How to buy the best diamond wedding ring for your buck


When Jeremy Ziskind of Pico-Robertson proposed last year to his then-girlfriend, Allyson Marcus, he had a basic idea of what kind of engagement ring he would give his future wife.

“Allyson told me pretty early on in our relationship that she loved the idea of a heart-shaped ring,” he said. “So I knew that’s what I wanted to get.”

Relying on a tip from a friend, Ziskind searched for rings on

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Apr. 27-May 3, 2012


SUN | APRIL 29

CELEBRATE ISRAEL
Mizrahi pop star Eyal Golan, “The Voice” contestant Monique Benabou and Craig Taubman are the featured performers at today’s 64th Independence Day Festival, which includes a Salute to Israel Walk and Ride and an art installation competition. For additional information, see the story on Page 16. Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Online presale: $15 (adults), $9 (children), $10.75 (per person, family of four), $9.80 (per person, family of five). Door (does not include family package): $19 (adults), $12 (children). Cheviot Hills Park, Cheviot Hills Recreation Center, 2551 Motor Ave., Los Angeles. celebrateisraelfestival.com.

CHARLES FOX: “KILLING ME SOFTLY”
Don’t miss this afternoon of music and storytelling with the Grammy- and Emmy-winning composer who collaborated with icons Fred Astaire, Roberta Flack, Barry Manilow and Tito Puente. Fox performs his hit songs and signs copies of his 2011 memoir, “Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music.” Sun. 4 p.m. $10. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777. ajula.edu.

MON | APRIL 30

TANLINES
The musical duo of Brooklyn hipsters Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm combines dance-pop and rock, tropical percussion, huge choruses and lyrics about Gen Y identity crises perfectly appropriate for an Echo Park crowd. Rewards and Gothic Tropic also perform. Mon. 8:30 p.m. $10 (advance), $12 (doors). The Echo, 1822 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 413-8200. attheecho.com.

CONGRESSIONAL DEBATE
For West San Fernando Valley residents who are still unsure about who to vote for in the congressional race for the newly drawn 30th District, perhaps tonight’s debate between Democratic candidates Rep. Brad Sherman and Rep. Howard Berman and Republican challengers Mark Reed and Susan Shelley will help. CSUN alumnus and KFI AM 640’s Bill Handel, CSUN business law lecturer Michael Sidley and a CSUN student representative moderate. Mon. 6-7:30 p.m. Free (limit two tickets per person). Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Los Angeles. (818) 677-8800. valleyperformingartscenter.org.

TUE | MAY 1

“A FEAST OF MYSTICAL JEWISH AND SUFI POETRY”
World musician Yuval Ron shares the hidden connection between Sufi master poet, Rumi, and the Jewish teacher, Yehuda Halevi in a concert-lecture. With singer Maya Haddi and percussionist Jamie Papish. Hosted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein. No fee. All are welcome. Bring timbrels. Tue. 7:30 p.m. Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 788-6000. Vbs.org.

THU | MAY 3

LOS ANGELES JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
Of the more than 25 dramas, documentaries, comedies and shorts at 13 venues from Pasadena to Beverly Hills, highlights at the seventh annual festival include tonight’s star-studded celebration and gala reception with a premiere viewing of documentary “Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom”; Penelope Ann Miller, co-star of “The Artist,” hosting a viewing of the Michael Curtiz silent classic “The Moon of Israel” (May 6); “Wunderkinder,” the Holocaust drama from the producers of “Europa Europa” (May 5-6); the Los Angeles premiere of “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story” (May 9), with Consul General of Israel David Siegel and Israeli government officials attending; and “Dorfman,” the closing-night film by director Bradley Leung and writer Wendy Kout, starring Elliott Gould (May 10). A program of The Jewish Journal. Thu. Through May 10. Various times. $40 (opening gala), $6-$12 (films), $12-$15 (closing night). Various locations. (800) 838-3006. lajfilmfest.org.

