Play Date

071814_beshert1Karen & Josh Kohn
First Date: Feb. 14, 1981, at a Chinese restaurant in Wheaton, Md.
Wedding Date: Sept. 24, 1989
Venue: Camp Airy in Thurmont, Md.
Residence: Westminster, Md.
Favorite Activity: Hang gliding and walking their Boston Terrier, Scooter

Karen Neal and Josh Kohn met in kindergarten.

“I have a vivid memory of him playing with baby chickens,” she said. “He was a cutie pie.”

Josh remembers her always in a dress with tights.

“She was a very delicate, dainty little girl,” said Josh.

They didn’t reconnect until their senior year at Northwood High School in Kemp Mill. Josh was the ultimate overachiever, a standout on the football and baseball teams and a member of the school’s orchestra. He also was a member of the choir.

“He was a catch,” Karen said.

As luck would have it, Karen also was in the choir, and her friends prodded her to ask Josh to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Instead, they got Josh to ask Karen out on her 18th birthday.

When they arrived at the restaurant, her friends were waiting to surprise her. Karen flailed her arms in excitement and nailed Josh in the stomach. Later, they attended the prom together and within a few months professed their love.

“We are alike in a lot of ways, the way we think about things,” said Karen. “I knew he was the one.”

Karen joined Monna and Sherwood Kohn to send Josh off to the University of Arizona that fall. She cried the entire way home. They racked up long-distance bills and wrote letters. Karen kept many of them, and she still treasures the rose petal Josh laminated and sent to her. The rose petal traveled back and forth in their cards and letters to each other that year.

071814_beshert2Josh transferred to the University of Maryland, where Karen studied graphic design. The Kohns and Jack and Mary Ellen Neal pressured them to date other people. Each tried over the next few years, but that only reinforced their outlook on the future.

In May 1989, after dinner and the symphony, they went for drinks and dessert, and Josh proposed.

They visited Camp Airy in Thurmont, excited to share the news with Ed Cohen, the director. Josh had been a counselor and unit leader there. Cohen insisted they marry at camp.

Family stayed in the cabins, and the rehearsal dinner and reception were catered. Rabbi Floyd Herman performed the ceremony. Karen, who grew up Methodist, attended introduction to Judaism classes and considers herself “practically Jewish.” especially after working at The Associated for eight years. She’s now a visual arts teacher in Carroll County.

“It’s (about) our sense of Judaism,” said Josh, who owns Kohn Creative. “You don’t have to belong to a synagogue to be Jewish. It’s tradition, ways of thought, history.”

They honeymooned in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Ben was born in February 1995, and Grace was born in April 1997.

As they approach their 25th anniversary, at 51, both say their long partnership is based on honesty and open communication.

“He’s my best friend,” said Karen.

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

The Set-Up

Lorraine & Bernie Schlossberg
First Date: January 1946, to the movies
Wedding Date: June 27, 1948
Venue: Northwest Talmud Torah Synagogue
Residence: Baltimore
Favorite Activity: Dining out

Lorraine Rosenthal’s best friend set her up with Bernie Schlossberg in 1946. But when it came time for their first date, he called and told her his uncle had died.

“I didn’t believe him,” said Lorraine, 85, more than 68 years later. “I thought he didn’t want to go.”

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“It was the truth,” said Bernie, also 85. “I have never lied to her.”

A few weeks later, they went to the movies.

That was after Bernie came to the Rosenthals’ Northwest Baltimore home, walked into the kitchen and introduced himself to Dora and Reuben Rosenthal. He was friendly, and Dora took to him immediately.

Lorraine did as well. After all, he was very kind and “one in a million.” He remembers her as “adorable.”

As they spent more and more time together, they enjoyed going dancing and dining out. They were 17 and fell in love. They attended each other’s proms; that’s when Lorraine met Morris and Fannie Schlossberg. Soon after, Bernie gave Lorraine his high school ring during a double date. While the other couple was in the front seat of the car breaking up, Lorraine and Bernie were in the back seat committing to each other.

