Lydia Sonenklar met Robbie Shorr in the fall of 2018, when she introduced herself at the Kiddush following Shabbat morning services at Washington, D.C.’s Kesher Israel, The Georgetown Synagogue.
Lydia: “I was looking to meet people and I found the courage to walk over to this group of guys standing in the corner.” Lydia was 23, and Robbie, almost 23.
Their paths kept overlapping as they met up for meals at the homes of mutual friends. Lydia: “We became friendlier when I started to go to a weekly Pirkei Avot class in Robbie’s home. And when Robbie signed up for the Hadar Winter Learning Institute, I too signed up for this three-day intensive program. We carpooled together and spent a lot of time there together.”
In addition to having mutual friends, the couple soon realized how much more they had in common. Robbie: “Most importantly, we share the same basic values. We started out religiously at about the same place, and both of us found our own ways to becoming Shomrei Shabbat,” Shabbat observant.
And they both work in caring professions. Lydia has a master’s segree in speech-language pathology from George Washington University and is currently a clinical fellow in the Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools. Robbie is in his third year of teaching at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, MD, where he himself studied through 12th grade. He is currently a softball coach and math teacher in their middle school.
Robbie graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri with a double major in chemistry and Jewish studies. While in St. Louis, he also studied with Rabbi Hyim Shafner. Robbie smiles: “In fact I studied Kiddushin with him –the Talmudic tractate that deals with marriage.”
In Jan. 2019, Robbie and Lydia started dating. Lydia: “We were already good friends and it was becoming clear that our relationship was developing into something else.” The turning point came when Robbie organized an outing for friends at a trampoline park and Lydia was the only friend to show. Robbie: “There’s an advantage to dating someone you’re already friends with. Things happen more organically.”
There’s an advantage to dating someone you’re already friends with. Things happen more organically.
On Jan. 16, 2020, Robbie proposed to Lydia on the Georgetown waterfront. Three days later, they asked Rabbi Shafner, who had moved from St. Louis to D.C. to become rabbi of Kesher Israel, to officiate at their wedding, which they scheduled for Aug. 2, 2020.
Robbie and Lydia know two other couples who had met at Kesher Israel — one just before them and one after them. Rabbi Shafner: “Hundreds of young professional Jews come to downtown Washington each year to make their mark on our country and the world, and Kesher Israel is the hub for observant Jewish life. So it’s no wonder so many couples meet each year at Kesher and get married.”
Because of the coronavirus, Robbie and Lydia downsized their wedding plans, but still married on the scheduled date of Aug. 2. They wed in Lydia’s hometown, Richmond, Virginia, in her parents’ yard, surrounded by 30-some guests, including five Charles E. Smith alumni from the classes of 1987 to 2016. Many others celebrated virtually. Mazal tov.
Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches 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 lives in Jerusalem and Great Neck, New York.