Aaron Applbaum and Christie Lee met at a Washington, DC event for indigenous Canadian artists in July 2013. At the time, they were both summer interns at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was 21, and he, 22.
Aaron: “When I noticed Christie, I thought she was pretty and walked over to her. We talked until we were the last people in the room.”
Neither had planned to be at the Wilson Center that summer. Aaron: “I was just waiting for a security clearance to begin working at the Department of Defense.” Christie: “And I accepted last minute when I declined an offer from UNESCO in South Korea.”
According to Aaron, Christie was the “social glue” of the interns. She was the one who hosted parties and organized events. But he was the one who initiated their first date at a local bistro on July 23.
A month later, they were back at school as seniors — Christie at Wellesley College and Aaron at Princeton University. Christie: “We talked to each other for hours every single day and visited each other on weekends.” Aaron: “It helped that we were in the same time zone and that it was a quick train ride between Boston and Princeton.”
Then came a two-year commute between Boston and New York. Christie: “Both of us are very career-oriented, but we made a weekly schedule to see each other. We were and are the most important people in each other’s lives. We prioritize each other every single day. It takes effort, time, commitment, resources and discipline to make it work.”
Would they have matched up on a dating app? Christie: “Aaron grew up in an Orthodox home. I’m not sure I would have fallen within his parameters. I grew up in a Christian home.”
They met members of each other’s families already in 2014. First, Christie met Aaron’s dad and later, Aaron spent a week at the Lee home in Dallas, Texas. Christie grew up between Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Aaron grew up in Oakland, California.
Aaron: “Actually we come from similar backgrounds. We both have parents who really cared about us, who created a stable environment and instilled in us a love of education and family. Basically, we share the same values.”
Finally, in 2016, for the first time since they met, Aaron and Christie lived and worked in the same city — Washington. Christie was a product manager at Babyscripts, a healthcare startup and Aaron was the director of investments at Strategic Cyber Ventures LLC. After a year, Aaron was asked to become a principal at Mizmaa Ventures Limited in Tel Aviv.
Christie: “It was a no-brainer that Aaron should take this opportunity, but I would remain in DC.” They continued their routine of daily phone calls and monthly visits.
When I noticed Christie, I thought she was pretty and walked over to her. We talked until we were the last people in the room.
In the meantime, Christie started her conversion process with Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Kesher Israel, The Georgetown Synagogue. Christie: “My mikveh date was August 8, 2019. My mom, Aaron’s mom and brother came for the occasion. It was a double celebration because that night, Aaron proposed.”
The couple wed on January 5, 2020 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC. Soon after, Christie moved to Israel and became head of strategic partnerships in the Tel Aviv office of Tailormed.
Aaron: “The differences between Christie and me are interesting and fun. I was happy to become Korean by marriage.” Christie smiles: “And I’m a very proud convert.” Rabbi Shafner, who officiated at their marriage, noted: “We did a very traditional chuppah and then they added some Korean traditions. They are really masters at honoring and including all the sides in a halachic and holy way.”
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.