Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Our Story

Hello family and friends!

We know that it feels like we're a million miles away from you and you may or may not have a clue as to what's going on, what we're doing, and how we're doing it. (Actually, to be honest, we're all on the same page on that one.) But we decided to make this website/blog to keep you all posted and 'in the know.' Since we both left America, we've had a lot of lifestyle changes and you may be thinking that the person you once knew has turned into a crazy religious fanatic who to your dismay is now planning on getting married to another religious fanatic who he or she has known for approximately 4 seconds, so to calm fears as well as just share our joy and excitement, we thought this may be a way to begin to bridge the gap.

First, we should probably introduce ourselves because half of you don't know Matt and the other half don't know Erika.

Here are some basic facts to start with:


-grew up in Dumont, New Jersey
-went to Hofstra and studied film and writing
-plays the drums
-loves kids, Erika, skeeball, rhythm, and yeshiva


-grew up in Wilton, CT
-went to the Barrett Honors College in Arizona and studied Religious Studies, Art History, and Nonprofit Leadership and Management
-makes jewelry, teaches yoga, and is a birth coach (doula)
-loves chai tea, Matt, sleeping in, writing, and seminary (the female equivalent of yeshiva)

How We Met:

In September, a mutual friend/Rabbi/mentor, Rabbi Kaufman, mentioned to Erika that he had a great idea for a 'match' for her. He told her about this young gentleman named Matthew Needleman, but that he was not going to be dating until Channukah. Erika took note of the name, but didn't expect anything in particular. That Shabbat (friday night) Erika went to the Rabbi's house for dinner. There were a few other families there, but she was the only single person at the table. As dinner was winding down, in walked a young man who the Rabbi introduced as none other than Matthew. Erika became slightly flustered because she knew who Matt was, but she was quite sure Matt had not been informed about her. He came and sat next to her and the two made a very strong simultaneous, un-synchronized, and incredibly awkward effort to pay absolutely no attention to the other. Erika was not very impressed with Matt and Matt was not very impressed with Erika if for no other reason than that they barely spoke for the entire time except to pass some dark chocolate and a pitcher of water.

A few weeks passed and Erika was invited to Rabbi Kaufman's home for a book signing party (the Rabbi is also an author). Unbeknownst to her, Matt had been hired as the drummer in a small ensemble to be the entertainment for the evening. She walked in and saw him and became slightly flustered...again (as young single ladies do). She was sure she had made the right first judgment of Matt, but had to admit to herself that she was a bit impressed by his drumming skills, especially in a very nice rendition of "Take Five."

A few months later it was just around Channukah time and Erika met with a very close friend/mentor, Rebbitzen Liff, who said she had just met a very nice young man to introduce Erika to. His name was Matthew Needleman. Erika told her Rebbitzen that she had already been suggested this person and had already met him and was quite sure he was not right for her. The Rebbitzen pressed her and said she really thought they had a lot in common. Erika still wasn't sure it was a good idea. A week or so later, one of Erika's very good friends, Shira, came to visit. Shira's boyfriend, Ezra, goes to the same yeshiva as Matt, and one night at dinner, Ezra told Erika that he had a GREAT idea for a guy for her. His name? Matthew Needleman. At this point Erika decided that this was becoming a bit ridiculous. She knew this guy and he wasn't for her, but EVERYONE seemed to think he was! She decided this triple coincidence could not be ignored. Maybe she had judged him wrong. So that evening she went back and told the Rebbitzen she would go on a date with this pesky Matthew Needleman.

A few nights later Matt and Erika went on their first date. As soon as Erika walked into the lobby where they were meeting, Matt apologized profusely for his anti-social behavior a few months earlier. The two began to talk and talk...and talk. Both were unusually nervous and at one point Erika managed to spill tea all over herself and Matt bolted out of his seat to go get tissues. It was very funny and slightly awkward, but incredibly enjoyable. (Not just spilling the tea, the whole date.) What followed was a series of dates full of laughter and more tea (though not spilled), picnics in the park, sitting on stoops in front of apartments, sushi dinners, and overall wonderfully enjoyable conversation. Matt and Erika, it turned out, have a surprising amount in common. From family life to life philosophy to goals and mutual enjoyment of tea and jazz, they found quite a bit of mutuality to begin to build a foundation on. They shared their fears and faults with one another, and realized that they both have a lot of growing up to do. In an effort to begin to 'grow up' and start taking responsibility, they even made a financial plan/budget for their first year of marriage. And then they realized that they had just made a financial plan for their first year of marriage. That means.......marriage. Whoa. But somehow when they talked about spending the rest of their lives together, there was an unbelievable sense of calm and ease.

The Proposal

After the very unromantic conversation about how they were going to survive financially for the first year of marriage, Matt still somehow liked Erika and so decided that if they could get through such un-fun adult-like conversation and still enjoy each other, this must be the girl for him. The only question now was how to go about proposing. So Matt thought good and long about it. It had to be perfect, it had to be romantic, it had to be...at the zoo. He decided that the Kotel (Western Wall) is for lazy non-creative types. Next to the giraffes. Now that's where the action is. And so it was. The date was set, the free passes in hand (Thank you Rebbitzen Kaufman), lunch was packed, and the howler monkeys were a-howlin'. The target location for proposal, none other than Noah's Ark, a location to stand as a prophetic symbol of what life together was sure to be.

