‘Twas the day before Chanukah, and all through the shul…
One Saturday morning in December 2012 at Minyan Segulah, a prayer community in Washington, DC, Allison walked into Saturday morning services and sat down behind someone with an intriguing kippah and very nice curly hair.
“That’s someone I haven’t seen before”, she thought. “He’s clearly knowledgeable about the prayers and has nice hair! There must be a catch. Maybe he’s married.” Well, instead of focusing on the prayers, she decided to focus on his hands, to see if there was a wedding ring. “No ring! There must be another catch” she said to herself.
Allison waited patiently for the service to be over, and tried to talk to him once it was. He, however, was eager to talk to a friend of his own and didn’t seem super willing to talk to anyone else.
Finally, as they were both about to head out the door, Allison successfully weaseled her way into his conversation. She found out that his name is Oren, that he doesn’t consider DC Minyan to be egalitarian, that he’s about to have lunch with his grandfather in Bethesda, and…that he’s currently living in Jerusalem. Ah, the catch.
Facebook, Some Very Long Emails, and Some Continent Switching
Although Allison wanted to ask Oren to take her out and talk to her about why he thought that DC Minyan wasn’t egalitarian, she didn’t quite muster the courage to ask him about that before he left the DC region a few days later en route back to Israel. She did, however, Facebook friend him. A few weeks later, she followed up with a Facebook message to see how he was doing. . Not long after that, they both decided that Facebook messenger is annoying platform to use, and switched to email and gchat. Through the beginning of 2013, they began exchanging ever-longer emails, getting to know each other. And discovering, to Allison’s disappointment, that they had plans to switch countries for Passover. Allison was going from DC to Israel, and Oren was going from Israel to DC. Fortunately, they also discovered that Oren was going to be in DC longer than Allison was going to be in Israel, so they could hang out in Washington on either end of her trip. They went to a Jewish a cappella concert before Allison went home to pack for her trip, and to a pillow fight at the National Cherry Blossom Festival when she returned. When Oren returned to Israel, Allison convinced him to download WhatsApp.
And Here-There, buzz buzz buzz
Once they both had a convenient method of texting one another for free, the communication rate increased at a rapid clip. Allison and Oren were texting constantly; highlights included Oren sharing photos of a chocolate Winnie the Pooh and a cow from his work field trip and Allison sent various reminders of Oren’s hometown to him, such as photos of pretty sunsets, baseball games, and other places she passed on her adventures around DC.This continued over the next couple months via multiple modes of communication.
Allison likes to say that they did the opposite of online dating – meeting in person and dating online! But before the story goes on too much further, it is important to note that no one is dating just yet. Finally, in early July, Allison sent Oren an email that she had been crafting for several days. “What are we doing? Where is this going? We don’t live in the same country right now, and there’s a giant ocean between us!” Although he didn’t know the email was coming, Oren responded gracefully and promptly and they agreed to have a Skype date a few days later (the 7 hour time difference making that somewhat of a scheduling challenge). He also informed her that he had recently decided to return to the U.S. for graduate school a few months later. For a couple months, Oren and Allison would have a Skype date every Sunday, talking to each other, getting to know each other even better, and finally, planning to meet up in person. The Skype dates also had a very important rule: they could not use the words “here” or “there
They called it “keilu (as if / like)-dating,” because they had only ever knowingly spent about 6 hours in physical proximity of one another. During that time, several funny things happened. There was the time that Allison went to a retreat where she took a class taught by Oren’s cousins and was paired with Oren’s aunt to study together and discuss intimate topics. And the time that Oren’s parents decided to attend a holiday celebration that Allison was at, unbeknownst to her, several months before she formally met them.
As the Skype dates continued, Allison and Oren decided to explore the possibility of meeting up in person. But then there was a conundrum. Family is a big priority for both of them , and Oren’s grandparents were in Washington and New York, while Allison’s were in Jerusalem. Neither of them felt like he or she could go to where the other one lived and have the focus be on their relationship and on each other, so they decided to meet in the middle! (But not in the actual middle, that would be the ocean or the Azore Islands Somewhere along the way during a Skype date, Allison had nonchalantly asked Oren if he had ever been interested in visiting Portugal. He said it was a place he hadn’t visited before, and would be interested in visiting. Its weather is temperate in November, there were reasonably priced flights from both Washington and Tel Aviv to get there and to top it all off, Lisbon is just a short bus ride from Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in continental Europe, which felt as close to meeting halfway as they could reasonably get!
