Philip Sharp and Jenna Bishop met while on an Israel trip through the University of Maryland. Their individual trip leaders were married, so the groups came together for shared meals and activities. When they returned to college, Jenna and Phil discovered they had mutual friends, and they were both involved with the Meor program so they saw each other often. That connection developed into a friendship and then a romantic relationship a few months later.
Phil graduated in December 2011 and headed to Israel. He returned to work at the McDonogh School summer camp with Jenna but then headed back to Israel. Both worked at camp the following summer too, and after Jenna graduated, she headed to Israel. But by now Phil was in working back in Baltimore. For almost three years, they maintained a long-distance relationship through Skype, emails, phone calls, packages and letters.
During one attempted overseas call, Phil, in Baltimore, was “super busy,” unable to speak with Jenna, still in Israel. But she understood, because Phil was a residential treatment therapist for Catholic Charities, he was involved in work around the clock. Jenna knew they would catch up when they could.
In Israel, everyone was celebrating the Fast of Esther, the 13th of Adar (March 13), and Jenna planned to go out with friends to break the fast but they chose a pricey restaurant. Jenna tried to convince them to go somewhere less expensive.
Her friends won out, and as they walked into the restaurant, Jenna noticed a handsome guy sitting in a booth with a bouquet of flowers. She did a double take and realized it was Phillip.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“How are you?” he asked.
Before she could answer, he was down on one knee, proposing to her right there. He presented her with a ring provided by her mother, Carrie Bishop, because, he told her, he wanted them to pick out her engagement ring together.
Jenna was speechless. Phil had to ask her several times if she was listening.
Phil began the wedding plans with Carrie and Michael Bishop and Michael and Sharon Sharp in Baltimore. By the time Jenna returned in May, everything was booked.
Meor’s founder, Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld, officiated at their Aug. 12, 2014 nuptials at Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation. About 200 guests witnessed the Orthodox ceremony and the emotional bedekken.
“With everything we’ve been through, all the challenges and ups and downs, there hasn’t been a doubt in our minds that this was the end goal,” said Jenna, 24, who is preparing to be a Goddard School preschool teacher, while Phil, 25, prepares for graduate classes at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. “We bring out the best in each other.”
Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email Linda.Esterson@verizon.net.