Federation’s Sweethearts: Meant for Each Other
By Vivian Henoch, Editor myJewishDetroit
February 1, 2014
Better than JDate? Maybe. For every summer at Tamarack, Detroit mission to Israel, Shabbat dinner at Hillel, NEXTGen Epic event, “graduating” class of interns at a Jewish agency. . . there’s a budding romance. We invited couples known to have met through their connections with Federation or its partner agencies to share their stories. Here are a few.
Tracy (Roth) and Jeff Aronoff, married 11 years. Though Jeff claims that Tracy’s memory of their first encounter is far more vivid than his, they met in the 7th grade in the villages of Levison and Sheruth at Tamarack Camps. Three years later, Tamarack’s Western Trip brought them back together (“just friends”) in their high school sophomore year. As college grads with a shared interest in travel and service to the Jewish community, the two reconnected in 1998, working together with Project OTZMA, a ten-month volunteer program in Israel.
In the year that followed, their romance began in earnest. Married in 2003 and with deep roots in the Jewish Detroit community, Jeff and Tracy have put their considerable skills in community organization and communications to good work – Tracy as Strategy Director for the advertising firm Commonwealth and Jeff as Executive Director of D:hive. Still adventuresome at heart, Tracy and Jeff love the outdoor life, hiking and camping, now with their two sons, Aiden, 7, and Cooper, who turns 4 on Valentine’s Day.
A match made in Federation
Kari and Eddie Alterman, married 15 years this June, met on a date Eddie’s mother, Sharon, arranged. “Can you imagine, I met Eddie’s mother first,” Kari admits with a smile. “I was an intern working in Community Outreach at Federation, and it didn’t take long for Sharon (then Federation’s Archivist) to ask if I were dating anyone and if she could fix me up with her son! I demurred as best as I could, but Eddie and I had friends in common who both agreed that we would be a good match. So there we were: on our first date and we both just knew. We were done! We had found The One. We still joke about it. We now know that our fathers knew each other from the day my dad came to this country in 1948—it was simply meant to be.”
The close family ties and shared community commitments that drew Kari and Eddie together from the start have drawn them ever closer as they’ve built their careers and family together. Eddie is Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver Magazine and Kari is the Regional Director of American Jewish Committee – Detroit. Daughters, Noa, 12, and Adina, who turns 10 in February, attend Hillel Day School.
On a mission
Gayle and Lorne Gold, married 10 years in September, met on Federation’s Young Adult Summer Mission in 2000. As Gayle describes, “Lorne was one of the leaders on that trip and on the last day he came up to me and told me that I was going to be a great asset to our community. I thought he was hitting on me. Little did I know, he meant it and took me under his wing to help get me involved at Federation. In hindsight, he was hitting on me; we became very good friends and two years later we both just knew we had each found our beshert.”
Lorne, an attorney specializing in family law, and Gayle a producer/director with StarTrax, have both received the Mark Family Young Leadership Award for outstanding service to the community. Gayle is currently a member of the Jewish Federation Board. Describing the “Gold standard” for their marriage, they attribute their happiness to their “focus on family, children Maddie (6) and Jackson (3), their friends, respect, shared values and laughter, lots of laughter.”
Hillel Day School alumni
Jennifer (Morse) and Bob Mattler, married 19 years. Although both frequently attended Federation’s Young Adult Division (YAD) programs, their paths had never crossed until Florine Mark’s daughter, Lisa Lis, recruited Jennifer for a newly launched Hillel Day School (HDS) alumni committee. At the first alum meeting, Jennifer describes how a tall, handsome (and slightly “older”) man arrived late. “We both noticed each other and made it a point to introduce ourselves. For the next six months, we flirted and bonded over our passion for Israel (Bob was a co-chair leading a Federation singles trip that summer and I had gone as a participant the summer before).
After yet another YAD event and then a program at Congregation Shaarey Zedek (yes, we had our synagogue in common too), Bob asked me to dinner before one of our HDS alumni meetings. Bob still says it was a ‘business meeting’ (I think that our 11-year age difference concerned him at first). We had been dating for a year and half when we attended the United Jewish Appeals Washington Conference in D.C. and Bob proposed during our trip!” Best friends forever, soul mates and lovers, Jennifer and Bob are blessed with two sons, Morgan and Ari, daughter Erin and a puppy named Riley (rescued last April).
Ayelet (Kon) and Jamie Blumenthal, married three years, met on a Birthright trip 11 years ago. She was on the Israeli staff; he was on the American staff, and they immediately clicked as friends. “We were five years apart, so at the time it seemed like a huge gap,” says Ayelet. “I was 18, just a kid out of high school; he was 23, an adult with a job from America!”
After that summer, they would meet from time to time in “the kind of easy friendship that picks up out of nowhere.” But when they found each other once again staffing another Birthright trip, their dynamics changed. “Suddenly we were a couple,” recalls Ayelet. “Our first thought was, ‘Oh, no! This is a huge problem. How are we going to make this happen when we live on two different sides of the world?’
For the first year, we just kept trying to break up. We would spend time together in New York or Israel and then we would have that tearful ‘airport talk,’ where we would decide to ‘end it.’ But each time we parted, one of us would break down and call the other. So we decided to stay together in a long- distance relationship while I completed my degree in business at the Hebrew University and Jamie was in New York working in real estate. After graduation, I flew to New York . . . and Jamie proposed to me at the airport! As for Detroit, at the time I didn’t even know if was a city or a state. But Detroit is our home now, and from here we’ll see where life takes us.”
MSU Hillel oriented
Robyn (Berkowitz) and Eric Hughey, just married in July. Perhaps MSU Hillel Executive Director Cindy Hughey knew that her son Eric and new Program Associate Robyn would hit it off together while staffing the “Hillel” table together during student orientation in the summer of 2008. Robyn had only briefly met Eric before the program began. “He seemed quiet and reserved, a true ‘guy’s guy,’ quite the opposite of me,” Robyn recalls. “But every day, he entertained me with funny stories and impersonations, and as the summer progressed, Eric and I became close friends.”
As Robyn started coming to work every day telling “Eric stories,” Cindy noticed. “She could see us falling in love,” observed Robyn, “even if we couldn’t! My own mother advised not to date my boss’s son. I knew she was right but, by December 2008, Eric and I were already dating. Our relationship grew stronger each year and on July 20, 2013, we were married. Thanks to MSU Hillel, I not only have a fulfilling and rewarding career, but also have found my perfect match. I believe that my decision to stay and work in East Lansing was truly kismet and I could never have asked for more.”
To Jewish Senior Life, L’Chaim!
Manny and Helen Hauer, married 73 years. They still hold hands watching TV together in their Coville Apartment. Manny is 102 years young; Helen is a remarkable 96. Both Manny and Helen were born in Czechoslovakia; both came to Detroit before the war around 1938. Both lost most of their family in the Holocaust. Manny was living with his sister and Helen was living with her aunt when the two met in Detroit.
Married in 1940, Manny and Helen raised three daughters in Oak Park where they lived for 36 years. They moved into Meer Apartments the year it opened in West Bloomfield 11 years ago. In April 2013, they moved to Coville Assisted Living Apartments to better accommodate their needs. “I don’t care where we go,” says Manny about the relocation, “as long as we live together.” Manny and Helen have five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. If there’s a secret to the longevity of their marriage, consider Manny’s advice: “Walk daily and eat healthy.” Manny should know: he is Gold Medalist in the Michigan Senior Olympics for the age 90+ age group in the 1500 meter race-walk!