“THE ART OF POP CULTURE”
The works of nearly 50 pop culture artists, including Domingo Zapata, Burton Morris and John Baldessari, are featured in the Zimmer Children’s Museum’s new show-and-tell art exhibition, opening today. On May 6, children make pop art, snack on doughnut pops and popcorn, and rock out at a poppin’ bubble wrap dance party during “Show-and-Tell Family Day: A Poppin’ Party!” Thu. Through June 8. 6-9 p.m. (opening reception). Free. Zimmer Children’s Museum, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8984. zimmermuseum.org/showandtell.html.

U.S.A.-ISRAEL BIOMED TECH

CONFERENCE
The American Israeli Medical Association brings the biomedical technology industry of Israel to the American business community. Carla Mann Woods, CEO of Mann Healthcare Partners, delivers the keynote address, “Medical Devices in the 21st Century: Innovation, Challenges and Regulations.” Thu. 5-10 p.m. $80 (includes dinner and parking). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (888) 991-1212. aima4u.com.

FRI | MAY 4
BIG SUNDAY WEEKEND
America’s largest community service festival, which started in 1999 at Temple Israel of Hollywood, attracts nearly 50,000 people from every neighborhood, race, religion, ethnicity and socioeconomic group to 500 projects in communities all over Southern California, San Diego and San Francisco. Volunteer projects include such activities as planting gardens at schools, fixing up homeless shelters and sprucing up dog parks. Big Sunday Weekend also features concerts, book fairs and blood drives. Fri. Through May 6. Various times. Free. Various locations. (323) 549-9944. bigsunday.org.

Shtetl engagement custom makes modern comeback


When it comes to Jewish wedding customs, one could say everything old is new again.

According to numerous how-to-plan-your-Jewish-wedding Web sites, modern couples have resurrected tenaim (a 12th- century Ashkenazic tradition) and — after retrofitting the ritual — eagerly add the ceremony to their Big Day.

You’re invited to embrace this custom, too. But first, some backstory.

In European shtetls, tenaim (conditions) was a formal engagement ceremony at which parents of the girl and parents of the boy agreed to betroth their two children. During the celebration, a contract was signed, witnessed and read to the assemblage. This document set the date and time of the wedding — typically many months off — and outlined prenuptial obligations of each family regarding the dowry, a gift for the groom, plus other financial and logistical matters.

The contract included a proviso that the party who breaks the agreement before the wedding (p’tui, p’tui) must pay a stiff fine to the injured party. To seal the bargain, the future mothers-in-law smashed a dish. Some authorities say this symbolizes the impending breaks in their relationships with their children while recognizing that a new family is created — a family with lives of their own who now are responsible for taking care of and feeding each other.

Although the tenaim document — unlike the ketubah — is not a Jewish legal requirement for marriage, the tenaim had clout. In fact, the 18th century leader of Lithuanian Jewry, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (aka the Vilna Gaon), maintained that breaking the obligations of the agreement — backing down on one’s word — is reprehensible, far worse than divorce.

The Gaon also weighed in on tenaim plates and demanded they be ceramic, since “just as a ceramic plate cannot be repaired, so the families should be warned not to renege on their commitments.” (Word has it that unmarried women will trample over one another for a piece of the broken crockery, because it’s considered a talisman that leads to romance and chuppah. Could be….)

While modern tenaim ceremonies are based on the old model, today’s couples usually shift the focus from traditional legal formalities to personal conditions and concerns — both current and future — that express their love, trust, shared values and commitment to the covenant of marriage.

