U.S. embassy issues first visas to same-sex Israeli couples


The American embassy in Tel Aviv issued its first derivative visas to same-sex Israeli couples.

The derivative visa allows the applicant to receive a visa through a spouse or first-degree relative who is eligible for residence in the United States.

The embassy on Thursday issued the visas to the same-sex spouses of two Israelis relocating to the United States on work visas. The visas were presented by Amb. Dan Shapiro and Consul General Lawrence Mire.

“We are delighted that Embassy Tel Aviv has now issued its first visas to a married same-sex couple,’ Shapiro said.  ”Gay rights are human rights, and our new visa regulations are an important step forward.”

Same-sex marriages are not performed in Israel, but marriages performed abroad are recognized.

Flee to Be Me


What is a friend? When I was a kid, the requirements were none too stringent. Is he in my class? Can I ride my bicycle to his house? Do his parents have any insane “not too much candy before dinner” rules?

As I got older, other factors became more important. Do we root for the same team? Are we willing to lie to our parents for each other? Does he have a bong?

Now that I’m one half of a couple (actually, 49 percent when it comes to decision making, 51 percent when it comes to heavy lifting) friendship is trickier. Are our children the same age? Do our families have comparable incomes? Do they have a bong?

I have come to realize that not everyone I hang around with is a friend. Some of them are acquaintances, sidekicks, chums and cronies. At this point in my life, there is only one criterion that determines if someone is a true friend: Would he hide me from Hitler?

I am, of course, referring to the metaphorical Hitler. The actual Hitler is dead. Or is he? (That was for the paranoid among you. You know who you are. And we know who you are. OK, I’ll stop now.)

It says a lot about Jewish history that I would even entertain this line of thought, but it’s hard to refute the fact that people are, with alarming regularity, trying to wipe Jews off the face of the earth (unless you happen to belong to one of the many groups who are, with alarming regularity, trying to wipe Jews off the face of the earth, in which case it’s easy to refute the fact that people are, with alarming regularity, trying to wipe Jews off the face of the earth). And, with anti-Semitism at its highest level since … minutes ago (let’s face it, hating Jews is kind of like chronic pain — even on days when it doesn’t seem so bad you know it’s still there) it’s a necessary way to think. Non-Jews don’t have to think this way. There is no Scandinavian word for “pogrom.”

That’s why, to me, the ideal friend is a non-Jew (in the event of another Hitler, Jews are no good to me — even the blonde ones) who likes baseball, has an 11-year-old boy who plays computer games the way fish swim, has a wife who loves to talk on the phone — and has built a large, hidden shelter under the floorboards of his living room.

I come by this way of thinking honestly. My grandparents fled Poland in the early 1930s. Before that, you can trace my family back to Spain, where we fled the Inquisition. And, although I have no proof, I’m pretty sure that we’ve also fled the Egyptians, Babylonians and Canaanites. My family has a long history of fleeing.

We’re also proof of Darwinism. At 5-foot-8-inches tall (if you can use the word “tall” following 5-foot-8), I would play center on the Nemetz Family basketball team, a relative giant among Nemetzes. We are an example of survival of the shortest. My family was bred for hiding — in a crawl space, behind a sofa, under an ottoman — we fit anywhere.

Unfortunately, it’s a skill that may come in handy sooner rather than later. When I see the passage of The Patriot Act, which broadens the scope of the government’s powers while limiting the rights of certain individuals; when I see people voting in record numbers, partly to implement a ban on gay marriage, it sets off alarm bells on my “flee-dar.” Because if history teaches us anything (and if you had some of my history teachers, it didn’t) it teaches us that whenever a group of people exhibits any kind of intolerance toward another group of people, the intolerant group will eventually turn on the Jews.

