Trip to Argentina nets young man a wife

BY LEAH HAKIMIAN

It takes a village to raise a child, says the African proverb, and Rabbi Yosef Bitton of Great Neck, N.Y., adds that “it takes a community to marry him off.”

How else would Hadi Namdar have met Rosa Rozencwajg?

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Hadi is a Mashadi Jew, with roots in Mashad, Iran, going back about 10 generations. Following a blood libel against the Jews during Pesach, 1946, most of the Jewish families relocated in Teheran. When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, the community moved en masse to New York.

The Mashadi community, which comprises about 1,000 families today in New York, places great emphasis on marriage and family. In recent years, it became apparent that there was a significant number of unmarried men over the age of 30. Community leaders came together to address the problem, adopting various strategies, including a suggestion of their newest rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Bitton, originally from Buenos Aires.

Rabbi Bitton suggested that he organize a group of unmarried Mashadi men, between the ages of 29-44, and together they would travel to Buenos Aires to meet a suitable group of young Jewish women. He himself would fly in advance to Buenos Aires to make the arrangements. He would personally select the women and he would find an appropriate setting — a small resort, with a glatt kosher kitchen, in the beautiful South American countryside away from city lights.

In December 2004, the Mashadi bachelors, 26 strong, traveled with Rabbi Bitton to Buenos Aires, and from there continued on a two-hour flight to Bariloche. Hadi Namdar was one of the men. They met up with 26 unmarried Jewish Argentinean women, between the ages of 23-39, including Rosa Rozencwajg.

For the women, this was a win-win situation. Since the Mashadi community of New York covered most of the women’s expenses, the women had nothing to lose. What could be wrong with a 10-day vacation at a kosher resort with absolutely no obligation? And perhaps one would get really lucky and meet the man of her dreams. Rosa did.

Rosa was impressed with the group of Mashadi men. She liked the fact that they “were gentlemen.” Hadi was attracted to Rosa’s beautiful smile. Rosa was on vacation from her job as an attorney. Hadi left his cell phone at home, so he could disconnect from his ladies’ clothing store in New York.

Hadi had one advantage over his Mashadi friends: He knew some Spanish, which he had picked up from his Spanish-speaking customers, and Rosa had learned to speak English in school. When Hadi met Rosa, they spoke in English.

One of those books on relationships, by Michele Alexander and Jeannie Long, is called “How to Lose a Guy in 10 days.” Rosa Rozencwajg could write the book “How to Win a Guy in 10 days.” In truth, it took a bit longer.

There were e-mails and telephone calls after the initial 10 days. Hadi flew down to visit Rosa four or five times, getting to know her parents, her sister, and her community. He enjoyed the friendliness and kindness of the community and particularly appreciated the warm welcome he received from Rosa’s family. Hadi is still raving about the meals in the Rozencwajg home, particularly the barbecue “asado.”

On Valentine’s Day, 2006, Rosa and Hadi became engaged.

The Better Business Bureau, in a March 2005 newsletter, reports that there are at least 200 matchmaking agencies in the U.S. that specialize in the introduction of American men to foreign women. The newsletter adds the following: Few agencies keep track of their success in facilitating engagements or marriages. Of those that do, estimates range from zero to four percent.”

The success rate for the Mashadi trip was 4 percent.

Rabbi Bitton agrees with a Jewish precept: “When our soul descends into this world, it splits into two bodies — a girl’s and a boy’s. Sometimes you re-encounter your half of soul in your own backyard, and sometimes, as with Rosa and Hadi, you have to go to the end of the world to find your other half.”

Rosa and Hadi are to be married in New York on Aug. 10. Mazal tov! Felicidades!