That’s also when Bernie told Lorraine he loved her.

From then on, they were inseparable. Each day, Bernie either called or visited.

They talked marriage, and in early 1948 went ring shopping.


(Photos Provided)

They were wed in an Orthodox ceremony on June 27, 1948. Rabbi Jacob Green officiated, and 50 friends and family members attended. Lorraine wore a pink dress with gold accessories. Bernie wore a blue suit with a fancy tie.

After a weeklong honeymoon in New York City and Atlantic City, they lived with the Rosenthals for about a year. They were just two kids out of high school, both just 19.

Lorraine worked as a secretary, and Bernie handled office jobs before joining the government and later Sears, where he spent 25 years as a furniture department manager and an appliance salesman. They lived in a few apartments before moving to a row house in 1951 on Flannery Lane.

Mark was born in 1955, and David joined the family in 1958. Eventually, they moved to Scotts Level Road, where they stayed for 33 years. Today, Bernie and Lorraine dote on their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Fourteen years ago, they downsized to a Park Heights apartment. Lorraine plays mah-jongg, and Bernie volunteers at Sinai Hospital’s cardiac unit and plays computer games. They’ve done their share of traveling, including a cruise for their 60th anniversary, but most of all they enjoy dining out and spending time together.

The secret, Bernie said, to a long married life together is to listen.

“She tells me what to do, and I do it,” he said.

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Shall We Dance?



Marsha & Larry Silverman
First Date: April 6, 1963
Wedding Date: June 19, 1966
Venue: Rogers Avenue Synagogue
Residence: Owings Mills
Favorite Activities: Spending time with grandchildren

In early April, 1963, Larry Silverman was in an alley playing baseball when his mom summoned him to answer a phone call.

On the other end was Marsha Segal, whom his next-door neighbor had encouraged him to call. Larry wasn’t one for blind dates, stating it wasn’t his “style.” But after Marsha explained her junior prom date for the next evening had taken ill, Larry couldn’t refuse.

He got her address and the specifics for the evening and returned to his game.

Wanting to meet Marsha in advance, Larry went to the Segal home early the next day. Marsha was at the hairdresser, so instead he chatted with Bernice and Harry Segal.

A few hours later, Larry returned to meet Marsha, who was two years younger. He was happy to find the cute girl with the beautiful smile and big, dark eyes waiting for him.

Marsha was also impressed with the mild-mannered, easy-going gentleman.

The prom was a hit, and they joined other couples in Little Italy for dinner afterward.

“We felt easy with each other, we never felt like we didn’t know each other,” said Larry, 70.

Larry kissed Marsha’s cheek and departed. Both were pleased.

However, Larry didn’t call for six weeks.

Marsha was surprised at the delay, thinking Larry didn’t like her. But he admitted he didn’t move quickly.

They went out again to Marsha’s sorority dance and after another pleasant evening decided to date. By December, they exchanged high school rings and agreed to go steady.

In August 1965, while watching television at the Silverman home in Northwest Baltimore, Larry dropped to his knee and presented Marsha with an engagement ring.



On June 19, 1966 at the Rogers Avenue Synagogue, Rabbi Jacob S. Green pronounced them husband and wife with 280 guests bearing witness.

“When I saw her in her gown, walking down the aisle, it blew me away,” recalled Larry. “I teared up.”

Cantor Alvin Donald sang their song, “More,” and they shared their first dance as husband and wife with their friends and family members.

After living in a duplex for nearly three years, they bought a home on Carthage Road in Randallstown in June 1969. By then, Janice had joined them, and in March 1976, Robyn was born.

Marsha worked as a secretary before she retired two years ago. Larry worked as an accountant for the IRS for 33 years. He retired in 1999, and they moved to their current residence, a spacious condominium in Owings Mills.