You may think this a touch paranoid. However, my family has outlasted both the Roman and Greek empires. You don’t run into a lot of Mesopotamians or Assyrians at the mall. But you may see some Nemetzes (most likely my wife, buying shoes). We’re still here because, when it comes to the “fight or flight” instinct, we’re not so good at fight but we’re Hall of Famers when it comes to flight.

So next Saturday while you’re in shul, I’ll be at The Home Depot. They’re giving a class on how to build a shelter, and I’m going to buddy up to the teacher.

Howard Nemetz is almost as good looking as his picture.

Community Briefs


Couple Airs Mideast Views at
Caltech

The Middle East conflict came to the Caltech campus in Pasadena
last week, when Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf presented a talk on “Eyewitness
to Occupied Palestine.”

Shapiro, a Brooklyn-born Jew, and his wife, a Palestinian
Arab, are founders of the International Solidarity Movement, which has garnered
some headlines by interposing “international activists” to protect Palestinians
against the alleged brutality and excesses of the Israeli army.

Shapiro gained a measure of fame last March, when he joined Yasser
Arafat at his besieged headquarters in Ramallah and was asked to share
breakfast with the Palestinian Authority leader.

The two-hour lecture-discussion proceeded in a civil and nonconfrontational
style, according to Robert Tindol of the Caltech public information office, who
attended as a neutral observer. The generally pro-Palestinian crowd listened to
a litany of alleged Israeli brutalities inflicted on a generally peaceful Palestinian
population.

Some counterbalance was provided by four members of the StandWithUs
pro-Israeli grass-roots organization, according to founder and president Roz
Rothstein, “We asked pointed, respectful questions … and the Jewish students
on campus were enormously grateful that we attended.” Rothstein acknowledged
that the two speakers gave a “very personal and effective,” if one-sided,
presentation.

The talk was sponsored by the Caltech Y as part of its
Social Action Speakers Series. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Foundation Awards $371,000 in
Grants

The Jewish Community Foundation, the largest Southern
California Jewish philanthropic organization, recently announced that it had
made 11 grants worth $371,000.

The grants will go toward construction and renovation
projects at several Jewish community facilities, ranging from preschools to
senior housing to boarding schools.

“We are committed to supporting a wide variety of building
projects which strengthen the core of our local Jewish community,” Foundation
Chief Executive Marvin I. Schotland said in a news release.

The awards were approved in June and announced in late
December. The gifts represent about one-third of the $1 million the nonprofit
group earmarked last year for local charitable organizations through Foundation
Legacy Grants.

Among the award recipients:

Menorah Housing Foundation, which owns and operates 13
residential buildings for low-income seniors, received $50,000 to open a
41-unit Echo Park apartment complex last October.

Aviva Family & Children’s Services received $50,000
for construction and renovation of high school buildings to accommodate
expanded special education services.

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles was awarded $36,000
to help underwrite a new shelter in Van Nuys that will serve up to 75 women and
150 children annually.

  B’nai David-Judea Congregation received $40,000 to
upgrade an existing building.

Mesivta of Greater Los Angeles, a nonprofit Jewish boys
boarding school, was awarded $25,000 toward the construction of a new building
at its Calabasas location.

Grants will be paid out until 2004. — Marc Ballon, Staff Writer

Hearing on Heschel Property Delayed

The new Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School West campus in Old
Agoura may take longer than expected to come to fruition. The first public
hearing, originally scheduled last month, will now be held on April 2,
according to the Los Angeles County Planning Department. The hearing will focus
on the 71-acre property’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR). While the school
plans to build on only 15-18 acres, the Old Agoura Hills Homeowners Association
is concerned about the Chesboro Road location causing excess traffic, unwanted
noise, the effect on wildlife and changes to the community.

Currently located near the Liberty Canyon exit of the
Ventura Freeway, Heschel West serves 144 children in transitional kindergarten
through fifth grade. The day school purchased the new property four years ago
so it could  accommodate 750 students from preschool through ninth grade.

