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Two rabbis, from two different denominations, get a second chance at love

15 5 37

JTA — In the beginning, the relationship was secret. Neither Rabbi Amy Wallk nor Rabbi Mark Cohn wanted to worry their respective congregations, especially when they still had so much to consider. Wallk’s sister joked it was like she had joined the CIA.

But eventually they realized this relationship was the real deal, and the time had come to make some serious choices. Wallk served Temple Beth El in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Cohn was at Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. One or both of them would have to relocate if they wanted to be together.

It wasn’t the sort of decision either expected to be making at this stage in their lives.

After her divorce, Wallk gave little thought to new relationships. She was far more cognizant of the personal example she wanted to set for her three children.

“I felt it was better to be lonely and divorced than lonely and married,” she said. “I felt I could be a better model for my children being alone than in a bad marriage.”

With this in mind, and newly single in her mid-50s, she wanted to be more intentional about putting herself first. In this case, that meant nurturing her religious and spiritual life — which is why she ended up in Jerusalem at the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Rabbinic Leadership Initiative seminar in the summer of 2017, a three-week oasis of study, learning and Jewish exploration.

Also present among the 125 or so rabbis was Cohn, who was only there for five days. He was also newly divorced. The two met one day over lunch, when Wallk sat down at a table where she had friends, where Cohn was also seated.

Though Wallk is a Conservative rabbi and Cohn is Reform, they quickly realized they had much in common. Both loved prayer, and each had worked on revamping their movements’ new prayerbooks. In addition to having recently ended decades-long marriages, they were both parents, and each had lost a parent in the past few years. They spoke once more before Cohn left, and it was clear they had a connection. But neither had been looking for a relationship, and the 700 miles between them back home made it impractical to consider pursuing one. They exchanged a few emails in the immediate weeks that followed, but that was it.

Then, six weeks........

© The Times of Israel

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