Today, they bask in the glory of being “Bubbie and Pop” to Alex, Andrew, Josh, Nicole and Hailey, all of whom live in Ellicott City. They also enjoy Tuesday movie dates, the theater, traveling, Maryland basketball games, Navy football games and, of course, their grandchildren’s activities.

They agree it is mindboggling to reflect on 48 years of marriage and 51 years together.

Their rituals include goodnight kisses, proclamations of love and always sending cards with the same message, “One beautiful day, you came my way, and I’ve loved you ever since.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Matzo Match

051614_beshertJenna & Jeremy Sperber
First Date: April 2010
Wedding Date: April 6, 2014
Venue: Hunt Valley Golf Club
Residence: Reisterstown
Favorite Activity: Spending time together and with family

In late March 2010, Jenna Singer returned to Towson University after the first Passover Seder. Her mother, Wendy Quartner, had packed her matzah, mandel bread and other goodies to last her through the week.

The apartment’s parking lot was a far walk, and she had lots to carry. It was too early for the Safe Ride program, which provides assistance after 11 p.m., so she called the campus police to wait with her.

When she reached the stop, she found a thin guy eating a hamburger. Jeremy Sperber asked if she was coming from the grocery store. When Jenna told him she came from her family’s Seder, he was shocked. He had no idea it was Passover.

Their connection was instant, beginning with their disdain for the parking situation and continuing with their common beliefs.

As soon as she could, Jenna sent Jeremy a friend request on Facebook to “check him out.” A few days later, they met and talked for hours.

Their first date to a local restaurant was delayed by two hours when Jeremy had to stay late at his new job. But it was worth the wait.

“I felt so comfortable around her,” said Jeremy, 24, a native of Long Island, N.Y. “I could completely be myself.”

All of their free time was spent together. One Sunday night, Jeremy joined Jenna in Reisterstown and met her extended family.

Jeremy asked Jenna to be his girlfriend while doing laundry on April 20. The first person they told was the building’s security guard, who proclaimed they would marry one day.

During an early June trip to New York, Jenna met Karen and Richard Sperber. She also visited the local emergency room after a glow-stick mishap. On the bus ride home, Jenna texted Jeremy “ani ohevet otcha” and after Googling the phrase to learn it meant “I love you,” he texted it back.

They graduated a semester apart in 2012. Today, Jeremy is a technical lead for Microsystems and Jenna is a nanny and substitute teacher.

One September day, Jeremy brought Jenna’s family dog, Annie, to his apartment. Jenna sat down to eat and heard the collar’s jingling noise. She realized Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” was playing, and Jeremy knelt down with the dog and a ring.

They headed to her mom and stepfather Scott Quartner’s home, and her dad and stepmother, David and Kristen Singer, stopped over as well as siblings, cousins and friends.

They married April 6 at the Hunt Valley Golf Club with Beth Israel Congregation’s Cantor Roger Eisenberg officiating. Instead of the bouquet toss, they opted for a generation dance, which left Jenna’s grandparents, Carole and Arnold Singer, married for nearly 57 years, on the dance floor last.

Everything points to their future being just as strong. They share the same initials (JAS), Jenna shares a birthday with Jeremy’s sister, and they are just natural together.

“Just the fact that we met at the bus stop and found each other when we weren’t looking,” said Jenna, 23. “We didn’t have to try at all.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

New York State of Mind

050214_beshert-nowFirst Date: January 1988, Greenwich Village, N.Y.
Wedding Date: April 9, 1989
Venue: Beth Jacob Synagogue, Baltimore
Residence: Owings Mills
Favorite Activity: Working out together

In late December 1987, Linda Bogash called her aunt, Marilyn Bennett, to wish her a mazel tov on her daughter’s engagement to Alan Cohen.

The first thing Marilyn told her single niece was that she had the perfect guy for her. Marilyn had met her future son-in-law’s cousin, Seth Cohen, and knew instantly that he was right for Linda.

Linda ventured to New York City for a weekend, and she joined the newly engaged couple and Seth for a double date on New Year’s Eve.

