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.
Akiva and Lisa: The couple met in 2001 when Akiva was a guest percussionist at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, New York, where Lisa was a congregant. Courtesy of Aliya Rose Waldman
Lisa Ann Green smiles: “I had this unbelievable fantasy that I’d marry a guy who shared the spiritual side of my life and my love of music.”
Her dream came true in 2018 when Lisa married Akiva Wharton. She was 57, and he, 72.
The couple met in 2001 when Akiva was a guest percussionist at North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, New York, where Lisa was a congregant.
Akiva (aka Akiva the Believer) is a physician’s assistant and moonlights as a master drummer, singer, composer and teacher of spiritual drumming.
Lisa, too, works in different spheres. After earning a BA in history from the State University of New York, she started a career in publishing technology management and is currently director of core publishing systems at The New York Times.
Since her Bat Mitzvah, when she led the service with her guitar, Lisa has connected to soulful prayer. In 2009, she began serving as cantor at Temple Beth Emeth in Mt. Sinai, New York and frequently invited Akiva to collaborate with her. She also invited him to musical events she hosted in her home.
They maintained their friendship over the years, and were acquainted with each other’s spouses. By 2017, their lives were changing and each was divorced with grown children. When Lisa hosted a Passover seder that year, she invited both Akiva and her current boyfriend. Within a month though, Lisa was sans boyfriend and Akiva proved to be very supportive. “I was blown away by Akiva’s understanding. He really got who I am,” Lisa said.
Still, the relationship hadn’t moved from friendship to romance. Akiva was involved in a long term relationship of his own that needed some closure. “I decided to go to Israel for a few weeks to try and figure things out.” He was out of contact with Lisa for five weeks.
Lisa decided to take the initiative and invite Akiva to a David Broza concert. As she went to call him, the phone rang, and it was Akiva! He accepted her invitation. When he stopped by her house before the concert, there was a turning point in their relationship. They agree: “We really connected, and have been together almost ever since.” That was on Sunday, June 11.
On November 19, 2017 a group gathered at Lisa’s for a house concert. At the end of his performance, Akiva turned to Lisa and proposed with a song he composed: Walk with me. Walk with medown the aisle. “I had already asked Lisa’s father for his blessing. Why wait? We belong together forever.”
Lisa and Akiva had identified primarily with different Jewish communities. Akiva describes himself as “no denomination, just Jewish,” but most closely identifies with the Renewal movement. Someone described Akiva as “a guy in Hasidic dress with beard and payos (side curls) leading Shabbat prayer services rocking out on tambourine and drums.” Akiva’s rabbi of choice for a wedding service was Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, a Chabad rabbi in Long Island, NY.
Lisa was brought up in a Reform community and her choice was Rabbi Helayne Shalhevet, her colleague at Temple Beth Emeth.
They resolved their differences by celebrating their marriage in two distinct wedding ceremonies. On March 11, 2018 Rabbi Teldon officiated at their Orthodox wedding in their beachfront home in Huntington, New York. On May 27, Rabbis Helayne and Jaimee Shalhevet were the officiants at Community Reform Temple in Westbury, New York. A procession of drummers escorted the couple for about three blocks from Lisa’s childhood home until the chuppah. That same chuppah now hangs over their bed in their home in Huntington.
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
Read more stories from the Matchmaker column here.