When Marina Awerbuch moved from Toronto to attend graduate school at Arizona State University, she immediately made a connection with Jewish Arizonans on Campus (JAC) and jLive, run by Rabbi Jordan Brumer.
Marina met Eric after they coincidentally moved to the Valley the same week – Marina from Toronto, Eric from Detroit. “We got to know the community and explore the area together,” Marina says. They married in February 2014.
Settling into married life, Marina started to feel a little out of place and too old for the jLive crowd. She discussed her feelings with Rabbi Brumer’s wife, Risa, and they came up with the idea of putting together a young Jewish married couples group, now known as Jewlyweds.
“It started last November, and the idea was to create a community of young married Jewish couples who are all in the same stage of life, before children,” Risa says. “We opened it up to couples who are engaged or married without children.”
Jewlyweds, which received a grant for programming in December 2015 from Young Jewish Funders, meets the first Wednesday evening of each month at a different couple’s home. They have dinner together followed by a short class about marriage and relationships in the context of Judaism. “Most people at this stage of life don’t belong to synagogues, so it’s an opportunity for them to meet like-minded Jewish people,” Risa says.
The group usually attracts between 10 and 15 couples each session and at the June meeting, 12 couples participated. Dinner is supplied by Jewlyweds, and the host couple is in charge of drinks. “We get dinner catered from one of the kosher places in town and that way it’s strictly kosher and everybody can feel comfortable to host. It doesn’t matter if you have a kosher kitchen or not,” Risa says.
The Jewlyweds program is nondenominational, Risa says. “The people who come are all over the spectrum of Judaism and Jewish life.”
Programs have included an art therapy session in which couples participated together in a doodling activity that taught them new things about each other; a glass mezuzah-making session; and a discussion about the intimate relationship between husband and wife and its centrality to Judaism and Jewish thought.
In addition to meeting once a month, the group has a quarterly special event. In May, 12 couples went on a retreat to Jackpot Ranch in Camp Verde, where they hiked, rode horses, played board games and got better acquainted with one another. “We had a Shabbat dinner and did some learning,” Marina says. “It was a really great setting.”
Heather and Howard Kalish, who have been married less than three years, also participate regularly in Jewlyweds. Heather encourages any young Jewish couple to try a Jewlyweds event to see if they like it. “Everyone is super-welcoming and we’ve made some great friends. I can’t say enough good things about the group. It’s been wonderful.”
Young couples are eligible to participate in Jewlyweds until they have a baby. “It changes the dynamic when people are talking about how many hours their baby slept or if they should do formula or not,” Risa says. “Also when you talk about marriage and relationships, there are so many different topics and issues that come up when children are in the picture.”
But Risa has her sights set on a spinoff group of young Jewish couples with babies. “We’re hoping. It’s on the list of things to brainstorm about this summer.”
For more information about Jewlyweds, contact Risa Brumer, firstname.lastname@example.org.