For eleven years, Dr. Tova Goldfine was an agunah, the victim of a recalcitrant husband who refused to give her a gett (a Jewish divorce), after abandoning her and their 2-year-old daughter. “Never in a million years did I think I could trust another man,” says Tova.
Still, on her first date with Elimelech (Eli) Vermouth, 59, she invited him to her Jerusalem patio. “I am a healer by profession and by nature,” confesses Tova, 57, a Doctor of Chiropractic. “After my gett was signed in 2013, I began to heal myself.”
In September 2014, Tova and Eli met online via the dating site, “Two Becomes One.”
“There was an immediate attraction when I saw his photo,” recalls Tova. “I was drawn to this man who posed with his granddaughter for a dating site.” Eli adds: “I felt the same way when I saw Tova’s photo with her granddaughter.”
When they met in person, the pair noted their similarities. Both were divorced, he once, and she twice; and each had two daughters. Both Tova and Eli had become religious and observant as adults and both loved Israel. He immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria fifty years ago and she made aliya from Philadelphia in 2009.
Additionally, they were both outdoor enthusiasts. When Tova was seven months pregnant with her first child, she hiked for three hours in 15-degree weather on Mt. Rainier. Eli was a farmer, with a degree in agriculture, who lived in the moshav (settlement) of Ein Tamar, south of the Dead Sea, about a three-hour drive from Tova’s home in Jerusalem. “And Eli can do as many push-ups as I can,” quips Tova, who is also a fitness trainer.
Eli saw his future in the South and shared his vision with Tova. “I liked a man with vision,” asserts Tova, “but I didn’t see myself in Eli’s picture. My practice was in Jerusalem and I couldn’t uproot my 16-year-old daughter.”
After meeting Tova just once, Eli was prepared to re-evaluate his dreams. When he shared his turnabout with Tova, she invited him back to Jerusalem for another conversation, once again on her patio.
“Thanks to help from therapists, rabbis and matchmakers, I was finally ready to pick up where I had left off in my prior marriages,” says Tova. “Eli was the right person at the right time. We shared the same family values, work ethic, and sense of humor. Eli makes me laugh, and this is so important in a marriage. Even though English is not his native tongue, he communicates very well.”
They also checked with their rabbis, and received their blessings. When planning their wedding, there were many decisions to make. How would they spend the first Shabbat after their marriage? They decided to bring together the children and grandchildren from both sides. Eight became One.
Where would they live afterwards? While looking for a home in a Jerusalem suburb, the couple is basically together now on week-ends only. Midweek, Tova stays in Jerusalem to take care of her patients and Eli remains on his moshav.
“I still have to take care of my 90 year-old mother,” insists Eli. “My husband is truly a good soul,” smiles Tova.
Eli and Tova were married in Jerusalem on January 23, 2014. 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.