The foursome gathered at a Moroccan restaurant and headed to the South Street Seaport after dinner. At the seaport, the two couples were separated. Long before cell phones, they failed to reconnect. Marilyn had provided Linda with $20 in case she needed to call a cab.

Seth turned out to be a gentleman, and they walked around the seaport, enjoyed drinks and even kissed at midnight. At 2 a.m. they went back to Seth’s car and drove around New York, taking in Central Park and Times Square. By the time Linda reached the Bennett residence, it was 4 a.m.

That Saturday night, Seth took Linda out for their first official date, to a restaurant in the Village. Linda was impressed when Seth asked her to let him know when she arrived home in Randallstown safely after the weekend.

By that time, she was sure.

“I knew from the first kiss that I was going to marry him,” said Linda, 51, a Baltimore County physical education teacher. “Before the kiss (at the seaport) I felt safe. It felt like it was beshert. It felt right.”

They embarked on a long-distance relationship, with Seth arriving in Baltimore Friday evenings twice a month.

Commuting for dates was tough, Seth said, because they didn’t see each other often enough. When together, they did “touristy” stuff, and when apart, they sent each other cards, which Linda still has.

“We exhausted all of the ‘miss you’ cards we could find at Hallmark,” said Seth, who has worked in retail management for 30 years.

That summer, Seth took Linda to Paradise Island, after she decoded a message inviting her in invisible ink. After dinner the first night, they walked the beach. At sunset, Seth knelt down and proposed.

050214_beshert-thenLinda and Seth were married April 9, 1989 at Beth Jacob Synagogue with 130 guests in attendance.

Linda was escorted down the aisle by her sisters, Elana Cavalier and Caren Gresham. Rabbi Ronald Schwartz officiated.

The couple’s daughter, Melissa, was born in November 1991. Lauren joined the family in May 1993, and Julie arrived in November 1997.

They have taken vacations in Wildwood, N.J., the Bahamas, Bermuda and Disney World. Now they are planning a cruise alone to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

“Marriage takes compromise, patience,” said Linda. “It’s really about having the love for each other that keeps you going.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Birds of a Feather

041814_beshertRebecca & Alexander Yaffe
First Date: July 11, 2012
Where: Birds of a Feather in Fells Point
Wedding Date: Dec. 1, 2013
Venue: Antrim 1844
Residence: Baldwin, Md.
Favorite Activity: Cooking dinner together

Neither Rebecca Rosenzweig nor Alexander Jaffe planned to marry.

“I thought I always would be a single, independent woman,” said Rebecca, 33, a personnel security specialist for the Department of Defense.

But when Rebecca met Alexander Yaffe in July 2012 through J-Date, the Jewish online dating service, all caution went with the wind.

They chatted electronically for a few days before Alexander had to prepare for a business trip. Rebecca cut to the chase, suggesting they meet for a drink before his departure. They talked for nearly four hours at Birds of a Feather in Fells Point, each barely finishing one drink.

“It was the best three-and-a-half- hour experience of my life,” said Rebecca.

They talked about their families, past relationships, religion, politics, music, movies and animals.

They were so enthralled with each other that they walked out without settling the check. After a hug goodnight, Alexander went back inside to pay.

They texted, but family commitments prevented their next date for about three weeks. Both were happy to get together again, meeting halfway from Rebecca’s Laurel condo and Alexander’s Upper Park Heights apartment at a gastropub in Columbia. Rebecca found a parking spot on the lot, but Alexander parked across the street. It was a ploy to get Rebecca alone at the end of the night so he could initiate their first kiss.

By late September, Rebecca knew he was the one she would marry.

“That’s when I told her I didn’t want to see other people,” said Alexander, president and CEO of Yaffe and Company, a nonprofit consulting firm. “That’s when she told me she wasn’t.”

A month later, they professed their love.

The true test for Alexander was taking Rebecca on a family trip to California to meet his brother and niece along with his parents, Dorothy and Rian Yaffe, and sister.

