“I prayed that God would help me find my bashert, [meant-to-be spouse]” says Esther Avital, “and my prayers came true.”
Esther Avital Gottesman was not born Jewish. She was born Heather Fuller to Christian parents in Santa Ana, California. Around the age of 10, she didn’t want to be Christian anymore. She didn't like having to pray through an intermediary and she had a teenage obsession with Adam Duritz, lead singer of Counting Crows, who was Jewish.
She took classes in Judaism with Reform rabbis in college, but never felt a connection. Following her graduation from California State University, she began studying for a strictly orthodox conversion. Finally, at the age of 31, she was converted by the Rabbinical Council of California. In 2009, she was at last a Jew and became Esther Avital.
When Esther Avital decided she wanted to study in Israel, the go-to person was Richard Horowitz of Aish Hatorah, who was known to make things happen. He didn’t disappoint. In the fall of 2009, Esther Avital enrolled at the She’arim Seminary for Women in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem. After taking a course in Dating for Marriage, she was open to proposals.
Gila, a friend from She’arim, approached Esther Avital. Gila’s husband was a student at a men’s yeshiva in the same neighborhood, and there was a student the couple wanted Esther Avital to meet.
Frank Gottesman came to study in Jerusalem from Phoenix, Arizona. He, too, was helped to Israel by Horowitz of Aish Hatorah.
“When I was approached about Esther Avital, I was taking a time-out from dating,” says Frank, who was then 34. Still, he told his friend to contact his shadchanit [matchmaker], Dorraine Gilbert Weiss.
Dorraine was most enthusiastic about the potential match. Esther Avital wasn’t so sure. She wondered: Was this just a sales pitch? But Dorraine persisted. “I have a husband for you,” she told Esther Avital. Esther Avital later learned that Dorraine had a knack for making matches, and helping to guide them through the dating process and beyond.
Before their date, Dorraine clarified two issues with Frank. Was he OK with dating a convert? “Not a problem,” he said. His mom was a convert. Was Frank OK with a full-figured woman? “Definitely,” he said. “You can start planning your wedding,” said Dorraine.
The guy is supposed is to call the woman soon after accepting the suggestion of the matchmaker. But Frank sprained his ankle. Their first date was delayed until December 12, 2009. They both gave thumbs up to Dorraine the day after.
“It was very easy to talk with Esther Avital,” says Frank, who is an introvert.
“We seemed to complement each other,” says Esther Avita l– “I am generally high strung and he is calm.”
By their fourth date, they were both beaming. They shared the same religious worldview and both liked the idea of living in the town of Beitar Illit, about six miles south of Jerusalem.
She had one concern: “If my father, who has Parkinson’s disease, had nowhere to go, could he come to live with us?” Frank was totally agreeable.
Esther Avital expanded her prayer. “I prayed to Hashem [God] that Frank was my bashert. I felt that he adored me, and I didn’t want to lose him.”
According to Jewish tradition, there is special significance to prayers recited at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On December 31, 2009, Frank proposed to Esther Avital next to the Western Wall.
With the blessings of their new community, and in the presence of her parents, Esther Avital and Frank were married on March 7, 2010. Mazal tov!