Love may be closer than you think

By Leah Hakimian

The right partner for you may be closer than you think. Imagine your home as the center of a circle and draw that circle with a radius of 19 houses in every direction. Within that circle may live your future spouse. It’s happened before.

Miriam Lewis and Dov Gardin lived 19 houses apart from each other in Oak Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. They had much in common. They were both born in 1978; both had studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for their junior year-abroad program; both were college graduates from committed Jewish families, and both were very pro-Israel. Had their families belonged to the same synagogue, they probably would have known each other. But the Lewis family belonged to the Conservative Congregation Beth Shalom, and the Garden family belonged to the Orthodox Shomer Israel, and Miriam and Dov had never met.

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Not until 2004 when the rabbi of Beth Shalom, David Nelson, intervened with an assist from his wife, Alicia.

Dov Gardin and his sister had worked for Alicia’s website, allthingsjewish.com

Though Dov wasn’t the type to discuss his personal life at work, Alicia kept her antennae up. Rabbi and Mrs. Nelson were always on the look-out to match up young people.

During the spring of 2004, Rabbi Nelson led a Detroit Mission to Israel. As he continually had in mind the young people of his synagogue, he remembered that Miriam Lewis was then living in Israel and invited her to join him and the other 200 mission members for dinner. With all that he had to do that evening as a mission leader, Miriam was a priority for Rabbi Nelson, and he asked her if she had a current boyfriend. Though Miriam was tiring of set-ups from friends, how could she say “no” to her rabbi. Yet she wasn’t really interested.

At the time, both Dov and his sister were living in Israel. Dov had joined the Israeli army and was in the Paratroopers Unit. To reach Dov, Rabbi Nelson left a message with Dov’s sister, asking Dov to call Miriam.

But Dov never called. His sister told their mother about the message and the mother asked Dov whether he had called. He wasn’t really interested, he said.

Then came Israel’s Independence Day and, lucky for Dov, he received a last-minute week-long leave from the army. This allowed him to accept the e-vite to a friend’s barbecue. In his methodical way, Dov checked the list of people who were coming to the party and noted that Miriam Lewis was planning to come – maybe.

Miriam was busy the day of the barbecue. She was artistic director at Hadassah’s Center Stage Theater and was in the middle of rehearsals for “Romeo and Juliet.” But she made it to the barbecue, albeit late. When she walked in, someone pointed her out to Dov. Dov’s first thought: She’s cute.

He decided to make a move. He walked over to Miriam, and his first words to her were, “I’m supposed to ask you out.” Miriam, never at a loss for words, was flabbergasted. Unlike Dov, she hadn’t checked the e-vite list, and she didn’t know that Dov was to be at the party. But, as theater people know to do, she quickly recovered. At the end of the evening, Dov walked her home.

From the start, says the couple, they felt a balance between them. Dov is cerebral, and Miriam is dramatic. She has an MFA in theater performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. While Miriam is a culture buff, she doesn’t feel the need to read a newspaper daily. Dov’s first degree was from the University of Michigan in political science. Miriam is emotional and Dov is reserved; Miriam is a good cook and Dov is a great dishwasher. And they both love books and adventure.

Looking back on his set-up, Rabbi Nelson recalls: “Both Dov and Miriam share a love of adventure and it just seemed right.”

It seemed right to him and it seemed right to Miriam and Dov. In November, 2005, they became engaged and started a new adventure in Washington D.C, where Dov is working for a master’s degree at Georgetown University. They are very grateful to Rabbi and Mrs. Nelson.

This was the 11th shidduch (match) for the Nelsons who often have singles over for dinner on Friday night. It makes sense, says a rabbinical colleague. “Rabbis interact with so many different kinds of people from different parts of the Jewish world that they can make ideal match-makers,” says Rabbi Joshua Skoff of Cleveland’s Park Avenue Synagogue. “Rabbis already have the access and trust of congregants. They can assist greatly in Jewish singles’ finding each other,” he adds.

On June 6, 2006, Miriam and Dov were married in Israel, in the country where they met, in the presence of Rabbi and Mrs. Nelson, who helped them to meet. Mazal tov!