Although the delay will extend the approval period, Rick
Wentz, executive vice president of the Heschel West School Board, is not
discouraged. “It’s an inconvenience, but [the hearing process] can get held up
for a multitude of reasons,” he said. “This is just one of those times.”–
Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Tu B’Shevat Time: Hundreds of people
turned out on Jan. 12 for the Tu B’Shevat Festival at Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu.
The Festival included performances by the Klezmer band The Shirettes,
informative booths on conservation and alternative fuel vehicles, an art contest
and, of course, tree planting, above. The next community-wide Tu B’Shevat
Festival will take place Sunday, Jan. 18 at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in
Simi Valley from 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. For more information, call (805) 582-4450
or visit www.brandeis-bardin.org

Women Take Part in Ceremonies


When Leslie Landman and Aaron Feigelson began planning their wedding four years ago, they knew it would follow Jewish law. “Tradition is very important to both of us,” Landman says. But, unlike countless generations of brides before she says, “I wanted to have an active role.”

In the framework of public obligation and commandment, Jewish men are the central characters of wedding ceremonies, with women taking a more passive role. From the prenuptial festivities like the chatan’s tisch (groom’s table), to the signing of the marriage contract and the giving of the ring, the bride — when she is even present in the room — is surrounded by males who have all the speaking parts, while she remains silent.

But because women have not had roles in wedding ceremonies in the past doesn’t mean they can’t participate today, according to Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Chicago. Jewish law “gives us a direction to go in but whatever is not assur [prohibited] is permissible. There is a lot of flexibility and the wedding should be an expression of the couple. It is good to include as many people in the ceremony who are close to the bride and groom, including the bride and groom themselves,” Lopatin says.

Jewish law requires a groom to “acquire” the bride through presenting a ring and proclaiming, “Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring under the laws of Moses and Israel.” Some rabbis discourage brides from giving rings under the chuppah to avoid the appearance of an exchange of property. “The kidusha [consecration], in the sense of acquiring, is the man’s responsibility,” says Rabbi Vernon Kurtz of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Ill.

For Landman and Feigelson, the challenge was to figure out how they could respect tradition but each have a significant role in the ceremony. “It was important for me to say something under the chuppah that was consistent with tradition and meaningful to me,” Landman says. She found a Hebrew text that acknowledged her acceptance of the obligations and duties of a Jewish wife and gave her husband a ring after the ceremony in the privacy of the yichud (seclusion) room, a practice that is acceptable to many Orthodox rabbis.

Wilmette, Ill., native Shira Eliaser chose a verse from “Song of Songs” to say under the chuppah when she and Norman were wed last July. She recited the verse: “His mouth is most sweet; yes, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem”(5:16). This was done just before the breaking of the glass so that there was no appearance of an exchange.

“I wanted something that was romantic and expressed my love. It wasn’t supposed to be an imitation, or a politically correct phrasing of [the groom’s declaration] but I found in it an echo of kiddushin,” she says.

She and her husband met at Northwestern University’s Hillel, and are now active members of the Egalitarian Minyan of West Rogers Park in Chicago.

Miriam Silverstein chose not to say anything under the chuppah when she married Brian Silverstein last October. “I wanted the wedding to be as religious as possible without alienating anyone. I’m not an egalitarian person [within religion]; I’m not a religious feminist,” she says.

Nonetheless, Silverstein and her groom (who has the same last name) incorporated both male and female friends and family members in other ways. Rather than having the prenuptial kabballat panim (receiving of faces) and chatan’s tisch in separate rooms, they used one big conference room with the groom’s activities on one side and the bride’s on the other. While the d’var torah and ketubah signing were on the men’s side, women could see and hear everything. While the tenaim (the prenuptial agreement) was read in Hebrew by a man, a woman read it in English.

By expanding the ceremony to include English translations of the ketubah and the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings), women can be included under the chuppah and afterward at the festive meal.

