Rebecca Stern and Jesse Wenger met in first grade. She was his first love and he was her first love. They were separated a year later when Jesse transferred to a public school in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and Becca remained at the Solomon Schechter in Elkins Park. Becca, 25, sometimes wonders what would have happened if they had remained in the same class through high school. Would they have ended up as a couple? “Probably not,” she concludes.
In looking back to their teen years, Jesse notes: “Though we surely attended many of the same Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations, we don’t remember ever talking with each other at these events. It’s like we were in separate worlds.”
Josh, another classmate from first grade, was in both their worlds, and maintained separate connections with each of them. When they were seniors in high school, Josh persuaded both of them to apply for positions at Ramah Day Camp in Elkins Park. They met and in the same building – at 7601 Old York Rd in Elkins Park, PA.
Beginning the first week of camp, there was already some attraction between Becca and Jesse. Both consulted with Josh on how to proceed. “We have another reason to thank Josh,” says Jesse, also 25. “He encouraged us to move forward.”
“We then persevered through four years of long distance dating,” recounts Becca, who attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated magna cum laude in 2012, with a degree in English Literature. A year earlier, Jesse graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) with a degree in history.
Much has been written about long distance relationships. For Jesse and Becca, there was an upside, as Becca explains: “Having together time and separate time, we both matured and grew as individuals during those undergraduate years.” The experts seem to agree. For instance, Dr. Judith Besserman, a psychoanalyst, asserts that “time apart may make your relationship stronger than ever.” And researchers at Cornell University published a paper in the June 2013 Journal of Communication on the subject: “Absence Makes the Communication Grow Fonder.”
After their four years apart, Becca joined Jesse at Penn, where she completed a Masters of Social Work and Jesse received a law degree magna cum laude. For Becca, it was like a homecoming, since both of her parents are Penn professors. Jesse’s parents also work in Philadelphia; his dad is a psychiatrist, and his mom is the assistant director of an NGO.
Becca is bubbly and outgoing; Jesse is more subdued. To set the scene for his proposal in October 2013, Jesse’s friends helped him arrange an elaborate buffet of sweets, knowing how much Becca loves candy.
After their marriage, the couple moved to New York City and Jesse began working in the litigation department at Sullivan & Cromwell, LLP. When asked if there was any downside to their new arrangement, Becca smiles and says: “Just one. Jesse used to take turns cooking with me. Now, he’s even working on weekends.”
Becca and Jesse were married in Philadelphia on June 22, 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.