According to the African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. Some might add, “It takes a family to match them up.” For Mike (Michael) Dilamani to meet Amanda Esraeilian, it took two grandmothers, Mike’s dad, his dad’s friend and the friend’s wife.
For Israel Independence Day 2019, Mike’s parents had tickets for a holiday celebration at their synagogue in Great Neck, L.I. But, at the last minute his mom couldn’t go. They offered the ticket to Mike, who was then 26. At first he resisted. “But I had nothing else planned, so I accepted.”
They arrived at the synagogue early and decided to join the minyan for the afternoon/evening service. Mike’s grandmother sat in the women’s section.
Amanda, who was then 25, said: “My family was at that minyan to commemorate the first year yahrzeit of my aunt Zippy, z”l. In fact, my grandmother pushed back the commemoration by one day so my brother could attend. We are a very close family.”
When she saw Amanda, Mike’s grandmother remembered her from the memorial service the previous year. At that time, she had thought: “This girl would be perfect for my grandson.” This time, she grabbed the moment and went over to tell her son about Amanda.
Dad asked his friend, who sat near him in the men’s section: “Do you happen to know anything about this girl, Amanda?”
Dad’s friend: “I don’t know much but I will ask my wife, who is her cousin.”
Dad’s friend and his wife then became the intermediaries between the families. The Dilamanis and Esraeilians are connected with the Mashadi community, who trace their roots back to the city of Mashad, Iran.
Soon, Mike felt some pressure.
Mike: “I was ready to take a break from dating and was definitely not interested in another blind date. Too many set-ups just didn’t work out.” But he finally agreed to meet Amanda. Amanda, too, was unenthusiastic when her cousin suggested the match: “Are you kidding? I’m getting ready to leave for a big trip.”
Amanda, who was then living on the Upper West Side, felt she had already explored all the options for a match from the Mashadi community.
Amanda: “I didn’t think I could find the type of guy I was looking for in the Persian community — someone who was comfortable in both the religious and secular worlds.” But she finally agreed to meet Mike.
Actually, Amanda and Mike have much in common. Besides sharing the same values, they are religiously compatible and are both employed in the business world – Mike as an associate with AQR Capital Management and Amanda as a consultant for JCW, a recruitment firm. Amanda has a BA from Yeshiva University and an MA from Hunter College; Mike has a BA from Cornell University.
Within a week, they had their first date — on Thursday evening, May 16, 2019.
Amanda: “We both thought this was going to be an in-out thing, so we decided to meet at Starbucks on the Upper West Side. Since I was convinced that it wouldn’t go anywhere, I was my natural self.”
Mike: “And that’s what I liked. Her fun, outgoing personality just shone through. We stayed at Starbucks for 2 ½ hours until they closed.”
On Nov. 17, 2019, Mike proposed to Amanda on the boardwalk at Battery Park and they planned to marry in May 2020.
Because of COVID-19, they changed their plans.
Amanda: “It’s great how we work together and talk things out with each other.”
They are now planning a September wedding.
The couple senses the presence of Amanda’s late Aunt Zippy in their match. And they acknowledge the role of the Almighty.
Dr. Leah Hakimian currently researches the question: How Jewish couples meet and marry. In the 1990s, 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, L.I.