A traditional wedding includes both law and custom. “Custom should be divided into minhag Yisrael, which is as binding as law, and various hanhagot, that aren’t official customs or aren’t universally observed, are no problem to change or eliminate,” Lopatin says.

“In minhag Yisrael, the one who reads the Sheva Brachot in Hebrew, is a man. I can’t be flexible with that,” Lopatin says. “So we have couples come up and a woman reads the English translation for each bracha. The ceremony will have a feel of inclusivity, but the man is doing the halachic part of brachot.

“Walking around under the chuppah is not minhag Yisrael, but it has become very popular. If the groom wants to walk around the bride, or they want to walk around each other, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with the bride breaking the glass, or both of them breaking it together,” Lopatin adds.

Women can also hold the chuppah, Kurtz says.

Both Lopatin and Kurtz allow women to sign English translations of the ketubah but insist that the official document be signed by two male witnesses. “The Conservative movement is struggling with whether women should be counted as witnesses,” Kurtz says.

“I try to use inclusive language as much as possible under the chuppah,” Lopatin says. The wedding represents the life of the couple, “it is not just the groom taking the bride into his home.”

Reprinted with permission of JUF News in Chicago

When Jesus is his Co-Pilot


First date. He agrees to see a movie about ballet instead of “Gladiator.” You’re heartened by this early sacrifice.
After the movie, he drags you along to a friend’s birthday dinner at some Italian sounding restaurant on Sunset. On the way he gets aggravated about the traffic. This, you count against him.You try to be charming around his friends, as you realize you’re on display and want to be seen as someone with good social skills. He reaches way across the table for bread. This, you remember your aunt used to call “boarding house reach.” You also count this against him.
He sees to it immediately that you get a shot of ouzo, a Greek liquor he says will be good for your cold. It is. This erases the traffic temper and the reaching, which persists.

He sits close to you and among the other couples, you feel like part of a couple yourself. This feels kind of nice, despite your ambivalence, despite the fact that he picked you up in a new red Mustang which seems a little ostentatious considering your last boyfriend drove a pick-up truck, which seemed just rightsomehow. His friends laugh at a few of your jokes, though some you can’t quite get out over the din, what with your bad throat and clogged ears and all.
On the way home, he mentions that his father is a Baptist pastor and that both of his parents are serving as missionaries in Zimbabwe. You get a little nervous about the fact that he surely has no idea you’re a Jewess. With dark features and a name like Teresa, most people assume you’re Italian or Mexican or Greek. You don’t think he’s going to take the Jew thing very well and you’re wondering how to break it to him, or if you should bother.

You don’t remember inviting him in, but next thing you know, he’s sitting on your couch telling you he’s a 29-year-old virgin. The Bible, he says, prohibits him from having premarital sex.
“So, you’ve never done anything?” you ask.
“No,” he answers. “I’ve done everything but that.”
This seems to be a rather complicated relationship he has with Jesus.
You tell him you’re a Jewess, a word you’re fond of these days because it sounds exotic somehow and doesn’t seem to have the same phonetic bite as Jew. His face registers no expression but does look a little paler somehow. You ask if he thinks you’re going to hell for not being a Christian. .
“Well, the Bible does say that if you haven’t found Jesus, you won’t find salvation.”