These conditions often include:

  • To create a Jewish home where Shabbat and holidays are celebrated, and where Jewish tradition is part of everyday life.
  • To create an open home where family, friends, community and strangers feel welcome.
  • To undertake tikkun olam (repair of the world), support social justice and give tzedakah (philanthropy) regularly.
  • To affirm the importance of diversity and equality in their community and in the world.
  • To work together as equal partners through life’s challenges.
  • To listen. To empathize with each other.
  • To support each other in their careers, while making time together their top priority.
  • To share financial and home responsibilities fairly.
  • To, God willing, be blessed with children and to raise them in a home filled with love for one another, dedication to Judaism and commitment to inclusiveness.

Some couples still plan tenaim as an anticipatory celebration well in advance of the nuptials. Others choose the weekend of the wedding, often at Havdalah, since the separation made between Shabbat and the rest of the week can also mark the distinction between “single” and “married.” Many brides and grooms schedule tenaim on the wedding day itself, an hour or so before the actual marriage ceremony. Any option works.

Clearly, modern tenaim celebrations can be original — even improvisational — while still including meaningful family traditions that link past, present and future. Additional proof that with Jewish wedding customs, what goes around comes around — in more ways than just circling the groom.

Ozzie Nogg is a freelance writer who takes a slightly offbeat look at the history and observance of Jewish holidays, festivals and life-cycle events. Her Web site is www.rabbisdaughter.com.

Engaging young philanthropists — our approach


I have been asked to reflect on the challenge of engaging younger Jewish philanthropists in communal life. As a member of the next generation, I have
wrestled with this question for more than a decade.

Approximately five years ago, at the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, we created a division called 21/64 to focus on this very challenge.

“Engaging the next generation” used to signify the transference of leadership, like passing a baton from one generation to the next. Today, with the average life span increasing from 47 years old in 1900 to 78 years old in 2000, there are now four generations above the age of 21 in American society and four generations of adults who want to be engaged in Jewish life. Therefore, “engaging the next generation” actually means engaging multiple generations at once.

In the Jewish community, our institutions are often led by traditionalists — those born between 1925 and 1945 — whose worldviews were imprinted with World War II, the Depression and the Holocaust. In giving back, they have built many of the institutions that are pillars of our communities.

Baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1964, outnumber traditionalists and now represent the majority of our communal leadership. Their generational personalities were formed by the founding of the State of Israel; television brought the secular world into their Jewish homes.

Post-World War II economic opportunities led some to the suburbs, where they built synagogues and JCCs, while others contributed to the social movements of the ’60s. With these distinct experiences come divergent lenses into Jewish life.

Add to that picture the different life experiences and styles of philanthropy of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, and Generation Y, born between 1981 and 1999. No wonder we are struggling to understand and accommodate additional generations, making our communications and planning even more complex.

Through 21/64, I travel to different communities in North America consulting with families, foundations and federations about multigenerational philanthropy. My experiences across the United States and Canada — and affirmed by research — tell me my peers are self-confident about their Jewish identity, yet remain hungry for ways to connect.

I have started to comprehend that the question isn’t whether the next generation is prepared for its communal responsibilities. The question is whether the community is prepared for the next generation.

Some communities are just now realizing it is time to add more seats to their boards and allocation tables for members of Generation X. Those more forward-thinking communities that already have begun to engage the next generation are realizing that the very act of engagement actually changes the shape of those tables.

The post-baby boomer generations in America have grown up with access to opportunities across race, religion, class, sexual orientation and even global boundaries that previous generations did not have. Technology has become more than TV in the living room — it’s a way in which community is formed, connections made and communications conveyed.

The experiences these 20- and 30-somethings bring, the vocabulary and skills they draw on, the diverse social circles they move in, the questions they pose, all require a shift in the way our federations operate. Are we willing to adapt how we operate for the sake of who we want to engage?

If we endeavor to engage them on their terms and not just change the window dressing on what already exists, we will be planting the seeds of long-term relationships and our own Jewish future.

For example, this year I worked with a community that has made the engagement of 20- and 30-somethings a priority. However, when I asked what “engagement” meant to members of the community, I heard four different answers.

