Mia Schaikewitz would become a reality TV star, but first she met Dave Labowitz in a Los Angeles sports bar. Mia didn’t walk into the bar; she wheeled in, as she’s been in a wheelchair since she was 15 years old. Still, as Dave notes, “the only thing she can’t do is walk.”
Mia remembers the day they met: “I was doing errands in the neighborhood when a friend messaged me about a group meet-up at the bar.” Mia and Dave, huge sports fans, both remember the date – April 11, 2010 – as their home teams were playing. Mia, then 31, was cheering for the Atlanta Braves; whereas Dave, then 34, was a Phillies fan.
After the game, Dave invited the group to his home for pizza and a movie. Mia and her friend Dan accepted, but Dan withdrew when he sensed a spark between Dave and Mia.
Mia recalls that first evening together: “I knew then that we’d have a great friendship. I was very comfortable telling him the story of my paralysis from the waist down which happened when a spinal arteriovenous malformation (AVM) ruptured.”
The couple reflects on their first month together. “I thought we were dating,” says Dave. But Mia had a different take: “I thought we were going out as friends.” She adds: “But from the beginning, my parents knew he was going to be my husband, and they kind of put the bug in my ear.”
Mia believes that there are no such things as obstacles, only challenges to be overcome. She was the first wheelchair user at the University of Florida to pledge a sorority. She graduated with a major in Media Production and now works as a motivational speaker and graphic designer. Her latest passion is ballroom dancing.
Dave too overcame diversity. Though he initially dropped out of high school, he later attended Pepperdine University on a full- scholarship, graduated with high honors, and received an MBA. For over a decade he worked as an operations and finance executive in high growth start-ups, and recently started a business coaching service.
“Dave is the most loyal person that I know,” smiles Mia. “For a brief time during our relationship, I went off to work out some issues. But Dave was there for me when I figured things out.”
Mia’s experiences were documented in Push Girls, which won the Critic’s Choice Award for the best reality series in 2013. It featured four attractive women in wheelchairs who chose triumph over tragedy.
“Dave makes things fit together,” remarks Mia. His proposal on October 17, 2014 was in character. They both love puzzles and he had one made to order, with a picture of them at a baseball game. When Mia noticed that a piece was missing, Dave kneeled down on one knee and handed her the missing piece along with a ring box. “Mia, you’re my missing piece. Will you marry me?”
“Mia was the first Jewish girl I ever dated,” Dave divulges. “Though I was born Jewish, I was basically without a Jewish identity.” On the other hand, Mia always planned to marry Jewish and wanted to honeymoon in Israel. When Dave googled the two words – “Honeymoon” and “Israel”- he noticed a program called “Honeymoon Israel,” which provides highly subsidized trips. As an engaged couple, they qualified and were accepted for the trip.
“The experience changed my life,” exclaims Dave. “After two weeks, the Jewish people became my people and my family. I was so inspired that I wanted my marriage ceremony to take place in Israel.”
On September 14, 2016, Mia and Dave were wed in Israel in the presence of three Honeymoon Israel groups. Rabbi Rami Schwartzer officiated. Mia likes to say: “Believing in yourself means never having to say: I can’t.”
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