Uh oh. This guy is pretty serious about Jesus. Still, he looks pretty cute sitting next to you on your couch and he tells you that in a certain light, you look like Madeleine Stowe. You’ve been pretty lonely lately, and that can make you overlook a few things.
“Would you ever marry someone outside your faith?” you ask, out of curiosity and despite the fact that this is off limits conversational fare for a first date. He says he never would, but that someone like you would surely convert once they saw the light.
“Not gonna happen,” you say. “Not gonna happen.”
He tells you he’d like to take you horseback riding or swing dancing and wants to know when he can see you again. You ask why he’d want to bother, your being a heathen and all.”For fun,” he says.
Fun? You suddenly feel like a game of Yahtzee or a Slinky or something. You’ve already had your fun and now you want to find someone to wake up with on Sunday morning, someone who wants to know everything about your day, someone who will change your light bulbs despite the dead bugs that might be collecting in the fixtures. You don’t like to admit it to yourself, but you just might want aboyfriend. You tell him there doesn’t seem to be much point in going out, but he says he’ll be in the neighborhood tomorrow and you’re flattered that he’d want to see you again so soon. You try to tell yourself it’s sweet that he goes to church every Sunday and maybe it’s not so weird that he’s a virgin and that it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a latent homosexual.
When it’s time for him to pick you up you change your shirt three times. You put on magenta lip gloss but decide it’s a little too Jezebel and tissue it off. You look at the clock. He’s late. An hour goes by and you don’t know what to do with yourself. You don’t know anything except that you don’t want to be sitting home waiting for him.
You leave.

You go down to the corner store to pick up a pack of cigarettes, a Diet Coke and some Cornnuts, a most unholy trinity of dinner items.

Sexual Transactions


When Diane Arieff turned in her cover story on the best-selling “Kosher Sex,” I smiled with unquestioned approval. After all, opening doors and windows for Jews of all persuasions — observant as well as secular — seemed healthy and desirable. Especially for those who found it difficult to discuss or confront their own sexual preferences or inhibitions; or just plain curiosity.

Now suddenly we had an open and perhaps even daring rabbinic guide, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who was simply trying his best to help individuals and couples in need of spiritual and sexual counselling. What was wrong with that? Any help for those with sexual dilemmas should be encouraged. But as I perused his book, “Kosher Sex,” doubts began to surface. Maybe it was just not right for me, I thought. Anyway, who was I to register a complaint?

This last question held more than a tinge of irony. In addition to being a journalist/writer, I had (for a 15-year period) maintained a clinical practice in Boston and had interned as a psychologist at several hospitals in that city. At one point, in one of the hospitals, a psychiatrist, who had observed some of my work, asked me if I wanted to work with her in a new program geared for couples with what was termed sexual dysfunction — in shorthand, sex therapy.

A whole new world seemed to beckon. How could I say no.

The first couple we saw were in their mid-20s. The woman was Jewish, shy, embarrassed, but eager to find some help; her husband was very macho and in complete denial. The problem was that while their courtship had been passionate and sexually overflowing, he had become impotent within two months of the marriage. Twelve months had now gone by. If he continued to deny and avoid help, she was going to leave.

I won’t bore (or titillate) you with the details. Suffice to say that at the end of six weeks, their sexual problem (but only the impotence, we explained carefully) had, for the time being, been resolved. When the couple, full of smiles, told us that they were “cured” and left the small office in which we met each week, my colleague and I jumped up and, without thinking, embraced. Our coming together like that was not sexual, but, oh, it was charged with excitement, spontaneity and wonder.

There was something exhilarating about that particular experience, for I was able to witness a change in behavior within a short space of time, and a change that clearly affected a couple’s way of life. Of course, the husband was not made whole, nor the marriage. We knew that and told the couple so. We made clear that there were very real and very deep-seated issues in the husband’s life that required attention, and urged him to enter therapy. Names of psychiatrists he might consider were suggested. But he believed his ordeal — which had appeared out of nowhere — had ended. If humility was needed, it was administered to the four of us four months later when the couple separated, and then divorced.

In the meantime, there were other couples, other remedies and other strategies. In one instance, we forbade a couple to engage in any sexual congress. Touching was all they were allowed. And we waited to see how long it would take before they challenged our authority and broke the rules. It took three weeks. In another, we sent a married couple back to the early days of courtship, had them start all over, and heard how they would steal out with pillows to their car parked in the driveway, and “make out” late at night.

The lesson I learned was that the path to sexual play and sexual pleasure could be different for each couple and that universal prescriptions were generally not very helpful, and not very true. I wish I could tell you that, at the very least, the insights opened all sorts of magical sexual doors for me, but that would be untrue, too.