To a traditionalist, engagement meant creating an agency for young adults. To a baby boomer, engagement meant creating outreach activities for 20-somethings.

When I asked the Gen-Xers what they hoped engagement meant, they envisioned seats at an allocations table. For a Gen-Yer, engagement signified a meaningful experience of Jewish life having nothing to do with allocating dollars or attending social events.

Eventually this community committed to involving Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers in structuring allocation decisions that affected themselves and their peers. But more important, I would ask us all to consider how members of Gen X and Gen Y can help the whole federation system. In the 21st century, wouldn’t we want experts in 21st century management, technology and communications — those who grew up with it — to help lead?

This idea was reinforced for me recently at the Family Firm Institute annual conference, where I heard a lecture on adaptability in family firms. The session description read “long-term survival and success and continuity is fundamental to their purpose.” I couldn’t help but compare this take on multigenerational family businesses to Judaism and the Jewish people’s attempt at long-term survival.

John Ward, co-director of the Center for Family Enterprise at Northwestern University, found that those family firms that could balance the family’s traditional business with the innovative ideas of the next generation were the most adaptable and therefore the most likely to continue down the generations.

Ward emphasized that those families who seek their adult children’s understanding of today’s markets have a better chance at long-term survival than those who continue to do just what they have been doing. In fact, it is their ability to adapt, to hold the paradox between traditional practice and innovation, where the real creativity takes place and continuity is achieved.

Continuity is not merely repeating what we have been doing with traditionalists and baby boomers because that is who is leading now. If we can take the long view, reflect on our centuries of Jewish life, and from there hold the paradox between Jewish tradition and next generation innovation, we will be focusing on the right goal. If we can “go to the balcony,” as author William Ury offers, and see from our historical perspective that we are talking about the continuity of a people and not of an organizational model, we will be better prepared for our community’s long-term survival.

In the Jewish world, I have witnessed this approach among a group of 20- and 30-somethings who envisioned Slingshot and The Slingshot Fund. The founders, committed to Jewish tradition and their family legacies of philanthropy, seek to highlight and support ways in which the tradition is resonating with the next generation.

Nitty-Gritty Starts After You Say ‘I Do’


Anyone who has been married knows the real truth that marriage is hard work and, while it might get easier over time, marriage always takes effort. This is the No. 1 thing I tell newly engaged couples in “I Do,” a marriage preparation class.

Sure, engagement is exciting and happy and planning a wedding can be fun, even thrilling at times. But the real nitty-gritty that happens once you’ve said your “I dos” is what people rarely talk or think about beforehand.

What Are Newlyweds?

The word “newlywed” conjures up images of smiling, happy couples in love, holding hands, dancing and kissing. But like anything that is new, a new marriage requires some getting used to. A new car, for example, may look shiny on the outside and smells clean and fresh. Yet, the seat isn’t quite comfortable until you’ve sat in it for a while, and all of those fancy gadgets can be confusing until you learn exactly what every one does and how to use it. Same thing with a new pair of shoes. They look perfect and they go with everything in your closet, but for the first few weeks, they hurt your feet. It isn’t until you wear them and they stretch a little, mold to the shape of your foot and get broken in that you realize how much you adore them and you can’t believe you ever lived without them. Marriage isn’t any different.

Rabbi Harold Schulweis has this to say about marriage in the book “Fighting for Your Jewish Marriage”: “Love in marriage is a gift, a potentiality to be cultivated. Marital love is a subtle art that calls for sustained and sensitive appreciation…. The art of loving relies on a conscious sensibility, an awareness of the other who is not a mere extension of the self. The other is not an ear into which the ‘I’ can shout its wants and angers.”

So What’s Marriage Really About?

Marriage is about two people actively working together. It is complicated and it doesn’t always feel good. There is a great deal of pressure on newly engaged and recently married couples to be happy, even blissful. Yet, planning a wedding can be extremely stressful. Strong emotions surface, and family dynamics play out in often ugly and complicated ways. Religious feelings often become more pronounced, potentially creating difficulty for both interfaith and endogamous couples. And that’s just the beginning.

