(JTA) — Zoe Dressner and Margeaux Wolberg had just one month free between graduating from college and when they were due in Jerusalem to begin rabbinical school. So, they figured, in addition to packing, finding an apartment and nailing down the logistics of a 6,000-mile move, why not get married?
At 23 and 22, respectively, the women are much younger than the average college-educated brides — but the decision to marry felt like a natural step in the relationship that began just months into college, accelerated because of the pandemic and, they knew, was headed for a shared destination in the rabbinate.
“The only questions left were do we go directly after college or take a year off, and which school do we apply to,” said Dressner. “Luckily, we both felt really attached to the Reform movement, which meant we were both set on attending Hebrew Union College. We’re lucky that it worked out.”
They had been together for less than a year when all colleges and universities in the United States shuttered their campuses because of the descending pandemic.
“We lived with my family and her family. We weren’t in college with our friends anymore,” Dressner said. “We figured that if this is working, then it must be legit, and it was.”
Their love story traversed three of Judaism’s denominations. Both women were first-year students in the joint program between Columbia University and List College, the undergraduate school of the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary,when Dressner asked her classmates in an introductory Bible class whether anyone would like to check out a Reconstructionist Shabbat service. She got only one taker: Wolberg.
The next morning, on a cold January day, they walked from Morningside Heights to the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, commonly known as SAJ, a Reconstructionist synagogue about two miles south of the JTS campus, and back. As they chatted, they learned they had something in common that was relatively rare for students at List College: Their Jewish passion had been stoked in the Reform movement, through their synagogues and the NFTY youth group — Wolberg in San Francisco and Dressner in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
Three months after their Shabbat morning stroll, the two women opened up to each other that their new friendship was turning into something more.
Neither had ever dated another woman. In fact, Dressner was the first person Wolberg ever dated at all.
“She was my first kiss,” Wolberg said. “And now we’re married.”
Once they planned to wed, they decided it would mostly fall on Wolberg to plan the wedding, while Dressner would plan the proposal. Back in New York, on Dec. 23, 2021, Dressner’s itinerary took them from a light show at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden to sipping warm cider on a rooftop bar to dinner at a kosher steakhouse. They also exchanged rings.
“We started the day by walking around Morningside Heights and recalling special memories together: dates, places we’d lived, etc.” Wolberg said. “I wasn’t surprised that we were getting engaged that day, but the whole day’s plan was a surprise.”
Their wedding similarly packed a lot into a short time. After heading to Calfornia from New York, they had a five-day window in which to marry before leaving for Israel. They set their sights on Sunday, June 12, but their preferred venue could accommodate them only on June 10, the Friday before.
The pair married amid the redwood trees at Old Mill Park in Marin County, holding a daytime reception that reflected a slew of their passions: Mediterranean food, progressive politics (informational posters about same-sex marriage and gun control) and Tevas, the outdoor sandals that both nature enthusiasts have long favored.
Then the couple headed to Kabbalat Shabbat services at San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El. (Beth Singer, Emanu-El’s rabbi, had performed their wedding ceremony after another rabbi and cantor had to cancel.) A catered dinner followed, at which their grandparents and siblings recited the sheva brachot, the blessings said during the first week of a marriage. They went back Saturday morning for services, then headed to Wolberg’s parents’ house for a family lunch. That night, they held a party for their friends.
The couple said they appreciated that Shabbat services became a continuation of their celebration. They also said that one feature of the wedding stood out: the bouncy house.
That was Dressner’s idea. Given their ages, she said, she thought, “Why not?”
But although some of their parents were initially skeptical about it, most of the guests partook. And one could also see the massive inflatable slide that the couple zoomed down together as a metaphor for their relationship.
“I’m much more reserved personality-wise, and sometimes I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone,” Dressner said. “I learn a lot from the wonderful way Margeaux approaches the world so differently.”
Meanwhile, Wolberg said that among the traits she loves most about her partner is that she has long considered herself a bit of an eccentric (her love of Renaissance music was part of what endeared her to Dressner), and thought it might be difficult to find someone who would put up with her many quirks.
“Zoe wholeheartedly accepts me,” she said. “My quirks are the things she loves the most. She’s not just putting up with me, but really loves all of me for exactly who I am.”
This story is part of JTA’s Mazels series, which profiles unique and noteworthy Jewish life events from births to b’nai mitzvah to weddings and everything in between.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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