Meanwhile, Erika's friends started acting decidedly awkward and she felt that something was brewing. One of her friends even let it leak that Matt had asked what to buy her since the two would pick out a ring together later. Her friend had answered with the idea of a bracelet. Erika knew they were going to the zoo, but was sure Matt would never ask her there, but she dressed up in a black dress and pearls anyway, just in case he whisked her off to the Kotel or another romantic locale later. (Of course the black dress and pearls were completely inconspicuous for a day date frolicking with the giraffes and elephants.)

Equipped with some trickery himself, Matt had the table on the ark disguised as an early birthday surprise lunch, set with chocolates, flowers (tulips), table cloth, confetti, and of course sparkling peach grape-juice (we are religious after all). When Erika saw the table, being the selfless person she is, immediately she thought, "Oh, what a nice thing someone did for someone else." She however became decidedly perplexed when she realized it was made up for her. Matt could only imagine the thoughts that flew through her head, "It's not my birthday. Shouldn't he be proposing instead? I'm allergic to peaches." Matt then walked a slightly befuddled Erika over to the table where she examined its contents, all the time giggling with a mixture of excitement and bafflement. In order to curtail the confusion period, Matt decided to give Erika her present, a box of earrings, with a message written on the inside top flap of the box asking humbly, "Marry Me?" All would have gone swimmingly, but Erika was caught so off-guard by the "Happy Early Birthday" signs that when she saw the dangling, hand-hammered silver earrings Matt had bought her, and not a bracelet as her friend had suggested, she didn't even see the two words prominently written on the underside of the box top. Thus ensued 8 of the longest seconds of Matt's life. Erika, still unsure of what was going on exactly, examined the earrings, picked them up and put them to her ears, and then looked at a very pale and bewildered Matthew sitting next to her. Her eyes darted back to the box and she gasped when she saw the real gift hidden inside. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Matt regained the ability to breathe. At that point, whether Matt went down on one knee for the traditional proposal position or out of near suffocation is unimportant. Regardless, the words were gathered, the pre-written and beautifully poetic request was made, and the answer given (She said YES!).

Our Plans:

"And now what?" you may ask.
We are planning to spend one more year in Israel together. It is a wonderful gift that we've been able to spend time learning and growing as individuals in the Jewish homeland for the past year and a half, but we also see that it would be extraordinarily beneficial to spend a year in Israel growing and learning together as a unit. Matt has a lot of learning he wants to continue in with yeshiva and Erika wants to start using her birth coaching, yoga teaching, and other talents to support them for the first year. (If this doesn't work out, she may just get a regular job.) Matt will also most likely be using his video editing expertise part time.

And that, our dear friends, is our story so far.

We hope you enjoyed it and feel at least a little bit closer to us, even across the ocean.

We will be putting more updates on as things evolve. Feel free to subscribe to our site so that you can get information about dates, times, places, and of course wedding registry. (Though to be honest since we'll be spending one more year in Israel, checks are the lightest weight, most travel friendly and helpful of gifts.)

Lots of love and simcha (joy),
Erika and Matt


  1. Congratulations Erika and Matt. What a beautiful beginning to the legacy that God is unfolding for His plan for your life. Erika, I am so thankful your mom was able to come and join in the celebration of your engagement. I did not realize that you were a Doula! I want you to know that Doula's are MOST popular and in demand in S.Central PA! Blessings to you both as you enjoy this time continuing to grow that precious foundation for your soon to be wedding in the Spring, when you become one. This year in Israel will be the most precious of memories to hide in your hearts and to one day share with your own little quiver full! Take good care of one another! Barry, Diana and Heather Holtry

  2. To my darlings,
    I cannot tell you how many times I had to stop myself from crying reading this. I also cried with laughter, so very interesing and amusing. I'm sorry to say that Matt can leave that kind of 1st impression!!!, but I'm glad you here both very persistant... I am so very proud of both of you, and so happy and so very happy for the 2 of you. I love you both. Mom

  3. Matt and Erika,

    We are very happy for both of you. The two of you sound great for each other and the whole story is beshert. Hashem should grant you a happy life with mazal, brocha, and the best of everything. Matt....who would have ever thought this would happen after our first trip to Israel a few years ago. It is amazing to look back at Hashem's plan. He is always watching out for us and taking care of us even when we don't realize it.

    We look forward to meeting you as a couple. Who knows, maybe you will end up in Dallas, Tx with us? It is a growing and affordable community.


  4. Matt & Erika,

    We are sure you are both enjoying life as newlyweds already! Congratulations on this blessed time in your lives, and may life always seem this new and exciting :-) We look forward to getting to celebrate with you back in the States, and meeting your beautiful bride...

    Best wishes for a happy and healthy start to your lives together!

    Love, Harry and Amanda