Everyday married life raises all kinds of challenges as well. Suddenly you are both truly accountable to another person and must share in decision making wholeheartedly. Rosie Einhorn and Sherry S. Zimmerman write in their book “In the Beginning: How to Survive Your Engagement and Build a Great Marriage”: “The responsibilities of giving each other emotional support, spending time together, coordinating finances and taking care of personal health all require each partner to curtail many of his or her formerly solitary activities.”

How Can New Couples Deal With
Reality?

What does this mean for newly engaged and recently married couples? It means you should be aware that this is a critical time that is full of promise but is also emotionally loaded. Tread carefully through this time. Talk with your partner about your feelings, fears, expectations and needs. And don’t feel crazy or bad if you’re not always feeling happy. Nobody feels happy all the time, and pretending like you do or pressuring yourself to feel that way only compounds normal problems and tensions.

Einhorn and Zimmerman suggest that at some point during engagement or early marriage most people ask themselves, “What did I get myself into?”

They assure the reader that this is a normal projection of marital anxiety that should be explored to determine its true source. They offer couples several questions to help evaluate the strength and health of their marriage:

How to Figure Out if You’re on The Right
Track:

These are good questions to ask yourself and your partner to help you identify the strengths and potential pitfalls in your relationship.

Do we have similar values?

Do we respect each other?

Do each of us admire qualities in our partner?

Are we attracted to each other?

Do we feel affection for each other?

Do my trusted friends and relatives like the person I’ve
chosen?

Remember, feelings change regularly and a marital foundation is built over time and maintained through diligent effort.

What Factors Make a Happy Marriage?

Renowned psychologist Judith Wallerstein studied divorce for 25 years before she decided to focus on what factors helped happy marriages stay happy. Her research resulted in “The Good Marriage,” written with Sandra Blakeslee, in which she profiles four types of happy marriages: Romantic, Rescue, Compassionate and Traditional.

She writes: “Of all human relationships, marriage is the most complex, the one you can tell the least about from the outside.” She suggests nine tasks that form the basis of a good, lasting relationship:

Separate emotionally from their childhood family and
redefine that relationship.

Create intimacy while each person also retains autonomy.

Take on the role of parents while still protecting the marriage’s intimacy.

Confront the crises of life and stay close no matter how difficult.

Feel safe expressing anger, conflict and differences of opinion.

Create a rich sexual relationship and maintain it despite hectic lifestyles.

Use humor to keep things in perspective and have fun.

Comfort, support and encourage each other.

Sustain early romantic images of falling in love with the other.

What is the Norm?

With all the media mythology about romance, soulmates, wedded bliss and the many other fallacies of marriage, how could we not get caught up in search for marital perfection? But just as the frightening movie “Fatal Attraction” isn’t the norm, neither is soap opera passion (at least in the long term).

Marriage is about finding someone you like, trust, respect and value enough to want to spend the rest of your life with, create a home and a family with and sacrifice for. That’s a lot to ask for and should not be taken lightly. And despite all the work, the stress and the pressure, the payoff is tremendous. Knowing that you have found someone to love and trust and that you have made a commitment to stay together through thick and thin; to share life’s challenges and triumphs together and that you are both willing to work to maintain a relationship for the rest of your lives — that’s pretty special.

That’s what dreams are made of.


Courtney Nathan, a licensed clinical social worker, is outreach coordinator at Jewish Family Service in Metairie, La.

Rock On


Getting engaged is a life-altering, mind-blowing, milestone event. It is the romantic equivalent of graduating from college and being thrown into the great unknown. We are transitioning here.

Getting engaged is also something you have to do. It doesn’t just happen on its own. At some point, amid all the anxiety, the expectation, the excitement, it is something that needs getting done. The question needs asking. Proposing marriage found its way onto a to-do list for Sat., April 26. Who says romance is dead?

