder. That’s when Ms. Zipper, 30, popped up on his phone, and the app showed they had five mutual friends. Rabbi Scheer scoured Facebook to find out more. When he returned to Tinder, Ms. Zipper was gone.
“They reshuffled the deck,” he said. “Trying to find her again on the app could take hours. So I sent her a message on Facebook explaining what had happened, and to let me know if she was interested.”
Ms. Zipper thought the message was a little weird, but was also intrigued. The following day she wrote back.
“He was 29 when we met and my settings started at 30, so I never would have seen his profile,” Ms. Zipper said. “We never would have met if he didn’t send me a message request. I could see we had mutual friends. I thought, Why not? Tinder, JSwipe, Facebook, what’s the difference? I had no idea he was a rabbi.”
Here’s where the bar comes in. When they decided to meet the same night that she had replied to his query, they also found out that they lived only a few blocks from each other.
When Rabbi Scheer entered Taproom No. 307 at 8 p.m., Ms. Zipper was seated on a stool waiting for him. By 2 a.m., they were the last people to leave. During those six hours his vocation came up.
“I grew up religious, but he didn’t look like the rabbis I grew up with,” she said. “When he told me what he did, it was unexpected, but it didn’t freak me out. He’s not that random banker or millennial worker who’s doing his own thing.”
Ms. Zipper was also impressed by his kindness. “I was really raw about my father, who passed away three months before we met. He was a veteran, and Andrew worked in the V.A. and the day before was Veterans Day,” she said. “He was so compassionate. That really struck me. I felt understood.”
Rabbi Scheer felt similarly. “I was touched by how she spoke about her father,” he said. “When I told her I was a chaplain, she said she thought it was great. She didn’t make me feel bad about it. That’s not a feeling I’d felt with anyone prior. It felt like I found someone who got me.”
A few weeks later he invited Ms. Zipper to a Hanukkah party at Rikers Island. To his surprise, she accepted.
“I couldn’t believe she was willing to go to a jail,” Rabbi Scheer said. “When we entered, she went right to the women inmates’ side and joined them and their families. She fell right into it like it was the most normal thing. She was dancing and talking to them. It was beautiful to behold.”
The couple became exclusive after that. Then a trip was planned to Indianapolis using points, miles and a Hyatt gift card previously bought on DansDeals.com.
“You don’t really know someone until you travel with them,” Rabbi Scheer said. “I got two rooms. I told her if things don’t work out, we can cancel last minute. It’s all refundable.”
The trip fell over Valentine’s Day. Rabbi Scheer had cheesecake and chocolate-covered strawberries in the room waiting for Ms. Zipper, two things she loves.
The weekend was a success. Then Ms. Zipper met Rabbi Scheer’s family. He went to Florida for her grandmother’s 95th birthday, followed by a jaunt to Denver, her hometown. While there, the couple visited her father’s grave.
“We stood there and prayed,” he said. “One of the hardest parts was not going into the professional mode, and just being her boyfriend, not her chaplain.”
A year passed, and the couple grew inseparable. Then came the proposal.
On March 11, 2017, in 15-degree weather, under the Williamsburg Bridge, a favorite spot where the pair often biked or roller-bladed, Rabbi Scheer got down on one knee and presented an unsuspecting Ms. Zipper with his grandmother’s diamond ring.
“Looking back, I should have known he was up to something because he never offers to go running with me,” she said of the proposal. “I was caught off guard because we’d only talked about getting married in broad ways. But we’d both said each of us was the person we’d like to be with. He proposed two months after that conversation.”
Of course Ms. Zipper accepted.
They decided to have a short engagement. Modern Orthodox Judaism states that couples cannot live together until they are married. The couple moved quickly. Within the first week, a wedding dress was found at a local shop. A venue was picked. Rabbi Scheer’s grandmother’s ring was resized. A list containing the names of florists, bands and photographers was solidified.
In August, a small apartment with only one closet in the East Village of Manhattan, just blocks from their synagogue, was secured. Then came registering at Bed Bath & Beyond and the selling of many of their belongings on Craigslist. First went the love seat and couch, followed by the ottoman, chair, TV, desk and guitar, among other possessions. Unwanted clothing, pictures and other items went to Goodwill.
Ms. Zipper was happy to let go of her stuff. “We’re minimalists,” she said. “We don’t have things we feel super-connected to. We’re liquidating our lives in order to start over. The new furnishings we’ll be ordering we’ll be owning together. New things, new life.”
On Sept. 10, Rabbi Avi Weiss, at Temple Beth El in Cedarhurst, N.Y., married the couple in front of 275 guests.
The bride’s side of the family, most of whom were from Florida, were either flown in early or rented cars and drove, missing Hurricane Irma’s wrath.
Sharon Chesler, 37, Ms. Zipper’s first cousin, with whom she lived for the last several years, remembers how the couple got together. “We were both working at home when she got Andrew’s message,” she said. “I asked her if it was creepy or interesting, and she said, ‘I’m intrigued,’ and wrote him back.”
Ms. Chesler cited Rabbi Scheer’s shared religious background as part of the attraction. “It’s amazing she found someone when she wasn’t actively searching in the Orthodox community,” she said. “I also told her, ‘Your mother’s going to die when she finds out what he does for a living. There’s nothing that would make her happier.’ ”
Pamela Scheer, 65, however, was unaware of how her son met his new bride. “He’s always been very private,” she said. “He wouldn’t even make me his friend on Facebook, even though we are an extremely close family. In January he called and said he was bringing a friend to his father’s birthday dinner.”
She asked if it was a man or a woman.
“I wasn’t sure the girl he wanted existed,” Ms. Scheer said. “But she does. They just have this connection. He wasn’t complete before. But she completes him. She’s his meant-to-be.”
The wedding contained many highlights, including the signing of the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, and the bedeken, a traditional veiling ritual in which the groom confirms the bride’s identity. There was also an hourlong heartfelt ceremony; speeches; a tribute song (“You’ll Be Back” from “Hamilton,” rewritten and performed by the bride’s four siblings); and a dance-a-thon.
Before the married couple sat at their table in the dining room, they took an opportunity to mentally embrace the room, and each other.
“I’d gotten advice from friends and our rabbi, who said to take a moment, and I felt like we needed to do that,” Ms. Zipper said. “We needed a breath to see what we put together, and all the people who came to celebrate with us, and a moment to see the love. I got to see all the love.”
ON THIS DAY
When Sept. 10, 2017
Where Temple Beth El, Cedarhurst, N.Y.
First Dance The couple’s first dance was self-choreographed to “We Share Everything” from the Broadway musical “Side Show,” which tells the story of conjoined twin girls. “We heard the song at the Singing Ice Cream Parlor, while at Andrew’s parents’ house in Long Beach Island,” the bride said.
The Huppah In honor of Ms. Zipper’s father, the couple stood directly under his tallit, which was attached to the top of the huppah. “That’s where the most important part of the ceremony happens,” the groom said. “This garment was something he wore every week. Hanging it over us is hugely meaningful to me.”
Down the Aisle The bride walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of “Somebody to Love” by Queen.
Source: New York Times
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Inset Image: New York Times