Nexus to the chuppah

Nexus to the chuppah

Why do we Jews love the popular game known as Jewish geography? It’s probably because we’re usually winners. When we meet someone new we often play that game, whose rules are loosely defined.

Location counts as a big component. If we meet a new Jew from some obscure place on another continent, we’re less likely to hit the jackpot than if that Jew comes from, say, Chicago or Los Angeles. The reward, of course, is the match! You know the Goldbergs from Chicago or the Bernsteins from L.A. Wait! We’re related. Incredible. And then you take it from there.

That is the nexus, the ultimate connection, when two total strangers find out they’re not such total strangers after all, that your cousin is his cousin or your best friend is the niece of his great-aunt, or your father and his father went to college together, or to yeshiva, or to Israel on a high school pilgrimage. It doesn’t take long at all to reach this point, and it rarely disappoints. If you play strategically enough, you’ll almost always find a connection.

And what is accomplished? You are connected, and you and the stranger are strangers no more. You are part of the same network. You have a new friend or relative. You have once again proven that where Jews are concerned, it is a small world after all. You are part of the grid that connects all Jews, one to the other. It’s a brotherhood or sisterhood. And it’s great for matchmaking or doing business or any of many other joys and benefits of being a Jew.

That’s why, for instance, if you send me an email where you address me as Mrs. Skopp, I will invariably reply to you on a first-name basis, because I know that somehow we are related or connected. So let’s dispense with the formality, which just doesn’t seem very Jewish to me. You may, and should, call me Ro. Please!

A fellow Jew can be helpful even if you’ve just met. Here’s an example from several years ago, when our daughter and son-in-law were in India. Day after day they tried to get on a particular flight. Each day they returned from the travel agent, disappointed. There were no seats on any flights to their chosen destination. Finally a local rabbi put them in touch with a Jewish friend who, he was certain, could help. And he did. It was a giant shock when they finally boarded the flight to discover it was more than half empty. Inexplicable? Of course. But we’ll never know how long it would have been, if ever, had they continued to try on their own.

My father met my mother quite a long time ago, when he was living in California and she in Brooklyn. Two of his sisters worked at the Bauman House, then a hotel in Parksville, New York, and thought my pretty mother would be a perfect match for their brother Sam. He thought so too, and they were happily married for more than 60 years. This was the same nexus, moving forward on the game’s grid. The sisters had been hired at the Bauman House because someone knew someone who recommended them for the jobs. And thus whole generations emerged from their work and the marriage.

Something very similar happened to my husband and me. We met at the Tanzville Hotel in Parksville because his sister had married the owner’s nephew, who suggested him for a job as a waiter. I was hired for my own job as a day camp counselor because of my mother’s lifelong acquaintance with the hotel owner. That job, with its abysmal tips, paid me $15 per week! Maybe the connectivity, the protectzia to use the Hebrew term, wasn’t so helpful after all with that particular job, but the marriage seems to be working out.

We all have these stories of who knew whom and how it shaped their lives. Very soon we will be at the wedding of our granddaughter Maayan, who was introduced to her husband-to-be, Ari, by our granddaughter-in-law Nina, married to our grandson Yoni. They did not meet in a vacuum. They met because it was their destiny, and wonderful Nina was the instrument of that match.

And now we prepare for one of the most joyous events in all our lives, another march to the chuppah, a moment of love and fulfillment and happiness between chatan and kallah and all those who share in the event. We speak of the wedding canopy in the same way. We call it THE wedding, assuming that the world surrounding us, that same world with all of its other kinds of news, is fading under the weight of the overwhelming moment of gladness that we are immersed in, as if there has never ever been such a glorious event.

Each wedding is its own dream come true. Each wedding is unprecedented because it features this couple and their commitment to one another. And although life goes on, and the sad news, the worrisome news, is never out of view, we can, at least, subdue it for a while and opt for happiness. This makes life worthwhile. This is so we can say with enthusiastic vigor, l’chaim! Life is beautiful, life is worth living, and our reward is magnificent moments like these.

Thus we prepare for weddings. We buy special outfits. We clear the dates as much as is humanly possible. Hair and nail appointments are booked. Maybe makeup too. We don’t just roll out of bed and go to a wedding. We must be ready. Ready to dance and sing and celebrate the sheer fabulousness of it all. If those times would only last forever!

We have done this before and it has never disappointed. We have embraced the weddings of our cherished grandchildren Eitan and Dita, Adiel and Matt, Yoni and Nina, Benji and Erica, Liat and Chaim, and Josh and Shosh.

Maayan is the new and treasured kallah at this wedding. Her bashert is our soon-to-be-grandson Ari. She was born and raised in New York City; she’s an Upper West Side young woman. He comes from the South, not Arkansas, Alabama, or Carolina, but the real Jewish South, South Florida. Today we witnessed their application for a wedding license. We are getting closer. Mazal tov.

Our families, Ari’s and ours, have been together for a string of events, parties, kiddushes, happy get togethers, so that we could meet each other and be as one. One fascinating part of all this partying, with its numerous kisses, calories, and delicacies, is that nexus, the feeling that we already know each other, that we were never strangers. It’s that Jewish connection, never six degrees of separation, but a kinship that allows us to be comfortable and at home even if we have never met before.

It’s so logical, after all. Ari and Maayan must have felt it from the moment they met. They must have sensed it and been pulled into its loving web. And they must have thought this will be my beloved. Ani l’dodi.

It’s really breathtaking. Our children and grandchildren, including Maayan and Ari, have grown up in the care of the same schools and camps and shuls and Israel trips and organizations, and this one went to Brandeis with that one and she went to Penn with him and they knew all of the same people. Our Crowd has a new reality. It is not describing, as it once did, those Jews from Germany a hundred years ago. It is speaking of those Jews from Ramah and Heschel and Hillel and the Upper West Side and Frisch and Tzahal and Hebrew University and that yeshiva in Israel, not to mention that seminary, and that other Hollywood, the one in Florida, extending their routes and their roots and forming a giant web of connectedness. When we meet each other, we are not among strangers; we are at home with one another. We have the same opinions and feelings and worries and hopes. In truth we know each other. And so it is that Shmu, our dear friend who weaves into the generations of our family and has been a part of us seemingly, forever, also knows Ari’s family very well and for just as long. And he’s only one of others who are similarly merged into a loving group. The guest list at the wedding will be amorphous. Echod, mi yodeah? Who knows whom? Ani yodaat! It seems like everyone. And even those who truly know no one will feel at home, as if they belong — which they do.

How does this stuff happen? It starts with our histories being unraveled. My sister tells me that her daughter-in-law, the beautiful Neta, a brilliant Israeli pediatrician, has roots in the same Polish town that our family comes from, Augustow, a lovely place where canals provide enchantment, now minus the Jews who are no longer alive or welcome. But we know that if our families had been able to stay in Augustow, my nephew Ilan and Neta still would have found each other. Undoubtedly. That’s how the nexus works.

And so we shall soon share an exciting wedding. The bride, Maayan, will finish dental school in a few days and shortly thereafter embark on a three-year program in orthodontics. The groom, Ari, will finish medical school in a few days and shortly thereafter embark on a five-year program in orthopedics. Somehow in their busy lives they will find time to rejoice in their togetherness, often with chevrah from the nexus that brought them together.

We, the grandparents of both of them by then, will share their happiness. Ken yehi ratzon! Mazal tov!

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of five.    She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel.  She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was! She welcomes email at

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