After Rabbi Jennifer Anne Gubitz reactivated her lapsed dating app memberships and joined new ones in August 2017, she was intrigued by a three-month-old message on JDate from Matan BenYishay who had the screen name TzedekNerd (tzedek means justice in Hebrew).
“Oh no,’” Rabbi Gubnitz, who goes by Jen, recalled thinking, and quickly messaged him. “He seemed compelling and kind.”
Rabbi Gubitz, 37, is an associate rabbi at Temple Israel of Boston, where she directs the Riverway Project, connecting those in their 20s and 30s to each other and Judaism. She graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington and was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, from which she also received a master’s degree in Hebrew literature.
“Hi, this is Matan,” said Mr. BenYishay, 38, a few hours later. He was surprised to hear from her after so many months. Mr. BenYishay, the director of program evaluation at Pine Street Inn, provider of housing, shelter and job training to the homeless in Boston, graduated from Wesleyan University and received a Master of Public Policy from Brandeis.
They texted several times a day before they met 10 days later at HavenJP, a bar in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston.
“He saw what I do very quickly and was taken by it,” said Rabbi Gubitz, whose work as a rabbi often drew comments like: “Can you help me meet other Jewish girls, or I dropped out of Hebrew school. I’m not that Jewish.”
The next evening he showed up, along with hundreds of others, to a special interfaith Friday night service she helped lead at her synagogue in response to a white supremacist march that week in Charlottesville, Va.
“At the end of the service she sang a folk song called “One Voice” by the Wailin’ Jennys,” he said. “It was beautiful, emotional.”
A couple of days later they took a walk around Jamaica Pond where they awkwardly established he was a dog lover, and she certainly was not.
“It took a little bit to find our rhythms,” said Mr. BenYishay, whose previous marriage ended in divorce.
They got a better understanding of each other after they went to see a band play, followed by dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
Later, when they stood by their cars, she said, in her direct way, “Are you going to kiss me, or what?”
He did and they began dating regularly. As the busy Jewish holiday season began in September Mr. BenYishay provided moral support and meals.
They exchanged “I love you’s,” the evening Yom Kippur ended, she then asked if she could spend Thanksgiving with him and his family in Levittown, Pa. (He met hers in New Orleans the next January.)
Within a few weeks, she had another question: “So do you want to get married again?’’ And after he said “yes,’’ she added, “Do you think you want to marry me?”
He diplomatically said: “All signs point to yes.’’
In April 2019, the last night of Passover, they had a co-proposal, and exchanged silicone bands, and by the end of the year they got a rescue dog, a terrier mix named Joey. (She is now a dog person, too.)
They originally planned to get married May 24, but as the coronavirus set in, it became clear in March they would have to wait.
They were married July 26 at the Loring Greenough House in Jamaica Plain. Cantor Hollis Schachner officiated, leading the ceremony with Rabbi Rachel Saphire, before a dozen in-person guests. Rabbi Sanford Kopnick, her childhood rabbi, participated via Zoom, along with their parents and about 150 others.
“He’s the best quaranteammate and beloved,” she said, “and makes sure I eat everyday.”