| Family Diary |

Ring Me: Chapter 28   

Shana was great — I mean, lovely — but she was not English. I sighed and let it go

Shani Leiman with Zivia Reischer

"So, Rebbi, what do you think we should do?”

My husband had taught Yechiel in high school, and even though he’d been learning in Israel for a couple of years, he still kept in touch.

“My mother wants me to come back to the US after this zeman. She says I’ve been here four years already, it’s time. My chavrusa, Shaul Pinter, is also thinking about leaving, it would be great if we could keep learning together. The only thing is that my parents don’t want me to go to Lakewood.” That was a little unusual for a guy like Yechiel. “At least, not for Elul. Maybe for next zeman. They say I’ve been away for so long, they want me closer to home.”

Home for Yechiel was Silver Spring, Maryland; he could learn in Yeshivah of Greater Washington under Rav Aaron Lopiansky.

“What about Shaul?” Yechiel continued, thinking aloud. “He’s originally from London, but his family moved to Baltimore two years ago when his father got some government contract in Washington. His parents don’t want him to go to Lakewood either. They miss him. They want him to go to Ner Yisrael, so he can be close by.

“I wonder if he can convince them to let him come to Silver Spring? It’s just 40 minutes away. That way we could still learn together, but he could go home every Shabbos.”

Shaul’s parents agreed, and the American-English chavrusas made plans to leave Eretz Yisrael and learn in Maryland for Elul zeman. Before the new zeman started, Yechiel called my husband back with another question.

“Which shiur should we go to, Rebbi?”

They talked about the different options, and my husband eventually advised Yechiel and Shaul to go to Rabbi Kohen’s shiur. He assured them that they’d learn a tremendous amount both from Rabbi Kohen’s mehalech in learning and from Rabbi Kohen himself.

By the time the Elul zeman had started, I was already setting up Yechiel with a girl from Baltimore (that would definitely keep him “close to home” and make his mother happy). The relationship progressed slowly but steadily, and I spent a lot of time coaching both Yechiel and Racheli, the girl he was dating.

Yechiel and Racheli were dating “seriously” when Shaul called me. “Yechiel insisted,” he admitted, a little bashfully. “I’m not really dating yet, but he said you’re the greatest shadchan ever and he’s sure you can help me.”

I thought it was sweet how much Yechiel cared about his friend and chavrusa, and I arranged a time to meet Shaul.


When Shaul arrived, it was instantly apparent that he was a gem. He had middos and menschlichkeit, he had depth, he was emotionally open and available. He was very serious about his learning and shared his hopes of learning for many years and going into rabbanus.

I was also impressed by Shaul’s care and consideration for his parents. Despite his desire to head straight to BMG, he respected and valued their need to have their son closer to them, and had agreed to learn locally.

I wish I could set him up with Shana, I kept thinking.

Shana was the 23-year-old daughter of a childhood friend of mine. She had followed a pretty typical trajectory — good elementary school, good high school, good seminary. She was teaching now and had a great reputation. She also had a certain rare strength of character and commitment that set her apart from other girls I knew. She was looking for a serious, long-term learner, and I thought her personality would totally click with Shaul’s.

The problem was that she was older than him, and she was American. Shaul’s family, although they currently lived in America, insisted on considering only European girls. “The culture is very different,” his mother clucked when I called her, in her elegant British accent. “He grew up with a mother and sisters who are English. Let me know if you know of any English girls.”

Shana was great — I mean, lovely — but she was not English. I sighed and let it go.

My husband and I were driving home together from PTA when Yechiel and Racheli called to say they were engaged. Mazel tov! I had made a shidduch for my husband’s talmid; we were both so thrilled.

When he hung up, my husband said, “You know, Yechiel’s chavrusa is an English boy. He seems very serious and very special.”

“I agree,” I said. “I met him.”

“Why don’t you set him up with Shana?”

I sighed. “I thought of that already,” I admitted. “But she’s older than him, and his mother doesn’t want to consider any American girls.”

It was quiet in the car.

“You know what?” I announced, “I’m going to suggest it. Forget the age thing, forget the American thing. It’s a great idea and I thought of it already while he was talking to me! I’m calling Shana’s parents first, right now.”

I dialed the number I’d known by heart for so many years.

“I have an idea for Shana,” I told her mother. “It’s a little unusual, but I want you to think about it very seriously. He’s an English boy and he’s learning here…”

My friend started laughing. “My husband has been coming home from yeshivah and telling me about this amazing English boy who’s learning there now. I never thought a European boy would work, but it’s hard to impress my husband, I’ve never heard him talk about a bochur like this before. He’s seen him firsthand and interacted with him a lot over the past three weeks. Give us a couple of days to make some phone calls, I’ll let you know if we want you to suggest it.”

Good thing Shaul hadn’t gone to Lakewood, where Shana’s father would never have met him; two days later they gave me the green light. That was the easy part.

I called Shaul. “I have an idea for you,” I said. “An excellent girl from a wonderful family. I think it would be a great fit for you.” I told him about Shana and the very special family she came from. “There’s just one thing, she’s older than you. But age is just a number, right? Would you be open to this?”

Shaul knew Shana’s father from yeshivah and knew how special he was. “It would be an absolute kavod for me to go out with a girl from that family,” he said. “Let me talk to my parents. I’ll get back to you.”

That’s how it happened that Shaul Pinter went out with Shana — Shana Kohen, the daughter of the rebbi whose shiur he was placed in, just for the month of Elul.

Out of respect for their parents, two boys came to Silver Spring on their way to Lakewood just for a short zeman. They left Eretz Yisrael as bochurim and arrived in Lakewood as married men, having touched down briefly in Silver Spring to meet the ones intended for them since the beginning of time.

to be continued…

Shani Leiman is a teacher, shadchan, and dating coach. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 721)

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