Hillel’s work is not matchmaking, but sometimes …

Hillel’s work is not matchmaking, but sometimes …

Dan went to the Hillel House for the Friday night dinners. He got more than he expected. Yes, the food was good, but he also found Simone.

For two years Dan Picker and Simone Gremont would see each other at the Friday night dinners at the Hillel House at Washington University in St. Louis. The meeting to break bread started in the fall of 2001, when Simone was an 18-year-old freshman and Dan was a 19-year-old junior. Aside from the Friday night services at Hillel, they shared the same circle of friends. Their relationship was casual until Simone told Dan she would be spending six months of her junior year in Chile. Dan responded: “We should probably start going out when you return to campus.”

And that’s what happened. In August 2004, Simone returned to Washington University, and they started dating. “Ours was a relationship that evolved,” says Simone. “It took several years for the light bulbs to go off.” In December, 2005, they became engaged.

“Some of my friends thought we hadn’t dated enough, that a year was not enough time to know if this is it,” remarks Simone. “But they forget that Dan and I had been friends for three years before. It works really well when you start to date a friend.”

Is there a role for Hillel in helping couples to meet and marry?

Rabbi Avi Orlow, current campus rabbi at the St. Louis Hillel at Washington University maintains that “Hillel’s work is making community — we are not matchmakers.”

Dan Picker likes the relaxed environment at Hillel. “There was no pressure, and it was just a natural way to meet people.”

Rabbi James Diamond, former director of the St. Louis Hillel, who has worked 36 years in the field, has performed many marriages for Hillel students all over the country. He remarks: “I always regarded matchmaking as among the items on Hillel’s hidden agenda. What better way to promote the Jewish future? I used to say in our fund-raising material, ‘Marriages are made in heaven, but Hillel helps. So help Hillel!'”

Rabbi Diamond put up a sign at the Hillel office at Princeton University: Shadchan: Sophisticated Clientele.

As for Dan and Simone, “We share the same basic values, but we have different personalities,” says Dan. I like the fact that Simone is soft-spoken, and she likes my directness and the way I tell it as-it-is.” Dan is a business consultant and is working towards an MBA. Simone is studying social work part-time.

“One of the things that attracted me to Simone was her South African accent,” says Dan. His parents had immigrated to St. Louis from South Africa. Both Dan and Simone had a Jewish day-school education. Simone attended the Solomon Schechter Day School in Dallas and Dan attended the Epstein Hebrew Academy and then graduated from Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis.

Dan and Simone are two people who know what they want. Simone knew she wanted to marry Dan, but she wanted to wait until after her college graduation and after she started working. Simone graduated from Washington University in May 2005, and started working on June 1, 2005

Dan and Simone were married on Sept. 3, 2006. Mazal tov!