The Story of Us
Tamar Silton-my fiancée
Akiva Silton-my future brother-in-law
Michal Silton-my future sister-in-law
David Kahan- married to Michal and a classmate of mine at JDS from 3rd -12th grade
Act I, Scene I-the Discussion
I had come into shul (synagogue) on a September morning to find my usual seat next to Akiva occupied by another man. I inquired and found out that the usurper of my place was Neil, the boyfriend of Akiva’s sister, Tamar.
Soon thereafter, I sat down next to Tamar at the Siyyum Tanakh (celebration of the communal study of the Old Testament) to discuss what I had found out was a common situation. As it stood, Tamar and Neil shared a similar “observance gap” as Emily and I did. Tamar and I were both considerably more observant of traditional Jewish laws and customs than either Emily or Neil were and my initial discussion with Tamar was about how she and I were dealing with this issue. Our focus during the conversation that afternoon and in subsequent conversations over the next few months was in how each of us could improve and better our relationships with our respective romantic interests. We suggested doing a double date to foster the communication on the topic and even advocated that Neil and Emily speak with each other about their feelings on the subject, which they did.
We thought nothing other than a sincere desire to help each other in our efforts to build solid relationships.
Act I, Scene II-the Break-ups
The winter months saw both of us end our relationships with Neil and Emily, get back together with them, and then end the relationships again.
On the night of February 24th, after a phone conversation with Emily from my office in which I stated that our relationship was over, I emerged from the subway station at 96th and Broadway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I heard someone call out my name. It was David Kahan.
“Hey Jer, how are things? How is Emily?”
“Uh, things aren’t so great. Emily and I broke up.”
David kept me company as I ran some errands and then we went our separate ways.
Act I, Scene III-the Suggestion
David went home that night and told his wife Michal that he had run into me on the street. Her response, “so, what do you think about Jeremy and Tamar?”
“That could work,” (allegedly David never agreed with Michal’s previous suggestions for matches) “but I think you need to give Jeremy some time.”
Five weeks later, Michal called Tamar.
“Tamar, what do you think about Jeremy Epstein?”
“I think he’s a great guy, but I don’t want you to get any ideas. If he wants to ask me out, he’ll have to do it himself. I forbid you from suggesting it to him.”
Undeterred, Michal called Akiva and suggested the idea. A few days later, my phone rings. It is Akiva (who had not been forbidden by Tamar from calling me) and eventually the conversation turns to our romantic lives.
“I heard about you and Emily. So, what do you think about my sister, Tamar?”
“Wow. First of all, let me say how honored I am, since this is the highest compliment that one man can pay another man. I like the idea in principle, just give me a few days to think about it. I just want to make sure that I’m ready to start a new relationship.”
Act II, Scene I-the First Move
That Shabbat (Saturday), I went up to Akiva after services were over and pulled him off to the side.
“Akiva, I like the idea of dating your sister, so here’s the offer I’m going to make. I know you are a good, protective brother, so let’s do this. You can tell me whatever you think I need to know about her and then you can ask me any questions you have. I promise to answer them 100% honestly. However, if at that point, you give me the green light, you just have to stay out of my way.”
Akiva accepted the offer and for the next four minutes, the negotiation took place. Akiva mentioned a few things, but his basic point was “my sister is different from other women you’ve dated. You know how to treat a woman right, so do it.” I took that message to heart and Akiva was thus satisfied and gave me the green light. I immediately took the initiative and went over to Tamar.
“Shabbat Shalom, Tamar. I was wondering, if you are free this afternoon, would you like to go for a walk?”
“I’d love to. How about 3.15?”
“Great, I’ll meet you at your apartment.”
Act II, Scene II-the Courtship
On April 15th, we took our first walk-in Riverside Park-from 87th St. to 115th St. and back, talking (in Hebrew too), laughing, and sharing the pain of our recent break-ups.
Soon afterwards, we added long phone calls (one of them was over 6.5 hours), long emails (I’ve got over 100 in my Tamar folder), and long talks to our long walks and with each subsequent interaction, we each became more and more convinced of the uniqueness of the individual on the other end of the conversation. Our friendship developed based on a commitment to open, frank, and honest communication and the “It’s Just Me” principle-Tamar’s incredibly soothing way of putting me at ease and encouraging me to not fear vulnerability or embarrassment when talking with her.
I found myself raised to a new level of awareness of the needs, opinions, and perspectives of another human being. My frame of reference shifted from a totally independent ‘lone wolf’ to an interdependent partner in a mutually symbiotic, trusting, confidence-building and inspiring relationship.
