Lisa Barkan remembered the words of her late husband, Jeremy: “A year after I’m gone, I want you to go out and find someone else. When I look down from the Heavens, I want to see you wearing colorful clothes, laughing and having fun.”
Moshe Matitya remembered similar conversations with his late wife, Rivka.
Lisa and Moshe both heeded the words of their late spouses.
The worlds of these four American olim (immigrants to Israel) had intersected more than 25 years ago. Lisa, a New Jersey native, recalls: “In 1987 when I was 26 years old, I moved to Jerusalem with a degree from Rutgers University, two suitcases and $500.” Socially, she had a friend whom she considered dating. But he had made one condition: she had to become religiously observant. Even though that relationship didn’t work out in the end, Lisa did over the years become observant.
When Lisa joined Yavne Olami, a religious student organization, she met Rivka and the two women became friends. Some time later, their husbands, Jeremy and Moshe, worked together in hi-tech. “Jeremy had the nicest things to say about Moshe,” smiles Lisa.
Unfortunately, the two families faced similar tragedies. In 2005, Rivka was diagnosed with breast cancer, and chronicled her experiences in a popular blog called “Coffee and Chemo.” She died in 2010. Eighteen months later, Jeremy, too, died from cancer.
“Everyone in the community knew I wanted to re-marry,” Lisa says, “And Moshe’s name came up several times. But I was either not dating or I was involved with someone else. Finally, a mutual friend, who was Moshe’s neighbor in the Jerusalem suburb of Har Homa, simply told me to dump this other guy and go out with Moshe.”
Lisa followed her friend’s advice and soon she and Moshe were chatting on Facebook. They reminisce about their first dinner date in November 2015: “We talked for about four hours about the past and the present. We laughed and we cried. We were very comfortable with each other.” Lisa adds: “Already on our first date, I felt the click.”
Moshe, now 50, is a Yeshiva University alum, who graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in computer science, and works as a senior software programmer. In the spring of 2016, Moshe proposed to Lisa over Shabbat lunch in her home. It was time to talk about their future together.
Lisa is the founder and director of Jerusalem Village, helping young adults develop a sense of belonging in Jerusalem. One of her five principles of startup community building is: “Have Fun.” It’s also a standard for her personal life. She and Moshe have fun together. For their honeymoon, they spent ten days in Disneyworld.
They were married on June 20, 2016, and Rabbi Chanoch Yeres officiated. The venue was a fun place – Jerusalem’s First Station. Still, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd when Lisa was escorted down the aisle by her two sons and the couple’s five children stood with their parents under the chupa.
Before Moshe broke the glass, he referred to the destruction of the Holy Temple, and then he added: “For Lisa and me, the breaking of the glass also symbolizes the awful loss of Rivka and of Jeremy—losses that in many ways are still very fresh, and that still weigh very heavily upon us and our families. Our love for them and the pain of their absence serves to make our joy bittersweet, and yet at the same time, and by the same token, it also serves to make that joy that much more intense. May their memory be blessed.”
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Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches the question: How Jewish couples meet and marry. In the 90’s she founded two nonprofit Jewish matchmaking programs, and continues to champion the role of community in helping singles meet. She resides in Jerusalem and Great Neck, New York.