Of course, Boteach does not hold himself out as a psychotherapist, or even as a sex therapist. Though he hedges a bit here. In “Kosher Sex,” he wants to prescribe for all of us: how to find a soul mate; how to have both a spiritual and a lusty sex life with our married partner; and how somehow to make it all “kosher,” by which he means, somehow to have it fall under the Jewish umbrella.

What could be wrong with that? Well, I think, as well-meant as Boteach is, everything. He is prescribing for everyone, and, therefore, for no single person or couple with very real life issues. He lists 23 questions and says if you answer 18 of them affirmatively, what are you waiting for — there is your soul mate. But, to take him seriously, the 23 questions might not necessarily be germane for you or me; or just one of the no’s will actually carry more weight than all 22 of the other answers combined.

To be sure, we are all alike in the broad-brush strokes we call our “humanity.” But we are also all different and separate in the specifics of identity, personality and biography. In times of stress, some of us seek help in the universal, some in the particular, and some of us grab whatever is at hand.

The pull of desire is very strong for some people, and the need for sexual play, sexual freedom and sexual congress are freighted with both intensity and prohibition for many of us. Those of us who seek help, sometimes even just plain instruction, are often willing to suspend disbelief. We follow the arrow, the voice of authority, wherever it may lead — to hushed whispers and fumbling under the covers of a blanket, to a parked car in our driveway late at night.

But before you buy the book, I would advise that you reach out to your partner, best friend and lover and, in the most vulnerable way you have at hand, make yourself heard. — Gene Lichtenstein

LOVE


These are more stories of beshert, of relationships thatare “meant to be,” with a little help from The Jewish Journal. Overthe past year, at least five couples have called us to announce theirpersonal-ad-inspired nuptials. And, no, they weren’t ashamed to admithow they met. Gone is the stigma that ads are for people who arereally desperate, they insist.

Linda Frankeland Alan Sherry

Alan Sherry, 39, for one, calls personal ads “the greatequalizer.” The businessman, who also plays drums in a jazz band,used to hit “every singles dance from L.A. to Orange County.” But hetired of the posturing, the rejection, the mingling based only onlooks. With the personals, he found, “at least people met me andheard what I had to say.” One of those people was Linda Frankel, themanufacturer’s rep Sherry married in late1995.

Sam Mindel, 37, a computer consultant, answered Michele Gruska’sad in June 1996 and immediately knew it was beshert. The flash cameto him during their first date at a Valley coffee shop: He rememberedone day in the 1970s, when he was 15 and a guest at a party for aLatin-Jewish youth group. Suddenly, a sultry brunette in a sexy,chiffon, black-and-white polka-dotted dress took the stage and, in athroaty voice, began to sing “By Mir Bis Du Shayn.” All the smittenteen could do was stare.

Michele and Sam Mindel

Two decades later, Mindel couldn’t believe he was staring at thesame woman, now a professional singer, over coffee. On their weddingday, Sept. 28, 1997, he pulled a piece of the polka-dotted dress outof his pocket and told the story.

*********

Attractive, slim blond, 5’6″ JF interested in reading, dining,theater, movies & travel, seeks JM 5’10″+ 50-55, fit, honest,financially secure. (818) 555-@’$%

In November 1994, Vera Kauffman-Holzman, was a svelte, fiftyishdivorcee with a plan. The Paris-born executive assistant had beenmarried for 34 years to the wrong man, and she was determined tomarry the right one. So she placed three ads in The Journal, includedher real phone number, and carefully screened the numerous responses.

She asked pointed questions, took meticulous notes, and met atleast 50 men at assorted coffee shops, sometimes scheduling datesback to back to back. Along the way, she kissed her share of frogs,such as the guy who took her to Jack-in-the-Box and scarfed severalhamburgers in a row.

