They’re both Americans – he’s from Missouri and she’s from Florida – but they met in Ra’anana, Israel. In the spring of 2011, Andrea “Andy” Surasky, then 20, was living in Ra’anana with her family, who had come to live in Israel after Andy graduated high school. Jason Ast, then 23, was living in another Israeli town, but would come to Ra’anana to visit his friend, Simcha.
It was Simcha who brought Andy and Jason together, but not deliberately. Simcha reflects: “Honestly, I didn’t set them up as a couple. It just happened when we would all hang out together as a group.”
It’s not surprising, actually: A community of friends are the arena in which new couples are most likely to meet,” according to Professor Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University, in a 2010 research paper.
For example, they both appreciate quality food. Jason, who majored in “Second Temple Literature” at Yeshiva University, came to Israel following his graduation to study at the Tadmor Culinary Institute of Israel. When Andy was growing up in Boca Raton, she would help her dad in his popular kosher pizza restaurant, “Jon’s Place.”
Fast forward three years – Jason helped open a Jon’s Place in Ra’anana. At home, Jason does the cooking and Andy does the baking.
In August 2011, Jason moved to Ra’anana, and their relationship deepened. When asked to describe Jason, Andy responds: “He’s motivated to learn; he’s generous and he’s a good guy.”
The Jewish community in his hometown of St. Louis gives testimony to Jason’s goodness. A grateful resident writes: “Years ago when my father became ill, this amazing 11-year-old boy, who didn’t even know my father, offered to push his wheelchair to the synagogue every week. It was about a 15-minute walk, with a substantial uphill part. He insisted on doing it until he graduated from high school and left St. Louis. Before leaving, he not only found someone to take over, but made sure to find someone who had a younger brother, so the younger brother could take over in the future.”
Jason likes to do good deeds, and he realizes that this can happen at Andy’s expense. He admits: “Sometimes I’m late in getting home because I stopped to assist someone.” Andy, who is a student of psychology at The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, can understand and appreciate Jason’s willingness to help others.
Knowing that they would be living in Israel, the couple registered for a contest sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that promotes and facilitates immigration to Israel. To win this social media-based contest, called "The Wedding Gift Challenge," newlywed couples had to solicit votes from their family and friends. Jason and Andy won a top prize – a $1,000 gift certificate to IKEA. Many of their votes came from the Jewish community in St. Louis. Kindness begets kindness.
Jason and Andy were married on July 28, 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