Ar­rivals

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • Text and photo: ALAN ROSEN­BAUM

The cou­ple sit­ting op­po­site me in the busy Jerusalem café re­sem­bles many re­tired Amer­i­can im­mi­grant cou­ples. The hus­band wears a large black kip­pah, and his neatly trimmed salt-and-pep­per beard and stylish glasses are part of the daily uni­form of many a New Jersey ex­pat. The wife, sport­ing a col­or­ful ker­chief and stylish red ear­rings, has a quick smile and a friendly man­ner. But once they tell their tale, it be­comes clear that David and Regina “Reg­gie” Comins are no or­di­nary cou­ple.

David Comins, 69, grew up in a mid­dle-class Jewish neigh­bor­hood in the Bronx, but had no Jewish ed­u­ca­tion.

“My par­ents had a Christ­mas tree in the house. No bar mitz­vah, no can­dles, no meno­rah, no fasting on Yom Kip­pur. I knew I was Jewish and that was the ex­tent of my Jewish ed­u­ca­tion.”

David stud­ied at City Col­lege of New York, earn­ing a de­gree in mu­sic in 1972, and pur­sued grad­u­ate stud­ies in ethno-mu­si­col­ogy at In­di­ana Univer­sity, but then changed course, re­turn­ing to New York, where he re­ceived an MA in ed­u­ca­tion from Columbia. Af­ter teach­ing wood­shop for four years, he re­trained and be­came a busi­ness an­a­lyst for Time, Inc.

At the age of 28, David mar­ried Kathy, Jewish and sec­u­lar like him. Un­like him, “she was a seeker, into ev­ery self-help trans­for­ma­tional work­shop.” Chuck­ling, David re­calls how she con­vinced him to join her at an EST train­ing ses­sion, a ’70s-era series of psy­cho­log­i­cal sem­i­nars. In 1999, while at­tend­ing an Overeaters Anony­mous sem­i­nar in Pas­saic, New Jersey, Kathy was be­friended by a group of Ortho­dox Jewish women who were in the pro­gram. Kathy be­came in­ter­ested in Ju­daism, and again, David fol­lowed his wife’s in­ter­ests.

Says David, “She was taken with their equa­nim­ity and their life­style, and she wanted to pur­sue what they had. I, be­ing a good sol­dier, said ‘OK. I’ll go with you and we’ll look into this.’”

David and Kathy moved to Pas­saic. He at­tended ser­vices each day, found a study part­ner, stud­ied Tal­mud, went to classes, and the two soon be­came an in­te­gral part of the Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­nity in Pas­saic.

“She was the in­sti­ga­tor,” says David, “but I also sought value for my­self.”

Over the en­su­ing years, David was a mem­ber of sev­eral syn­a­gogues and be­came close with sev­eral rab­bis. In 2008, David and his wife vis­ited Is­rael. While the thought of liv­ing in Is­rael crossed his mind, he dis­missed it, as he had no fam­ily or con­nec­tions there. In 2009, David’s wife be­came ill and she died in 2010; David mourned her death and con­tem­plated his fu­ture.

REGINA LEVI was born into a Mod­ern Ortho­dox fam­ily in Oak Park, Michi­gan. The old­est of five, she grew up with a love of the Jewish state in­stilled by her par­ents.

“We all grew up with a de­sire to go to Is­rael,” she says. Af­ter spend­ing a year at Bar-Ilan Univer­sity, Regina re­turned to the US, where she at­tended New York’s Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and then Baruch Col­lege, where she met her hus­band, Yitzhak, an Is­raeli who was work­ing in the US. Reg­gie got mar­ried in 1976 when she was 23, and moved to Is­rael with her hus­band. They had a son, but the mar­riage col­lapsed and they divorced in 1978.