Among the parade of men was Lewis Holzman, a manufacturer’sre-presentative and amateur ham radio enthusiast who was immediatelytaken with Vera. “I saw this gorgeous blonde stepping out of her car,and I went, ‘Yesss!'” he says of their first date.

Theirs was a whirlwind courtship, and, within three months, Veraproposed. But Holzman, a perennial bachelor, simply wasn’t ready.Whenever a previous girlfriend had given him the marriage ultimatum,he had hopped the nearest plane for Mexico or the Caribbean.

But Vera was patient, and after some months of premaritalcounseling, Lewis was ready to set a date. The couple was wed on Feb.11, 1996, after which they hopped a plane together for the Caribbean.

*********

<BruceSchweiger and Amy Brotslaw

They said it couldn’t be true: 43 yo SJM, great schmoozer, funshopping pal, wonderfully secure in life, eclectic in tastes. Seekingindependent, self-confident SJF who not only knows what she wants butlives it. If U want intimacy vs. neediness & friendship vs.infatuation laced together w/ humor & love, call NOW — only onemodel left!

Bruce Schweiger and Amy Brotslaw are getting married this Sunday,Feb. 15, exactly one year to the day that she answered his ad in TheJournal. The ad that brought them together will grace the cocktailnapkins at their nuptials at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.

It all began in January last year, when the public defender wasdining at Boxer with two galpals and discussing his “miserable lovelife.” His friends exchanged a conspiratorial glance: “You’ve beenvery whiny,” they chided Bruce, “so we’ve decided to place an ad foryou in The Jewish Journal.”

Had Amy leaned out of her bedroom window at that moment (shehappened to live just 150 feet from the bistro), she would have hearda man loudly exclaiming: “You did what?”

Later, a calmer Schweiger left a blunt message on his Journalvoice mail. “I don’t golf, ski or bungee jump,” he said,emphatically. “But I do like theater, restaurants, dinner parties andhanging out.”

Schweiger also had a personal caveat: No entertainment industrypersonnel allowed. “I once had a TV executive spend 45 minutestalking on her cell phone in my driveway before she actually knockedon my door for our date,” Schweiger says. He wanted someone with alife.

Coincidentally, Brotslaw, at the time, was a former TV associateproducer who had dropped out of show biz because it didn’t allow herto have a life, at least the one she wanted to lead. Instead, she wasworking as office manager for the Bella Lewitzky dance company whileearning her MBA in nonprofit management at the University of Judaism.”What I’d really like to do in the next two years,” she wrote afriend, “is fall in love, get married and have a baby. I’m 38 and theclock is ticking.”

Brotslaw co-wrote a screenplay about three women who form a datingclub, with rules about how many blind dates and personal-ad responsesrequired per month.

Life imitated art. Brotslaw went on “1 million blind dates” anddutifully perused the personals — until a fateful Saturday evening,when one ad practically jumped off the page. “I felt compelled topick up the phone and answer it,” says Brotslaw, who was so flusteredby the sound of Bruce’s voice that she forgot to leave her telephonenumber.

When the two finally “did lunch,” at Engine Co. No. 28 downtown,it was chemistry at first sight. “Before the date was over, I waspossessed to kiss her,” Schweiger says.

Turns out both had attended the same Allen Ginsberg performance;the same world music concerts; and both had 90-year-old Aunt Friedas.”Very quickly, we fell into each other’s life,” Bruce says,describing how the couple hosted dinner parties, traveled to Big Surand chateau-hopped in the Loire Valley.

Eight months later, at 1 a.m. on Oct. 5, 1997, Schweiger satBrotslaw down on his bed. He whisked out the antique Victorianengagement ring he had hidden in a tennis shoe, and asked her to behis wife.

“Now my Los Feliz bachelor pad is turning into a family home,”Schweiger says, “and I couldn’t be happier.”A sign now graces hisoffice: “10/5/97, 1 a.m.: Hell Freezes Over.”