Abigail (Abby) Duman Baer nods in agreement with the pronouncement at the Chabad website: “In certain circumstances, it is permissible or even commendable to lie.” She then smiles and adds: “Still, I only told a white lie.” Matti Baer interjects: “Anyway, she didn’t fool me. I understood what Abby was trying to tell me, and I liked what I heard.”
Abby and Matti met in October 2011 when Abby was an 18-year-old American student at an Israeli religious women’s seminary in Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv. She loved the kibbutz environment, but also enjoyed Shabbat in Jerusalem. Abby had a friend, Sarah, whose family lived in Jerusalem, and on most Fridays, Abby would go home with Sarah, though it was a two and half hour bus ride each way.
“I was also lucky that Sarah’s brother had a friend, Matti, who would hang out with us in Jerusalem,” continues Abby. Israeli-born Matti, a soft-spoken 21-year-old, was in the army. From the beginning, Matti liked Abby and her energetic personality, but there were two problems: First, he didn’t want to get serious with anyone while he was still in the army; second, he wanted a girlfriend who would stay in Israel. Abby was planning to go back to the U.S. after her year at the seminary
Soon after they met, Abby gave Matti an ultimatum. She asked him: Are we moving toward a relationship or not? When he couldn’t give her the answer she wanted, they parted. But not for long. A month later, Abby realized that she had left a pair of earrings at Matti’s house: “I really liked those earrings, and wanted to get them back.” When she called Matti, they agreed to meet at Sarah’s house and Matti would bring the earrings. Abby wouldn’t confirm whether or not this was just a ploy to see Matti again.
When they met at Sarah’s, Matti noted that he had left the earrings at his house. Another ploy? Matti wouldn’t confirm or deny. In any case, the door was now open for a re-set, and Abby grabbed the moment. She told Matti that she was thinking about enlisting in the Israeli army. She knew that this was not totally true. Still Matti got the message – she was saying that she wanted to be with him. He wanted the same thing, and in November 2011, they became a couple.
During the following year, they maintained a long-distance relationship. Abby returned to Silver Spring, Maryland, where she had grown up, and then enrolled at Brandeis University. She would later continue her studies in psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya when Matti would study physics at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
Though they were apart for much of the 2012-2013 school year, they found the time to get engaged in March 2013, a month after Matti completed his army service.
Some say that a 17-month engagement can strain a relationship. “For us, it was perfect,” says Matti.
Abby and Matti were married in the Israeli National Park of Ein Hemed on August 12, 2014. Mazal tov.
Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches the question of how Jewish couples meet and marry. In the 1990’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.