“No one would have thought to fix us up” she says. “He was too standard and I was too strange.”
Sharone Chernyak and Jonathan Bloom were juniors at Yeshiva University at the same time, and yet their paths had never crossed. That is, until 2012, the summer before graduation, when they were 22. Both had been accepted into the CLIP Leadership Internship Program at New York University, even though each had doubts about the program.
“I was ambivalent,” says Chernyak, a cosmopolitan co-ed, who preferred a fun summer, but chose the professional opportunity to spend four days per week as an intern at the UJA-Federation of New York and Fridays in educational seminars with the other 50 CLIP interns.
“I was reluctant because I wasn’t used to pluralistic programs,” says Bloom, a modern Orthodox guy from New Jersey. CLIP’s goal was to develop a cohort of talented individuals representing the diversity of the Jewish community.
“I’ll just mind my own business,” decided Bloom, a psychology major, and brought his own lunch to the seminar on the first day. But three religious girls spotted “the guy with the kippa,” and invited him to their table. Bloom and Chernyak were formally introduced.
“The discussions at the seminars were intellectually stimulating,” says Bloom, “and I was impressed with Chernyak’s passion about Judaism. I also admired her strength and courage.”
Chernyak spent her formative years in Leipzig, Germany. She received numerous academic awards while studying in France and Italy before immigrating to the United States and enrolling in Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women.
Bloom and Chernyak were both living in Washington Heights that summer, and shared the hour commute to the Friday seminars. “From the beginning, we hit it off,” says Bloom.
Six weeks into the ten-week program, both consulted with a mutual friend, Mati. “Maybe I’ll ask her out,” confided Bloom. “Maybe I’d go out with him,” confided Chernyak. His advice – wait a bit.
Bloom waited three weeks and then invited Chernyak out for coffee. Soon thereafter, Chernyak met Bloom’s parents when they came for the program’s closing ceremony. “It was important to me to find a guy who had strong bonds with his family,” says Chernyak, “and the Blooms are a wonderful family.”
As their relationship became more serious, the couple traveled to Germany to meet Chernyak’s parents and sister. For Bloom, a fourth generation American, it was a new experience.
To celebrate the eight-month anniversary of their first date, Bloom surprised Chernyak by taking her on an excursion that ended at the Belvedere Castle in Central Park. In this European-like setting, Chernyak read a book that Bloom had prepared for her. On the last page were the words: “Will you marry me?”
About 250 people attended their wedding. A special guest was Rabbi David Chandalov, from Leipzig, Germany, who had played an important role in Chernyak’s religious life. As fate would have it, Bloom’s dad had played a pivotal role in the religious life of Rabbi Chandalov’s mother-in-law when they worked together in New York City, about 30 years earlier.
A guest at the wedding remarked: “This was a Hollywood wedding in God’s eyes, with God playing Spielberg.”
Bloom and Chernyak were married on August 26, 2013. Mazal 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.