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How Barry met Rachel

How Barry met Rachel

Dr. Leah Hakimian is a Jewish Week online columnist. She 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.

Rachel was a rising star in the Democratic Party and she left her home base to follow her man. A Republican, no less.

Rachel Storch was a state representative in the Missouri House and had been chosen to head its Democratic campaign. Then another opportunity knocked.

In February, 2009, Rachel, 37, was co-chairing an event at the outreach organization Aish St. Louis and drove in for the evening from the state capital, Jefferson City. The speaker was Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis, an author and matchmaker, and the founder of another Jewish outreach organization, Hineni. The two women had a personal connection. Rachel’s mother, who died from leukemia in 2006, had started reading the rebbitzen’s books and speaking to her on the phone. Rachel’s brother had put them in touch.

Rebbitzen Jungreis says: “It was my honor to call Mrs. Storch. Soon we became close friends and we would speak several times a week. She had one request – ‘Please, Rebbitzin, please make sure that my children find Jewish soul mates.”

So, the rebbitzen approached Rachel Storch at the Aish event and wanted her to meet Barry Akrongold, a Harvard Business School graduate and a real estate and investment entrepreneur in New York City. The legislator was caught off guard and did not want to say “no” to the rebbitzen.

Barry had a similar connection to Jungreis. “My mom attended Hineni services until she became ill with cancer,” he says. “From her hospital bed, she summoned all her energy to ask the rebbitzen to find me a good Jewish girl.”

“The rebbitzen tried several times,” continues Barry, “but nothing worked. Still, he trusted her instincts. She had been the matchmaker for his brother, and he was willing to give it another try. Two days after the rebbitzen’s prompting, Barry called Rachel, and Rachel sensed both warmth and kindness in his voice. When the rebbitzen got positive vibes from both sides, she encouraged Rachel to go and visit Barry in New York. How could she say “no” to the rebbitzen?

“We clicked from the beginning,” says Rachel, “and we had a wonderful first weekend together. I came to New York a second time, and then Barry came to St. Louis.”

Rachel, a Harvard graduate, had some serious thinking to do – she would have to leave behind her political office, her home, and most of her family. But, come to think of it, she reasoned, “there were plenty of political opportunities in New York, where two of her siblings lived.”

Exactly 11 months after they met, with the St. Louis Arch in view, Barry proposed to Rachel, and she said yes. “I was sorry to leave St. Louis. But happy to go,” she says.

The couple asked Rebbitzen Jungreis’s son to be the officiating rabbi at their wedding. “After all,” says Barry, “Rebbitzen Jungreis gets 100% credit for our relationship.” She had done her best to fulfill the wishes of two mothers, whose pictures were with the couple under their chuppah.

Rachel and Barry were married on June 27, 2010. Mazal tov!

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