Dan Fogelman scooted into Lauren’s row of the Broadway theater fifteen minutes into the first act. Lauren Phillips scolded him for the interruption, and he apologized during intermission. By the end of the program, Lauren was humming a song from the show: “I’ve decided to marry you.”
“Our stars were aligned,” exclaims Lauren. They’d both chosen the musical, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, for August 28, 2014. Their seats were one row apart. Lauren and her friend Whitney were in the first row of the balcony, with a vacant seat next to Lauren.
Before the show started, Dan asked to move to the vacant seat for a better view. The usher said he had to wait until intermission. When the usher left, Dan made his move. That’s how Dan met Lauren.
When the couple started talking during intermission, they realized they had a mutual friend, Rich. Rich and Lauren had shared the same Bar/Bat Mitzva Shabbat at their conservative synagogue in Great Neck. Rich and Dan had been friends in law school at Touro College.
Both Lauren and Dan are native New Yorkers. Dan, 35, is a graduate of Brandeis and works in Manhattan as an attorney adviser to the Social Security Administration.
Lauren, 34, graduated from Tufts, received a master’s in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory, and was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in Manhattan.
Lauren was reluctant to tell Dan that she was a cantor. She explains: “Some guys found it intimidating to date a cantor.” Dan thought differently. “I was impressed,” and he asked for her phone number.
He texted her the following day, but they had to wait for their first date. Dan was going out of town and Lauren was celebrating the wedding of her youngest brother.
They spent many hours on Facetime, since Lauren was working as a cantor at Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the time. “To me, Facetime counted as a date,” says Dan. But Lauren took it with a grain of salt.
When Dan told her he had tickets for a September 17th Billy Joel concert, Lauren grabbed the moment. She clarifies: “Wednesday was my day off and I made a 24-hour secret trip to New York. If, G-d forbid, there had been a funeral, I might not have been able to go.” Dan was originally supposed to attend the concert with his best friend Danny, who offered his ticket to Lauren with no hesitation – he could see that Dan was serious.
From then on, the couple would travel back and forth on alternating weeks between New York and Milwaukee. On Thanksgiving weekend they met each other’s parents.
In August 2015 Dan proposed to Lauren in the same seats in the theater where they had met a year earlier. Once again, Whitney was in the aisle seat.
After three years in Milwaukee, Lauren now serves as cantor at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, Connecticut.
At their wedding in New Rochelle on September 4, 2016, Lauren’s friends played all the musical roles. Rabbi David B. Cohen, her colleague in Milwaukee, officiated alongside her teacher, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller. Whitney and Danny were the witnesses to the ketubah. And Lauren sang to Dan.
“It was meant to be,” smiles Lauren. “Things happen when you least expect them… I met my husband by living my life and doing something that I enjoyed, like going to the theater.
“It was also dumb luck,” grins Dan. “But you have to put yourself out there where dumb luck can happen.”
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.