From Masada to the Chuppah: Couples Who Met on TJJ

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The Anne Samson Jerusalem Journey (TJJ) owes much of its success to the talented and dedicated advisors who choose to spend their summers building lifelong connections with the TJJ teens, while teaching them about the beauty of a Torah lifestyle. Over the years, several advisors have been lucky enough to meet their spouse on TJJ and get married. Here we highlight two of these couples and their stories.

Izzy Miller and Guy Ben-Hanan

Izzy Miller was all of 11 years old when her mother began nervously wondering whether or not she would marry someone Jewish. Though she wasn’t religious, Izzy started learning with Shoshie, a frum girl in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah.

Izzy and Shoshie hit it off right away, and Izzy was soon spending Shabbat with Shoshie’s family. When Shoshie’s father suggested she go on an NCSY Shabbaton, Izzy agreed, and it was a crucial turning point. She began attending local NCSY events, and went on TJJ in 2013, after 10th grade. “It was life-changing, and when I came back, I started keeping Shabbos and taking on more things,” Izzy recalled. “I had the greatest advisors, and coming out of TJJ, I knew that one day I wanted to return as a staff member, and I wanted to get myself to that point.”

Fast forward a few years, and Izzy’s goal became a reality when she was recruited as an advisor for TJJ in 2017. Little did she know that in addition to meeting her inspiring TJJers, she’d also meet her future husband, Guy Ben-Hanan. “Guy wasn’t even supposed to be there –– he had been hired at the last minute to replace someone,” Izzy said. “The moment I knew I liked him was Friday night when we were practicing our chaburahs (learning groups) that we had prepared. Guy gave his, and I said to myself ‘This is it –– I know I’m meant to be with this person. Now it’s just about getting him to catch on.’”

It didn’t take long, and although both Izzy, 19, and Guy, 20, hadn’t been looking for a relationship, they became a couple soon after TJJ, and got engaged a few months later. Their wedding in New York this past June was an incredibly joyous one-year reunion of their TJJ teens, staff and directors from the previous summer.

Izzy feels that she owes so much to NCSY and is grateful for the double impact that TJJ has had on her life. “I didn’t even have to ask Izzy because I knew she would want to give all our wedding ma’aser (tithings) money to NCSY,” said Guy.

Guy, originally from Hollywood, comes from a ba’al teshuva Sephardic Israeli family. “He’s one of those people who has a spark and is super passionate,” says Izzy. The newlyweds live in Queens, where Izzy is finishing her last semester at Touro’s Lander College, and Guy is learning in Sha’ar Yoshuv while taking classes at Touro. “We are on a path for growth, and would love to be involved in kiruv one day. Neither of us would be the type of people we are today without it,” said Izzy. “We were so inspired by the staff and teens on TJJ and still speak to our TJJers all the time. One day, we would love to run a TJJ bus together.”

CM Nimchinsky and Chayim Gerson

It wouldn’t be the first time a married couple ran a bus together on TJJ.

CM (Nimchinsky) and Chayim Gerson will be heading to Israel this summer as TJJ Ambassadors directors. It was only a few short years earlier, in 2014, that they met on TJJ Ambassadors when CM was assistant director and Chayim was an advisor. No strangers to the NCSY family, CM, from Houston, had worked on TJJ Ambassadors for two summers before she met Chayim and also served as associate regional director for Upstate NY NCSY. Chayim, hailing from Denver, had worked on TJJ and Vancouver NCSY, though their paths had never crossed.

As the summer progressed and CM and Chayim spent more time together, both soon realized that they liked each other. But, neither one knew how the other was feeling and nobody was quite ready to take the next step.

“Everyone from NCSY thought they were involved in the shidduch,” Chayim said. “We did daven in Amukah, so maybe that helped too.”

On the last day of the trip, which was Tu B’Av, Chayim asked CM to sit next to him on the plane, but she had taken Benadryl and slept for the first eight hours. Finally, when she woke up at the end of the flight, Chayim asked her out, “so it was a good way to end the trip,” he recalled.

The Gerson’s 9-month-old daughter will be joining them on TJJ Ambassadors this summer.

After that fateful flight, they began dating and got married in June, surrounded by their TJJ Ambassadors teens and fellow advisors and staff. They were also the happy recipients of a “Met at NCSY” chassan and kallah bencher. The then-newlyweds took a one-year hiatus from TJJ Ambassadors, but have been back every summer since. This will be the Gersons’ third year working as co-directors, and in addition to their talents and leadership skills, they will also be bringing along their 9-month-old daughter.

“We have a lot of support from the heads of the program, Rav Barry Goldfischer and Dave Cutler [head of NCSY Summer] and they really value family and always have our backs,” said CM.

During the year, the Gersons live in Washington Heights. CM works at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, teaching classes on Judaic Studies, women’s roles and graphic design. Chayim is in his 4th year of semicha at Yeshiva University and wants to work in the field of education. But they’d still love to continue directing TJJ Ambassadors for as long as they can.  “Chayim and I love working together in Israel with these incredible teens,” said CM. “We love seeing them grow and be inspired, and being able to have a small fingerprint in that growth.”