How Gary met Lindsay

BY LEAH HAKIMIAN

On the one hand, Gary was between jobs, and it didn’t seem like the best time to take a vacation. On the other hand, he was being offered a free trip to Israel. Still, 16 people had just been killed in Haifa, where a terrorist detonated a bomb. Then again, Gary was soon to turn 26, and that was the cut-off age for the free trip.

Gary was not one to pass up an opportunity. For that matter, Gary was not one to pass by a pretty woman without noticing. He took the trip and noticed Lindsay at JFK Airport.

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That was in May 2003, when Gary Portnoy and Lindsay Blau found themselves bound for the same trip abroad, courtesy of Taglit-birthright Israel, an organization that gives young Jewish adults, age 18-26, a free ten-day educational tour of the Jewish state, no strings attached. Michael Steinhardt, the philanthropist who helped set up the program, purposely targeted this age group, when change is the norm. He is delighted when so many singles get together, and “happily, things happen. “

Birthright participants select the kind of tour they want. Both Gary and Lindsay signed up for “Livnot Birthright, ” which includes hiking, informal study, community service and communal living. “It was absolutely the best program, ” says Lindsay. “We loved the volunteering, the homey atmosphere, the warmth and the home-made rugelach. “

“But best of all, I loved meeting Lindsay, ” adds Gary.

A travel encounter often begins with a crush from a distance and ends without ever reaching a friendship stage. This encounter was different. Over the 10 days of their Israel trip, Gary and Lindsay became the best of friends, and they parted as friends. The romance came later.

On the one hand, Gary had never liked long-distance relationships. And she lived in New York, and he lived in Boston. On the other hand, he had never met a woman like Lindsay – she was beautiful and smart, warm and caring and vivacious and engaging.

“I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by, ” says Gary. And so at the end of June, when Lindsay invited him to come to New York to help celebrate her 26th birthday, he said yes. “But our ‘real’ first date was on July 4, ” adds Lindsay, “when I introduced Gary to my friends at a party I was hosting on the roof top of my apartment building in Union Square. “

Gary makes a wonderful first impression – “he is incredibly intelligent, good

looking and has a wonderful sense of humor, ” says Lindsay.

He was also something different, not the typical boy next door. At the age of 13, Gary came to the United States from Moscow with his parents and sister. It was 1990, and a window of opportunity had opened for Jews to leave the Soviet Union, and more than 200,000 Russian Jews took advantage of the opportunity and emigrated.

On the trip when the couple met, Gary won a photo contest held among all the participants. His first-prize snap caught morning prayers being said on a predawn hike in the Dead Sea area. “Gary is a wonderful combination of coolness and sensitivity, ” says Lindsay. She sees him as caring and supportive but he is also a go-getter, who is the vice president of a computer security firm.

It was Gary who encouraged Lindsay to make the most of life. “He encouraged me to continue my studies. I started out as a second-grade teacher in the Bronx, and today I am studying for my Ph.D. in educational psychology at Fordham University. “

It was clear to her that some day, Gary was going to make “the best of dads. “

They both knew the relationship was getting serious. Lindsay remembers the day when Gary proposed – October 30, 2004. “When I came home, there was Gary on his knees on the roof, with a book of poetry and a dozen long-stemmed roses. He had already asked my parents for their blessing, so the decision was in my hands. ” All that was missing was the fiddler on the roof.

Gary and Lindsay were married on July 4, 2005. Mazal tov!

Read past installments of Leah Hakimian’s column, ‘Godsend’

How Larry met Shelley

How David met Luba

How Aaron met Cynthia

How Zali met Michal

How Hadi met Rosa

How Richard met Talia

How Yuvi met Rachel

How Shai met Liora

How Dov met Miriam

How Aaron met Jennifer

How Simon met Rhea

How Dan met Simone

How Phil met Julie

How Michael met Amy

How Zvi met Daphna

How George met Leora

How Marty met Ila