Rebecca and Max Brondfield
First Date: John Harvard Bar Mitzvah Event at Harvard Hillel, Nov. 7, 2009
Wedding Date: May 29, 2016
Venue: Vintners Inn, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Residence: San Francisco, Calif.
Favorite Activity: Wine tasting and cooking
As Harvard University Hillel’s president, Rebecca Gillette always was busy. So when a friend introduced Max Brondfield to the Baltimore native, she was occupied. He knew, however, he would see her again.
Over time, they realized they lived in the same dorm hall and shared much in common. They conversed online until the wee hours while writing papers.
Their official first date was to Hillel’s John Harvard Bar Mitzvah on Nov. 7, 2009. They attended college formals and many Hillel events, and ventured together through Boston as tourists. They realized they shared common values, a strong Jewish faith and similar interests in movies, museums and shows. A fellowship in Washington, D.C. didn’t keep Rebecca away following graduation. She visited often.
After Max graduated, they moved across the country when he enrolled at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. It was an essential time in their relationship.
“Getting through a very intense experience … was important for us,” said Rebecca, 27.
In the meantime, she applied for master’s programs. Not wanting to leave Max, she almost didn’t apply to Yale University, one of the top programs in nonprofit management. He encouraged her to go for it, which she did.
Rebecca worried about their future if she moved back east. In December 2013, Max took a board exam on a Tuesday, and they celebrated on Wednesday. On Thursday, Max took Rebecca to Golden Gate Park, where they re-enacted their first photograph together four years earlier. After, they stopped at their apartment. Rose petals formed a path from the door to a circle in the living room. There, a bottle of champagne and a bouquet of roses waited.
Rebecca thought it sweet, unaware. Then Max knelt down and proposed with a diamond reset from his grandmother’s ring. Max’s parents, Eric Bronfield and Jane Melnick, came to celebrate. Unlike their daughter, Ellen and Richard Gilette were aware, although Richard was in China on business. Then, Rebecca joined the Brondfields on a Hawaiian vacation.
“Max’s family really took me in as a daughter-in-law long before I was,” said Rebecca.
Max, too, melded with the Gillettes. Over Thanksgiving 2010 in Baltimore, Rebecca was assured when she heard Max and her brother, Aaron, conversing about sports late into the night.
They married during a whirlwind few weeks: Max’s medical school graduation in San Francisco on May 15, 2016; Rebecca’s graduate school commencement in Boston on May 23; and their wedding May 29 at the Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa. Dr. Bernie Steinberg, Rebecca’s former Hillel mentor who became a chaplain at University of California, Berkley, officiated the traditional Jewish ceremony. Following an intimate bedekken and ketubbah signing, the bride and groom circled each other under the chuppah and drank from two kiddush cups, one from Rebecca’s family and the other that would become their own.
They plan a trip to Italy next summer, but in the meantime enjoy each other’s company.
“No matter what we’re doing, staying home or cooking, we’re always incredibly comfortable and have incredible fun,” said Max, 27. “Nothing makes me happier than to come home and spend time together.”
Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email Linda.Esterson@verizon.net.