10 a.m.: Drop off dry cleaning

Noon: Get stamps at post office

4 p.m.: Get engaged

Talk about a matzah ball on the calendar!

It requires jewelry — something about which I have managed to remain blissfully ignorant these many years. Alison’s family is "into" jewelry. She has one aunt whose apartment looks like Cartier’s vault. And, if I understand it correctly from Aunt Sylvia, where diamonds and romance intersect, size does matter.

Evidently, buying an engagement ring is not like ordering a book on Amazon.com. I spent a lot of time on the phone, designing the ring with my cousin Robbie The Jeweler in Detroit. (Who buys retail?) In my family, saying, "Did you talk to Detroit?" means that something shiny will soon be on its way. Rob taught me a valuable lesson — literally — about cut, clarity, color and carat.

I picked up the package at the post office. It came wrapped in plain brown paper and taped all the way around, completely discreet, but I felt like I was walking through the airport with a ticking bomb in my carry-on bag. I thought everyone must know that something suspicious was going on. No one let on if they did.

When I opened the box I still didn’t know what to think. The ring was so small I could lose this thing in my pocket, but I could also trade it in for a new model convertible car. That’s a whole lot of symbolism for one finger.

Now I just had to figure out the when and where of it. I chose the beach on a beautiful spring Saturday. The way I figured it, I’d take the ring, go for a walk with my girlfriend, ask a question, and come back with a fiancée. Talk about a rocket in my pocket — I must have patted down that pocket about a hundred times to make sure the ring hadn’t disappeared, like a stand-up comic checking his zipper before taking the stage.

As I was making plans to do the deed, she was outside, napping on a beach chair, blissfully unaware. I think she was expecting something sometime soon, but that’s where I had the edge. I knew the place and time. She knew what the answer was. I’d done everything I could to narrow the odds for a favorable response, including moving in together a few months earlier.

We went for our walk on the beach. Alison had some gunk called a "treatment" in her hair. She was wearing a big, floppy hat to keep the sun off her face, sunglasses and a jacket she borrowed that was two sizes too big. An outfit only a mother could love. I figured if I could ask her to marry me looking like that, it must be love.

To be fair, I didn’t look so hot either. I had a pimple on my chin. I don’t know who could look me in the eye and say yes to that. "Do you, Alison, take this pimple, ’til death do you part?" I wouldn’t want to marry a guy with a big pimple on his chin, but fortunately I won’t have to. Maybe I should have put it off until I could get in to see Arnie Klein. Maybe not.

I’ve never done this, never actually asked the question in so many words, so I wasn’t exactly sure where I ought to begin my sales pitch. I felt like I was going on a job interview. Should I remind her of my qualifications for the job? "As you know, I have an Ivy League education. My parents are nice people. I love children."

Actually, what I said was: "There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you," and she started crying almost before the words were out of my mouth. She was still crying a minute later.

"If you say ‘yes,’ you’ll get a really good prize," I said. Fortunately, I didn’t lose the ring in my pocket and its presentation was met with a resounding chorus of "Oh my Gods."

We’ll have to assume her answer was yes by the way she put the ring on that day and hasn’t taken it off since.

J.D. Smith can be further engaged at www.carteduvin.com.

Happy Circumstance


Erin Falkowitz, 25, daughter of Ellen and Michael Falkowitz, and Jake Jundef, 26, son of Bracha and Moshe Jundef, met in the summer of 1997, long after the laws of probability say they should have. Both of them went to UC Santa Barbara and had numerous mutual friends — Jake had even dated a few of them. But it took some random circumstances to get the two acquainted and dating. Six years later, they’re engaged to be married.

"He was on the phone with our friend, Cydney, when I got to her house. She and I were supposed to go to the movies," Erin said.