“I knew if the trip was good, it would give me the information that we had lasting staying power,” he said.

A few weeks later, he asked Shirley and Edwin Rosenzweig for Rebecca’s hand in marriage.

For New Year’s Eve, Alexander planned a romantic evening at a dog-friendly inn. After downing three glasses of wine in 25 minutes and lasting through an 11-course meal, he took Maggie, his Australian Shepherd Border Collie for a walk and a pep talk. He returned at 1 a.m. and sat Rebecca on the couch.

Rebecca heard little of his prepared speech, but she heard the most important part, “Will you marry me?”

They married on Dec. 1, 2013 at the Antrim 1844 with Rabbi Aryeh Goetz officiating. Nearly 150 guests witnessed the personal Orthodox ceremony.

“When I met Rebecca everything just clicked,” said Alexander. “We laughed together, had fun, and I wanted to be with her. It all just fit.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Still Standing

Anita & Kenny Baum
040414_beshert-nowFirst Date: Jewish Welfare Board Social, February 1953
Wedding Date: April 4, 1954
Venue: Beth Isaac Adath Israel Synagogue
Residence: Baltimore
Favorite Activity: Being with family, traveling

On a recent Caribbean cruise, Anita and Kenny Baum were the king and queen.

It was during an evening show that the emcee asked for married couples to stand. As couples were released to their seats based on years of marriage, the Baums remained standing. The crowd was astonished at their 59 years together.

Kenny Baum uneventfully met Anita Schleider at a Jewish Welfare Board Social for Jewish servicemen at the Woodholme Country Club in February 1953. A few weeks later they met again, this time at a social hour catered by Anita’s family’s business, Schleider Caterers.

When Kenny returned after two weeks home in St. Louis, he called Anita, and they started dating. They enjoyed going to movies, dinners and social board events.

Kenny fell in love quickly with the “beautiful Jewish girl” who he describes as “the sharpest person you ever want to meet.”

In August, they committed to each other while on the Schleider front porch.

Belle Baum visited Baltimore over Thanksgiving to meet the Schleiders. During dinner, Kenny gave Anita a gift. It was an engraved cigarette case. Inside was the engagement ring he bought with his savings.

Esther and Max Schleider had given their blessing after meeting a rabbi in St. Louis to check out the Baum family.

040414_beshert-thenLess than five months later, more than 200 guests witnessed the nuptials on April 4, 1954, at Beth Isaac Adath Israel Synagogue. Rabbis Manuel Poliakoff and Benajmin Bak officiated. Nineteen-year-old Anita was a vision in a long-sleeved lace and tulle gown with a jeweled crown. Her 25-year-old groom looked dapper himself.

After a New York honeymoon, they returned to their Keyworth Avenue apartment. After Kenny’s October discharge, he joined the catering business.

Anita raised Gerri, born in 1955, Sam (1956) and Renee (1959), and family life was busy. After 17 years of night and weekend work, Kenny left to open the Knish Shop on Reisterstown Road. Anita worked at the store for two years but left so they “wouldn’t get divorced.” She joined Sears and stayed 20 years.

The Baums became empty nesters in 1980. In 1998, they sold the Knish shop. Kenny consulted until 2002, when he joined Seven Mile Market. Anita works for a pediatrician.

When asked about reaching the 60-year mark, both express awe.

“It’s mind-boggling to believe all of these years have gone by,” said Kenny, 85. It’s the biggest blessing of my life.”

“I’m grateful to have him,” said Anita, 79. “I love him.”

The Baums advise newlyweds to learn as you go along. They endured hard times like the long hours in the catering business and the loss of Sam 10 years ago, and kvell in the happy times with granddaughter Mira Baum, 15, and their trips to Israel and Europe.

“Every day I live with her, I love her more,” said Kenny.

