The Gap Year Fair in Great Neck, New York, brought the couple together –Nick Hakimi, who was then 26, and Lital Hirsch, 20. The fair, hosted by the Young Mashadi Jewish Center, presented opportunities for spending a year in Israel. Lital was the official representative of Masa Israel Journey and Nick managed a booth about the Israeli army. Their booths were right next to each other; and that’s how they met on Nov. 17, 2019.
Lital: “I wasn’t supposed to be at the fair. But a colleague at Masa couldn’t work that day, and at the last minute, she asked me to take her place. I have perfect faith that it was min hashamayim,” an act of God.
She continues: “I remember that Nick and I made eye contact when he entered the hall, and then he stopped by my table. During our conversation, he told me that he was a New Yorker who had served in the Israeli army after college. We seemed to get along very well, but, after the fair, he simply vanished.”
In fact, Lital was on Nick’s mind the following day. Lital had a colleague, who was also Nick’s friend. When the friend texted Nick to ask about Lital, Nick responded, “I should have asked her out.”
But he didn’t. And, six months later, it was Lital who took the first step.
Lital: “I was scrolling this Facebook group and Nick ‘popped up’ on the page – people you may know. I Facebooked him and he messaged me immediately afterwards.”
Nick: “I told her that I was coming to her neighborhood in Queens, and asked her if she wanted to hang out.”
Nick wasn’t just coming to Queens, but delivering food for the Tomchei Shabbos program – an organization of volunteers, which provides Shabbat food packages to families in need.
“I wondered about his business in Queens, but Nick is very humble, and doesn’t like to talk about his good deeds,” Liat recalled. “Finally he told me and I thought, even if we didn’t like each other we would spend the time together doing something good.”
Lital was born in Long Island and moved to Israel when she was five. After graduating from high school, she did National Service and then moved to New York, where she currently studies law online at the College of Law and Business in Ramat Gan, Israel.
“Lital was everything I was looking for,” said Nick. “Among other things, she was religious and wanted to live in Israel someday. And even before I knew that she was the one, I introduced her to my family and to my community – the Mashadis, so called because we trace our roots back to the city of Mashad, Iran. In our community, it is unconventional to bring a girl home before a relationship has been formalized. Nevertheless, my mom said she wouldn’t change her for anyone else — Mashadi or not.”
Nick grew up in Great Neck and graduated Queens College with a B.A. in applied mathematics, physics and computer science. He is currently a licensed real estate broker.
Because they started dating during Covid times, they avoided indoor activities. Luckily they both love the outdoors and enjoy skiing and snowboarding. On Feb. 24, 2021, Nick proposed to Lital at the summit of Jiminy Peak, a ski resort in western Massachusetts.
What’s the takeaway from their story? Nick: “We’re both believers in shomrei negia,” or refraining from physical contact with members of the opposite sex before marriage. “It works. You really enjoy a person’s company when you can’t touch.”
Corona and God permitting, Nick and Lital plan to wed in Israel in the summer of 2021.
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.