How Ami Met Shoshana

It was spring 2007, about a year after Qin Li had left her hometown of Kaifeng in China’s Henan province. She wanted to study Hebrew, and at the religious Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, close to the Sea of Galilee, she found the right spot and her future husband, Ami Emmanuel.

Qin Li, now called Shoshana, says she has come home. “Israel has always been the homeland of our Jewish people, and when I made aliya, I came home. It was meant to be – for me to come here and for me to meet Ami. “

Twenty-five years earlier, Ami had been born in Israel, but his parents moved to the U.S. when Ami was an infant, and he grew up in Key West, Florida. Now he had moved back. And he needed to relearn Hebrew.

So the couple met for Hebrew study. “I was attracted to Shoshana as soon as I met her, ” says Ami. “I had been to China before, and I was intrigued by the Chinese culture. But I had some reservations. “

Was Shoshana really Jewish? The Shavei Israel organization solved that problem. This Jerusalem-based organization (http://www.shavei.org) reaches out to “Lost Jews ” seeking to return to the Jewish people. Shoshana’s Jewish roots in Kaifeng go back more than a thousand years. When Shavei Israel turned to Shoshana, they found a willing and determined young woman. They helped her with her move to Israel and with her official conversion to Judaism with the Chief Rabbinate. “When I met Shoshana, she was “totally ” Jewish, ” says Ami.

Still, they came from different worlds. Shoshana’s mother tongue is Mandarin; she had never tasted apple pie or heard about the Super Bowl. “What bridged the gap was our love of Israel and our Jewishness. We both have a deep belief in God, ” says Shoshana, age 30. They communicate in English–until their Hebrew grows truly fluent.

Do they enjoy doing the same things? “That was not a problem at all, ” says Shoshana. “We both enjoy movies and music; we like hiking and being outdoors; we like the simple and quiet life. And we love the desert.

“When our relationship deepened, Ami started taking me to visit his grandmother in Holon. Ami’s parents both live in the U.S., and his grandmother is the only family we have here in Israel. I haven’t seen my family for over two years. My parents are in Los Angeles, and I have one sister in the U.S. and one sister in China. But I am not alone. Ami takes care of me. “

In the fall of 2007, Ami and Shoshana finished their Hebrew course and were ready to move on. “Ami and I liked kibbutz life, so we looked for another kibbutz. We were a bicultural couple and we wanted to be in a multicultural environment, ” says Shoshana. They chose Ketura, a kibbutz just north of Eilat, where about one-third of the members are native Israelis, and the rest come from everywhere.

Ketura accepted the couple into its volunteer program. Ami works in the dining room, and Shoshana’s job is in the kibbutz guest house. The one thing Shoshana misses is not having her own kitchen. “I like Chinese food. And I don’t mean take-away, ” she says.

They were also ready to move on in their relationship. In the winter of 2007, they got engaged. Ami considers himself a lucky guy. As a former student of the theater, he says of their relationship that “sometimes the impossible dream is possible “

The couple were married in an Orthodox wedding at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. It was on January 24, 2008, the 18th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, in the Chinese Year 4705. Good wishes came in English, Mandarin and Hebrew. Congratulations! Hao Yun! 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

How Gary met Lindsey

How Uri met Michal

How Etan met Marcel

How Lloyd met Shira

How Ronen met Amy

How Eliezer met Sararose

How Jay met Jamie

How Steve met Sarah

How Andy met Stacey

Sign up for Your Morning Light