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Endless Conversation

032114_beshertJESSICA & LEWIS TEMPLE
First Date: Dec. 13, 2009
Wedding Date: July 21, 2013
Venue: Mendenhall Inn, Mendenhall, Pa.
Residence: Houston
Favorite Activity: Day trips

Lewis Temple stood under the chuppah and looked into Jessica Norman’s eyes. The feeling was powerful.

“I was filled with joy and awe in thinking about what the future would hold,” recalled Lewis, 26. “I felt so lucky I was marrying her.”

That powerful connection was evident from the moment they met for coffee in Philadelphia in December 2009.

The pair connected via the online dating site OkCupid. Both were just back from Birthright Israel trips and found their interests quite similar — travel, Judaism, reading, movies, television and music. They conversed online for a month before meeting.

Neither hesitated, and they clicked immediately. They talked for five hours.

They agreed to email or call soon. But Lewis couldn’t wait. He texted that night and arranged to see Jessica three days later.

They went to Longwood Gardens, an arboretum that features indoor and outdoor displays. Afterward, they went to dinner; an hour past closing time, restaurant staff asked them to leave.

“I really liked him, and I was excited and nervous because we clicked so well,” said Jessica, 29, an Owings Mills native. “I’m very shy and he’s kind of shy, but we never had a lull in the conversation. We had so many things in common, so much to say.”

The next weekend they enjoyed a movie marathon at Jessica’s apartment. Two weeks later, Jessica met Jeffrey and Debra Temple at their home prior to accompanying Lewis to a party. Just as she did with their son, she spent two hours immersed in conversation with his parents. Then, she met his friends.

Things heated up quickly, and Lewis enrolled in a horticulture program at Delaware Valley College after taking a few years off. Jessica was in the clinical psychology doctorate program at LaSalle University, about an hour away. They saw each other twice a week and professed their love by Passover.

But it all went too quickly, and they broke things off. When they got back together almost a year later, they knew they were in it for the long haul, said Lewis.

In July 2012, Lewis led Jessica on a scavenger hunt in her apartment. After solving five or six puzzles, she found a ring in a futon. Karen and Michael Norman had given their permission.

They married on July 21, 2013 at the Mendenhall Inn in Mendenhall, Pa. Rabbi Michael Beals officiated the Conservative ceremony, which was witnessed by 100 friends and family members.

“I think about him all the time,” Jessica said of Lewis, who put off his career to move to Houston so Jessica could pursue a neuropsychology post-doctoral fellowship. They plan to return East in 18 months.

“I can be in a terrible mood, and he walks in the door and I burst into song,” said Jessica. “He doesn’t have to do anything. He just raises my spirits.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Family Ties


(Photo Teri Pozniak/TPoz Photography)

First Date: July 2007, to the movies
Second Date: April 2011, to dinner
Wedding: Nov. 30, 2013
Venue: Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel
Residence: Bethesda
Favorite Activity: Outdoor walks

There were just too many family ties to keep Alyssa Bloom and Jonathan Polovoy apart.

They met through Jonathan’s sister, Lauren, who was Alyssa’s roommate at the University of Maryland, College Park. It was in spring 2007 at a party during Alyssa’s sophomore year; Jonathan was a senior.

“I definitely thought he was my type – tall, dark and handsome,” said Alyssa, now 26. The Owings Mills native found Jonathan funny and nice, and she had a feeling that a relationship could go somewhere. He had “the one” potential.

Jonathan, too, found Alyssa attractive and knew they had “clicked personality-wise.” They shared the same sense of humor, and he even told his roommates he would marry her someday.

Six months later, when both were unattached, they went to a movie. Although it was enjoyable, they weren’t on the same page. Alyssa just wanted fun, but Jonathan wanted more.

They dated other people and connected periodically. Their meetings grew more pleasant. In April 2011, when Jonathan and Lauren’s grandfather passed away, Alyssa visited the shiva house. They found each other single and realized the spark remained. After Passover, they went to dinner.

“We knew we were both in a more settled place,” said Jonathan, 28, a health-care consultant. “In the back of our minds this was the last shot we were going to get [to be together].”

