How Eli met Tziona

BY LEAH HAKIMIAN

Her mother was born in St. Louis and so was his father, but Tziona met her bashert (intended mate) in Jerusalem. Maybe there’s a hint of that in her name.

Tziona Goldfarb attended religious Zionist schools and made aliya in 1999 with her siblings and parents, Lori and Brian Goldfarb. A year after graduating with honors from Horev, a prestigious girls’ high school in Jerusalem, Tziona wanted to continue her religious studies. She chose a one-year program at the women’s seminary Midreshet Harovah in the alleys of the Old City. “I came to develop my hashkafa,” she says. “Hashkafa” is one of those words that doesn’t translate easily into English. It’s been loosely defined as “religious worldview” or “personal Jewish philosophy.”

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Between high school and the seminary, Tziona chose to do National Service, an option for religious women in lieu of the army. Not surprisingly (this happens a lot in Israel), someone wanted to fix her up with a guy. She respectfully declined. “I wasn’t ready,” says Tziona.

Then at the seminary, in the fall of 2009, one of her teachers, Aliza, approached her about a boy, the teacher’s younger brother, Eli. This time Tziona listened to the details but still said, “I’d like to wait a while.”

What was she waiting for? “I wanted my hashkafa in place. It was important that I meet a guy who shared the same worldview. I wanted to be ready for marriage. Only when I was ready for marriage would I start dating. I would date for marriage.”

Before Chanuka, 2009, Tziona gave Aliza the thumbs up. Even before their first date, Tziona liked different things about Eli Schreibman – that he had grown up in Israel (his parents, Pepy and Ephraim Schreibman, made aliyah in 1989); that he was studying at Beit El, a yeshiva committed to the values of the People, Torah, and Land of Israel; and then there was the way Eli’s sister described him: “He has a heart of gold, and he’s a great uncle.”

“Our first date went very well,” says Tziona, “We had a good laugh when we discovered that we both had St. Louis connections.” Tziona is named after her grandmother, Nancy Elbaum Makovsky. Both Nancy and her husband, Don, were born in St. Louis, as well as their three children – David, Michael, and Lori.

On Eli’s side, his grandparents, Max and Chana Schreibman, were well known in the St. Louis Orthodox community. His father Ephraim was born in St. Louis and for a teacher at the Epstein Hebrew Academy he had Tziona’s great grandfather, Jacob Elbaum. A generation later, Ephraim was the teacher there of her uncle, David Makovsky.

The young couple learned their connections went back even further, as both Elbaum and Schreibman ancestors had lived in Safed, Israel. As Eli’s dad says, “This match must have been planned by our great-grandparents many generations ago in Safed.”

It may have been planned in earlier times, but credit for the match also goes to Aliza Shneor. She says about her brother and Tziona, “They are just both so sweet and so smiley.”

Aliza is not a matchmaker by profession, but Tziona was very comfortable with her approach. “Aliza made the introduction and then moved into the background. She was always there for me, but she was never intrusive.”

“One good date with Eli followed another,” said Tziona. “We talked a lot and walked a lot. That’s when I noticed that everything his sister said about him was true.”

On another level, she says, they realized they shared the same goals and wishes. Eli was happy she wanted to pursue a profession and she was happy that he would continue his studies at Beit El. “At some point in our dating, we realized that we could continue with these plans as a young married couple,” says Tziona.

The date was Tuesday, February 10, 2009. According to Jewish tradition, Tuesday is a double-blessed day. It was pouring down rain – another blessing. It was the day after Tu B’shevat, the New Year for the Trees – a time of new beginnings.

It was also the day of Israeli elections. After voting, Tziona Goldfarb, 19, and Eli Schreibman, 23, headed for the Kotel, the Western Wall. They, too, had important decisions to make. On a bench at this most sacred site of Jerusalem, Eli and Tziona got engaged.

The wedding is planned for the summer of 2009. Mazal tov!