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How Saul met Elke

How Saul met Elke

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.

Stoically, Saul Sudin says that when he met his future wife, one thing was clear: “We did not look like a match.”

Both were pursuing a life in the arts – he wanted to be a filmmaker, and Elke Engelson wanted to be a professional illustrator. He was a senior, she was a freshman. They met in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute.

He was the first person she ever met from St. Louis. She's from the East Coast and was known in high school for her bohemian dress. She was written up later in The Jewish Week, which put it this way: “She colored her hair and dressed to shock” – wearing punk, hippie and goth clothes.

One of the first few times she saw Saul, Elke was struck by what he was wearing. They were both going to a dinner at the rabbi's house. Elke says: “I noticed his three-piece suit and I thought to myself: 'He really does Shabbos.' ”

The rabbi was Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, who directs the Pratt Jewish Student Union and generously offers students to come to his home for a Friday night dinner. Elke had phoned Saul for directions.

They met in the fall of 2005. Saul was one of the founders of the Jewish Student Union. He was a 22-year-old senior. She was 17 and first year but they had friends in common. They always seemed to be among other people. They discovered a mutual love – for a band, Belle and Sebastian. Elke did think, however, that Saul was soooo old.

Elke spent winter break at home with her parents in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, a suburb of Springfield. When she returned to school, she was open to the idea of a new beginning. That became a reality just before Valentine’s Day when Elke and Saul went for a long walk and a heart-to-heart conversation. “None of our friends were surprised,” says Saul.

When the Sudin family planned a family vacation for the end of December 2006, Saul asked his family if he could invite Elke. From Miami, Saul called the Engelsons to ask for their blessings. He was about to propose to their daughter. Saul describes her as “beautiful, creative, and energetic.”

Saul prepared a proposal mix of Elke’s favorite music, just as earlier he had done a dating mix and would make one for the wedding.

Saul’s engagement was the fulfillment of his mother’s prayers. Every Friday, night when lighting her Shabbat candles in St. Louis, Trudy Sudin would pray for her three children to marry. Thanks to Saul’s intervention, his sister met her match at a Purim dinner at Pratt. Soon thereafter, his brother got engaged. All three children married within a year. “We are blessed,” say the Sudin parents.

Saul and Elke would soon become an artistic power couple in Brooklyn and establish jewishartnow. com, a convergence of contemporary art and Judaism. For her role in founding a startup “chock-full of innovation,” Elke was cited in the 2011 “36 under 36” list of The Jewish Week. She now dresses hip Orthodox.

They chose to marry on Yad B'Av – the 14th day of Av or the day before Tu B’Av, the Jewish Valentine’s Day. They recognized the hand of G-d in their lives.

Elke and Saul were married on July 29, 2007. Mazal tov!

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