Reg­gie re­turned to the United States, first to Oak Park and then to Kew Gar­dens, New York, and switched ca­reers from the fash­ion in­dus­try to com­puter pro­gram­ming. She worked for Barnard Col­lege and re­call­ing

that pe­riod, says, “I raised my son my­self. It wasn’t easy.” Reg­gie moved back to Oak Park in 1996 af­ter her son com­pleted high school and re­mained there un­til 2004. Even­tu­ally, her son mar­ried and moved to Pas­saic, but Reg­gie re­mained un­at­tached.

One snowy win­ter night in 2011, Reg­gie was in Pas­saic, vis­it­ing her son, who was go­ing to pay a shiva visit to a friend from his car­pool, a man who had just lost his wife. Reg­gie ac­com­pa­nied her son to visit the mourner, David Comins. Af­ter they re­turned, her son said to her, “I want him for you. I have a good feel­ing.”

Af­ter the mourn­ing pe­riod for his wife had ended, David was in­un­dated with of­fers for dates from women in the Ortho­dox com­mu­nity. There were so many of­fers that his study part­ner’s wife had to screen po­ten­tial ap­pli­cants. David took a break from dat­ing, and he re­lates, “My late wife was very stylish, and had a lot of char­ac­ter, per­son­al­ity and piz­zazz. I wanted some­thing spe­cial. I was afraid to marry some­one ‘parve’ and miss out on the spe­cial per­son.”

Reg­gie adds, “I was pray­ing hard to meet some­body. I was de­ter­mined that I wanted to get mar­ried again.” Reg­gie and David met on July 3, 2012 ,and her prayers were an­swered. “I knew on our first date that I would marry him,” she says. “He made me laugh. He’s cre­ative and sen­si­tive, and a mu­si­cian. I thank God ev­ery day.”

David re­lates, “When we set up our first date, I asked if she liked mu­sic and if so, which types. Af­ter a mo­ment’s thought she an­swered, ‘Blue­grass and Celtic.’ This was a di­rect bulls­eye hit in my sweet spot and I was knocked out. On our first date, when we greeted each other, I asked ca­su­ally ‘How are you?’ She an­swered “awe­some” in such a way that I got that she re­ally meant it and was self-con­fi­dent. I was hooked.”

DAVID AND Reg­gie be­came en­gaged five weeks later. At that time, Reg­gie’s fam­ily was plan­ning their par­ents’ 60th-an­niver­sary party, to be held in Detroit in early Septem­ber. The week be­fore the party, her sis­ter-in­law said, “Why don’t you just get mar­ried next week?” Thrilled with the idea, Reg­gie and David were mar­ried the fol­low­ing Sun­day, in Oak Park with her fam­ily in at­ten­dance.

Af­ter the wed­ding, Reg­gie and David lived in Pas­saic. While in Is­rael for a fam­ily bar mitz­vah in 2014, the cou­ple con­sid­ered aliyah. They met real­tors, in­ter­viewed peo­ple who had re­tired to Is­rael, and pur­chased a small apart­ment in Jerusalem’s Baka neigh­bor­hood. In Novem­ber 2016, they moved to Is­rael. To­day, David stud­ies in the learn­ing pro­gram at his neigh­bor­hood syn­a­gogue, ex­er­cises reg­u­larly and in­dulges his pas­sion for mu­sic – “I love it to pieces” – play­ing Ap­palachian banjo mu­sic with a mu­si­cal trio. Reg­gie at­tends ul­pan, ex­er­cises, vol­un­teers for a free loan so­ci­ety and en­thuses, “I’ve never been so busy in my life.”

At their wed­ding week­end, Reg­gie’s fa­ther, look­ing at David, said, “One of the ad­van­tages of liv­ing to a ripe old age is be­ing able to see the miss­ing piece of the puz­zle.” Reg­gie and David found each other, mar­ried and moved to Is­rael. Their pic­ture is com­plete. ■

DAVID AND REGINA COMINS FROM PAS­SAIC, NEW JERSEY, TO JERUSALEM, 2016

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