In late May, Alyssa, a conference center manager for the FDA in Silver Spring, joined Jonathan, Lauren and friends for a weekend at a family beach house in Dewey Beach, Del., making their relationship “official.” They professed their love a few months later.

Fast forward to December 2012. Sharon and Bob Bloom and daughter Valerie joined Alyssa and Jonathan at Carol and Jerry Polovoy’s Olney home for Chanukah dinner. It was a reunion of sorts, as Sharon and Jerry reminisced about their time at Pikesville High School. And they laughed, as they recalled when Al Polovoy, Jonathan’s grandfather, pulled out his high school yearbook to show Alyssa a photo of his classmate, Bernie Heneson, her grandfather.

Alyssa’s parents handed the couple a large wrapped box. Inside were lots of tissue paper sheets and a small black box. Alyssa watched in shock as Jonathan dropped to his knee, presented her with a ring and asked her to marry him.

They were married by B’Nai Shalom of Olney’s Rabbi Ari Sunshine and Cantor Sara Geller at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel on Nov. 30, 2013. About 250 friends and family members witnessed the ceremony, which featured their personal love notes read aloud to each other.

They laughed during the joyful speeches from Bob and Valerie Bloom and have filled their Bethesda home with laughter each day since.

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Lightning Speed

022114_beshert2Fran & Alan Surell
First Date: Dec. 25, 1987, dinner and a movie
Wedding Date: Oct. 29, 1988
Venue: Temple Oheb Shalom
Residence: Marietta, Ga.
Favorite Activities: Traveling and going to the beach

For Fran Belman and Alan Surell, it was quick.

On Dec. 25, 1987, the two were introduced by an employee of Fran’s father, who also was a friend of Alan’s parents. The couple hit it off on their first date — Chinese food and a movie, “Broadcast News” — and by their second date, both were sure.

Their second meeting was actually at Dick and Cloe Belman’s house in Randallstown following a party for Fran’s grandfather. Alan met her parents, hung out and won her heart.

“That was it,” said Fran, 53. “I just knew he was the one.”

Alan, too, was convinced.

“I was at the stage in life that I was ready to settle down,” said Alan, 59.

In fact, both spent that New Year’s out of town — Alan in Vermont and Fran in Boston. Realizing they hated being apart, Alan came home a few days early.

After just three weeks together, they professed their love. In late February, Alan sat next to Fran and handed her a single rose. He looked into her eyes, told her he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her and asked her to marry him.

Fran picked out her ring the next week and plans were underway for a wedding. It was too soon for spring so they chose fall.

022114_beshert1Rabbis Seymour Essrog and Donald Berlin were joined by Cantor Melvin Luterman, the Belmans, Howard and Marge Surell and about 250 guests at Temple Oheb Shalom in Pikesville on Oct. 29, 1988 for the nuptials.

After a two-week Hawaiian honeymoon, they settled in Alan’s Columbia townhouse before moving to a single-family home in Owings Mills. By their first anniversary, Fran was pregnant; Scott was born in May 1990. Jordan joined the family in February 1993, and Chandler followed in September 1995.

As the children grew, Alan coached their sports teams and even served as Little League president for three years.

Most Saturday nights, they hired a babysitter so they could enjoy date night.

Alan, an IT executive, traveled often for work, and Fran shuttled the children to Gymboree, play groups, Mommy and Me classes and various other activities.

The kids are all in college now, and the Surells live in Marietta, Ga., after Alan’s job transfer in 2010.

Today, they share their home with their three dogs and spend their date nights out at dinner and movies. They enjoy outdoor events such as festivals and craft shows, seemingly held weekly in the South, and also spend time at their second home in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“I really can’t believe it’s been 25 years,” said Fran. “I would do it all again if I had the chance, and I wouldn’t change anything.”

Alan describes them as “two gears that mesh” and Fran adds that they complement each other and pick up the slack for each other.

Said Alan: “We’re just starting the next 25 years.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email