When we were apart, we wanted to be together. Our time was limited for the bulk of the first few months, since Tamar was studying for the New York Bar at the end of July. In spite of this hurdle, however, our friendship, relationship, communication, and love continued to blossom. We met the bulk of each other’s family and only received encouragement, support, and approval for the decision we seemed headed towards making.
Act III, Scene I-Travels in Ghana
Right before Tamar was to take the Bar, I left with my dad for 17 days in Ghana. It was during that trip where things started to gel. I missed her so much that I called her EVERYDAY.
On our last night in Ghana, my father and brother, Barak, began their intellectual assault on my position. I had conditioned my parents to not ask questions about the status of our relationship, but since my father had generously offered to subsidize most of my calls to Tamar, I told him that his donations entitled him to some information. He, frank as always, turned over in bed and said “Well, my question is simply: Are you going to marry Tamar? And if so, when?”
I stood there, trying to avoid the direct question. Barak and my dad started building the case, which basically was “look, you are madly in love with this woman. Her values are similar to your values. She’s smart, attractive, and everyone loves her. What more do you need to think about?”
“I don’t know, I guess I’m waiting for the right moment.”
“You don’t need to wait for the right moment. Whenever and wherever you ask her, it is the event, it is the moment.”
That weekend, my father and I were in the Netherlands and as I sat in a park in The Hague on a sunny Saturday afternoon, thinking about life, it occurred to me, “Dad’s right, what more do I need to think about? I love this woman with all of my heart and I do want to marry her.”
Act III, Scene II-the Question
Tamar showed up at my apartment at 9pm on Sunday night August 6th, 2000, a few hours after I returned from my trip. We were lying on my bed, with only the light from a flickering candle to illuminate the room, talking about everything. Around 11.30 or so, I turned to her and said, “Tamar, I love you. Will you marry me?”
“That’s my plan.”
“So is that a yes?”
“Yes, it is.”
After a few moments of embrace, I said “Can we agree that we won’t tell everyone for a while? I want to have some time for us before the Engagement Tsunami begins.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” she said, as if I needed additional confirmation that this woman is perfect for me.
We agreed to hold off making a public announcement until mid-October, when my parents would be in Albany, NY, visiting her family for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. We also wanted to use the time to do as much planning for the wedding on our own to alleviate the parental burden, which we’ve been moderately successful at doing. We reveled in the knowledge that the two of us were holding onto a secret this big all while our family and friends were speculating and asking about our future plans.
Act III, Scene III-the Announcement
Our minds were changed for a variety of reasons by a confluence of events that precipitated within the past 24 hours and we decided that tonight (August 28th) was to be the night.
We went to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. In attendance were Michal, with her son Eli, Akiva, his fiancée Sharon, Aviva (another one of Tamar’s sisters), Lizi (Tamar’s cousin), my mother, and my cousin, Barry Epstein.
In the middle of the conversation, Tamar put her arms around me and said: “I love this man and I am going to marry him.”
My mom: “Is this some sort of formal announcement?”
Tamar: “How does March 18th sound?”
The rest of the table goes quiet. SHOCK. Someone says “wait, what’s going on here?”
Jeremy: “We’re getting married on March 18th.”
Someone else: “Is this a joke?”
Tamar: “No, we’ve been engaged for three weeks. We just didn’t tell anyone.”
No one quite believed what had happened. Cell phones (five of them) come out. Calls are made and the Engagement Tsunami officially begins.
(By the way, the dialogue herein is paraphrased since I don’t remember the exact words)
P.S. Just so you know, for those of you whom I will have the ability to invite, be aware, your invitation will only be sent digitally.
The Tamar Silton FAQ
How old is she? 25
What does she do? She is an Assistant District Attorney for the City of New York, working in the Office of Special Narcotics.
Where is she from? Albany, NY
Where did she go to school? Brandeis University for college; Cardozo for law school
How many people in her family? A hell of a lot. She’s #4 of 7. Six girls, one boy. But with marriages, she’s got three additional brothers and one future additional sister. Her father is a Rabbi and her mother is an educator/author/principal.
What does she like to do in her free time? She is an amazing dancer (specializing in Israeli folk). She is a culinary wizard and a workout fiend. She loves to sing, play instruments, crochet, read, and snuggle.
What languages does she know? Hebrew (fluently, far better than I); Chinese (quite limited); French (moderately limited); Latin; Aramaic (limited); Yiddish (limited)
What’s her favorite flavor of frozen yogurt? Chocolate.