We cannot display this gallerySo, off they went on what was certainly the craziest thing either of them had ever done. They were thousands of miles from home in a country where neither spoke the language, sharing a tiny European hotel room with someone who neither had spent much face to face time with. A five-day long first date. But…it all turned out well! They enjoyed exploring Lisbon together, visiting castles and parks and ruins and of course the trams and trolleys! . On the third day, the two of them made it out to the aforementioned Cabo da Roca, where they shared our first kiss, watched the sun set over the Atlantic, and Oren asked Allison to be his girlfriend. We Two days later, at the famous Pasteis de Belem and over pastries and hot chocolate, Allison said that she would be Oren’s girlfriend, and they were officially dating.
But then, it was back to their respective countries of residence for another five months. The Sunday Skype dates and constant gchatting and texting resumed, but before they knew it, it was March 2014 and Oren was on his way back to the USA.
Zero to 60: Adventures in and out of the mid-Atlantic
Oren eventually decided to attend the University of Maryland for his degree, which fortunately meant the end of long distance dating for this couple. But it did not mean the end of adventures, it meant a new beginning of them! Allison attended the Hirsch Family Seder in Maryland in April, and in July 2014, Oren and Allison took a train together from Denver to San Francisco. Oren accompanied Allison to the Goodstein Family Reunion in Knoxville that year, where he got to see and learn about her family history. Weekends at home in DC sometimes included visits with Oren’s grandfather, Hans, who was 98 and always interesting to talk to.
The following year brought more adventures, each their own story. In April, they visited Oren’s alma mater, Cornell University, Niagara Falls, and the World Synchronized Skating Championship in Hamilton, Ontario. During the summer, it was back to Mohonk, a favorite Hirsch family vacation spot in the Hudson Valley, and they did plenty of retreating in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. In the fall, it was time to go to Allison’s other family reunion in Atlanta, and then they were back again with the Goodsteins for Thanksgiving, this time in Pittsburgh.
Of course it wasn’t all adventures and happy occasions, and the story would not be complete without mention of Allison and Oren’s grandfathers. Visiting grandparents was what brought them together in the first place. Between the two of them, Allison and Oren lost 3 grandfathers in the first 2 years of their relationship. However, they each had the opportunity to meet the other’s grandfather(s) before he passed away, for which they are both deeply grateful.
The next year, 2016, was a year of transitions and a few trips, too! In February, Oren got a new job. In March, they went on vacation to Puerto Rico. In June, the destinations were Amsterdam and Israel. Israel is a special place for both Allison and Oren, so it was quite exciting to visit together for the first time. In July, they moved in together in an apartment in Silver Spring.
Taking on the World Together
Oren had been thinking about a long term future together with Allison for some time. There had been occasional discussions about what planning a potential wedding or family might look like, and Allison had told Oren about a diamond that belonged to her mother and before that to her grandmother Annalee, after whom she is named, that she wanted him to use for the proposal. However, beyond that, there were no explicit discussions about when or how a proposal might materialize. In August 2016, Allison and Oren went to visit Allison’s mother in Atlanta, and while they were there, Oren asked for permission to propose to Allison and for the diamond. Permission was granted and plans to get the diamond from Atlanta to DC without Allison’s knowledge were developed. Once the diamond made it to DC, unbeknownst to Allison, Oren took a morning off from work to visit a jewelry store with Allison’s sister to see about getting the diamond reset. And finally, when Allison was away for several days at a conference for work, Oren put together his plan for the actual proposal.
On November 20, the third anniversary of their decision to officially date, Oren took Allison on what he dubbed the “ARROAGH Tour” (ARROAGH is a portmanteau of their initials). Starting at the annual Segulah community meeting, they spent the afternoon going on a driving tour with narration that Oren had pre-recorded of places significant to their respective lives and their relationship together. Some of the points of interest along the tour included American University (Allison’s alma mater), the Portuguese Embassy, the apartment buildings Allison lived in over the years, National Airport (as a stand in for their various travels), the Washington Monument/site of the pillow fight, and the ice cream store that Allison had wanted to ask Oren to in 2012. The tour ended at the corner of 18th and Allison Streets, where Oren asked Allison to get out of the car, got down on one knee, held up an Allison Street sign, a sign asking if she would marry him, and Annalee’s diamond. She said yes. And being the planner that he is, Oren not only arranged to have their friend Deb at the designated spot at the right time to capture the moment, but also arranged to fly Allison’s mother up from Atlanta to join his parents and Allison’s sister to celebrate upon arrival back at their apartment.
Help us write the next chapter!
We’re looking forward to celebrating our wedding with you on September 3 as we continue this wild adventure together!