Samantha Natalie Wolf, 26, and Adrian Kirrin Cohn, 29, are both believers in Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. And they practice what they preach. The two New Yorkers met when they were helping to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
In the spring of 2013, Samantha brought a group of high schoolers to New Orleans for six weeks to volunteer for a nonprofit program whose mission is to shrink the time between disaster and full recovery. Adrian was then a manager of this program, SBP (formerly, the St. Bernard Project). He recalls: “I noticed Samantha almost immediately at the orientation.” Samantha smiles. “I too felt an instant connection.”
On their first date, Adrian brought along his dog, Fitz. He explains: “It relieves the pressure of a first date.” And it was crucial for Adrian to find out how a potential partner felt about dogs. He learned that Samantha had grown up with two canines and loved them as much as he did. Soon, Adrian had two best friends – Samantha and Fitz.
When Samantha’s program ended in April, she returned to New York to look for a job and an apartment. At the same time, Adrian “coincidentally” was visiting his parents in Manhattan and invited Samantha to join them for dinner. She reciprocated and Adrian met Samantha’s family in Port Washington, New York. There was a pivotal moment in their conversation when Adrian asked, “So, are you coming back to New Orleans?”
Adrian’s family goes back to Louisiana for seven generations and he was thrilled when Samantha booked a one-way ticket to New Orleans. They loved the life in New Orleans, including their friends, the music and the food. Still, they decided to move back to New York in 2015 for new job opportunities. “We also missed our parents,” adds Samantha.
The dating site, E-harmony, notes: If you have shared values, your relationship has a good chance of success. It worked for Samantha and Adrian. Both had been inspired with the concept of Tikkun Olam by their families and their temples. Adrian says: “Service is a big part of my identity. As a kid, I participated in the mitzvah day at my temple, the Central Synagogue in Manhattan. Samantha remembers how her mom taught her the importance of “giving back” and always encouraged her and her siblings to help others.
For Samantha, helping others is a full-time job. A graduate from the University of Vermont, Samantha is currently the assistant manager of City Harvest, a nonprofit that fights hunger in the five boroughs of New York City.
Adrian graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Five years after graduation, he received the College’s outstanding service award for his unwavering dedication to Rollins Relief, an organization that focuses on disaster relief initiatives. Adrian currently manages customer accounts for Smartling, a software company in Manhattan that helps brands translate their content.
On December 29, 2015, Adrian proposed. Actually, Adrian, on behalf of himself and his dog Fitz, asked Samantha: Would she would spend the rest of her life “with us?”
Family history and tradition are very important to both Adrian and Samantha. At their wedding, Adrian wore a handkerchief that belonged to his grandfather; his tallit was from Samantha’s grandfather; and the challa cover was made by Samantha’s grandmother. For the wedding blessings, the couple used the Farrnbacher kiddush cup, made in Augsburg, Germany in the late 1700’s. It belonged to Jacob Farrnbacher, Adrian’s first relative to immigrate to the US.
Samantha and Adrian were married on August 20, 2016 in a ceremony overlooking the Hudson River. Rabbi Maurice Salth of Central Synagogue officiated. Mazel Tov.
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.