Aliza Yaillen met Josh Gross at the 2019 Purim party in the Sixth Street Community Synagogue in Manhattan. She was then 23, and he, 26.
Aliza: “I ended up at the party by chance. A friend suggested the idea after we heard the Megillah at the Camp Ramah minyan.”
Earlier in the evening, Josh was at the Meor Manhattan JEC for the Megillah reading. Afterwards, he and some friends headed to the Sixth Street Synagogue, known for its popular Purim parties. But the line to get inside was around the block. “Luckily I made my way in,” said Josh.
Once inside the party, Aliza made the first move. Aliza: “I was really nervous but I walked right up to him and started the conversation by saying: ‘I think I know you from the gym.’” In fact, he had also recognized her from the gym but they had never spoken before. It turned out that they lived in the same building and shared the same basement. Yet they had no mutual friends.
Josh: “I grew up in the Five Towns, went to the Modern Orthodox Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) and I had never dated anyone from the Camp Ramah world.”
As their conversation was ending, Aliza made an attempt to stay in touch. Aliza: “I really wanted his phone number, but he wouldn’t give it to me. He asked me to message him on Facebook, which I did.” But it took him about 10 days to respond. In the meantime, he went skiing, one of his passions.
Josh: “I’d had too many typical first dates and decided, instead, to invite Aliza to my home for a Shabbat meal.” Twenty other people also showed up. Aliza: “It was like a HAFTR reunion and I knew only two people there – Josh and a friend who had come along with me. I was not very comfortable.”
Aliza didn’t give up. On April 6, Aliza messaged Josh about a party she was hosting that night in their neighborhood. Around midnight, when he hadn’t showed up, she messaged him again. “You missed my birthday party.”
Josh: “I had messed up with this girl and decided to go to her party even though I hardly know her.” He rushed to the party and walked her home afterwards. Then, about a month after they first met, they went on their first date, to a Starbucks downtown. Josh: “After that, we had one wonderful date after another, and we fell madly in love with each other.”
I had messed up with this girl and decided to go to her party even though I hardly know her.
Josh is a graduate of the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY and is currently Yield Book Relationship Manager at the London Stock Exchange Group. Aliza graduated UMass Amherst and is currently completing her thesis for an MFA in Creative Writing at City College.
Though they grew up at different points on the religious spectrum, this is not an issue for them today. Josh: “I’m comfortable at Or Zarua, the Yaillen’s shul, and Aliza is comfortable at the Young Israel of Woodmere.”
Aliza started skiing with Josh last year. Aliza: “I still don’t like snow, but I like skiing with Josh.”
Support the New York Jewish Week
Our nonprofit newsroom depends on readers like you. Make a donation now to support independent Jewish journalism in New York.
On Oct. 18, 2020, Josh proposed to Aliza at Long Beach, followed by a drive-by lchaim at Josh’s family home. Though they had scheduled the wedding for May, because of the coronavirus, they re-scheduled for August 15 at the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation.
Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches the question: How Jewish couples meet and marry. In the ’90s 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.