When Erin tried to hurry Cydney off the phone, Jake wanted to know whose voice he was hearing, then demanded to speak with her.

"We were on the phone for more than an hour," Erin recalled. By the time she was off the phone, she’d missed the movie and Cydney had long since gone to bed.

"I closed up her house and went home," Erin said.

She had a date with Jake set for two nights later.

While the two had an instant rapport, they were also juniors in college. Jake was interested in pledging a fraternity, and wasn’t looking for a serious relationship. Their romantic relationship was on and off for the next few years.

Still, Erin said, "No matter what, we never went more than a few days without at least talking to each other."

Things got serious after a New Year’s Eve spent apart in 2001 when things were "off again." Erin went to Las Vegas with her girlfriends and a guy she was dating. When she came back, Jake told her he wanted to get back together. A year and a half later, Jake knew he wanted Erin to be his wife.

"No one can really tell you when to do it and when not to do it. You just know," Jake said.

For her part, Erin said she was completely surprised by the proposal — she actually thought it was a practical joke.

"Once you know Jake, he’s kind of a jokester," she said. "I asked him if it was real," she said with a smile.

Once she knew it was, she made him ask her again before she said yes.

Erin is a junior account executive at Guttman Associates, and Jake is an account executive at JMPR Public Relations. They will be married on June 28, 2003, at Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge. Rabbi Micah Caplan will officiate the ceremony.


Say Hello to The Jewish Journal’s New Celebrations Section

Due to the vast number of announcements we receive, The
Journal now publishes all of our readers’ celebration announcements immediately
on our Web site, free of charge. You can upload your announcements and photos
onto the site at

To Elected Love


Once in a while, when you lose in politics, you can still
win. Even though Michael Wissot lost his bid for a seat in the state assembly
last fall, he found his beshert along the campaign trail.

Wissot, 28, recently announced his engagement to Stephen S.
Wise Temple Cantor Alison Weiner, 31, whom he met at a temple event in June
featuring keynote speaker Adam Goldman (President Bush’s then-liaison to the
American Jewish community). Wissot was there as a guest of the Republican
Jewish Coalition, to be introduced as a candidate for the 41st Assembly
District; Weiner sang “Hatikva” prior to Goldman’s speech. Both made note of
the other, but got lost in the crowd. So Weiner was surprised when her father
grabbed her to “introduce her to this nice young man” and it turned out to be Wissot.
The pair were, as each of them recalls, dumbstruck for about 20 minutes.

“I never really appreciated how powerful love at first sight
could be until I experienced it,” Wissot said.

Over the next few months, Weiner frequently accompanied Wissot
on the campaign trail. “She was great at precinct walking because a lot of
people recognized her,” he said. When election night came, and the Westlake Village
businessman realized he was not going to prevail against incumbent Fran Pavley
(she won with 64 percent of the votes), Wissot said he was “disappointed, but
not devastated. Winning the election would have been a consolation; I already
had the prize.”

Now it was his turn to keep up with Weiner’s schedule, which
ended up playing a part in their engagement. Weiner was in Nottingham, England
in December to participate in a cantor’s consortium and Wissot had been looking
for a romantic opportunity to propose. He concocted a scheme to lure her to London
just before the end of her trip. Using the power of e-mail, he pretended to be
a mutual friend and convinced Weiner to meet him at Trafalgar Square on Dec.
24. There, in one of London’s most famous spots, Wissot surprised Weiner and
ended up on bended knee amid carolers and snow flurries. Although some people
would call the timing of their engagement ironic, Weiner, who appreciates all
kinds of music, disagrees.

“To be surrounded by carolers and to be near St. Martin’s
Church with the most incredible four-part harmony escaping from it was one of the
most beautiful moments I could ask for,” she said.

As for that other non-Jewish holiday coming up, the one with
all the hearts and flowers, Weiner said, “I [have] no doubt Michael and I will
both find ways to be creative and express what we feel for each other.”