Tales of Louie Love
Let's not get carried away — Brandeis isn’t the only campus where love blooms in profusion.
Still, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Brandeis has a certain je ne sais quoi in the love department, particularly in its capacity to create couples able, and willing, to stand the test of time.
When Brandeis Magazine asked readers to tell us about finding their heart’s desire at Brandeis, we received many stories. Here are a few, told by those who, under bronze Louie’s watchful gaze, were lucky in love.
Call it kismet. After all, as you’ll see, no less a figure than founding father Abram Sachar would ask the Brandeis alumni he encountered, “So, who did you meet?”
“Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife”
Even though we didn’t overlap as acting students at Brandeis, Jesse and I can still thank the theater arts department for our relationship.
We first met in spring 2011 in a theater lobby after a performance of “Antony and Cleopatra” that Adrianne Krstansky, associate professor of theater arts, directed for the Actors’ Shakespeare Project (where Jesse and I are now both resident acting company members). Jesse was in the cast; I saw him in the show and swooned.
Later that year, we played twins in a production of “Twelfth Night.” Our friend and stage manager for that show, Adele Traub ’99, exasperated by our constant “Do you think he/she likes me?” questioning, nudged us toward going out. We finally had our nervous first date a month after the play closed. Our director still gets a kick out of the narcissistic implications of “twins” getting together.
A year and a half after we first met, many of our Brandeis colleagues and teachers applauded our marriage vows at the Dream-Away Lodge in the Berkshires.
— Marianna Bassham, MFA’02. Married to Jesse Hinson, MFA’11.
Another brick in the wall
Freshman year, we roamed campus in a herd of 20 kids — moving in a pack to Sherman for dinner and endless talking, and then on to Goldfarb Library for more eating and talking.
Maggie Zaltas and I met in that herd during first semester. I lived in Shapiro (first floor, A side). She lived one floor above me. Early second semester, I summoned the courage to ask her to go to a campus dance called Hollywood Nights, which she did, igniting a romance that continues.
During our 25th Reunion last summer, Maggie and I returned to Shapiro (along with our three daughters), and in the stairwell we found the brick on which we scratched our initials that spring semester. If Shapiro is ever torn down, I have dibs on that brick.
— Ian Rubin ’88. Married to Marjorie Rubin ’88.
Up in the air
On my wife-to-be’s first day at Brandeis, I was the aide who met her and her parents as they pulled their car onto a grassy edge just below Chapels Field. As I helped her move into Renfield Hall, I could tell there was already some chemistry between us — she flipped her hair several times in my presence.
We remained just friends her freshman and my senior year. I still had a girlfriend back home, and she was interested in finding a guy who was closer to her age and perhaps a burgeoning doctor, her parents’ stated preference.
The real romance part started with a postcard I sent her on a whim in summer 1986. I was clerking for a law firm in Washington, D.C. She had recently broken up with a boyfriend, and invited me to Brandeis for Homecoming. When she met me at Logan Airport, I had a bouquet of balloons, including one that read “You have my heart on a string — don’t let go.”
That day, we walked around Harvard Square and had dinner at Grendel’s Den, then she drove us back to campus. She said she had something to take care of and would meet me later. When she finally showed up around 11 p.m., she admitted she’d been driving around, thinking about whether she wanted to pursue a romantic relationship with me. Thankfully, she did.
I still recall the last time I saw Abe Sachar, soon after his book “A Host at Last” was published. As he signed a copy of the book for me, he didn’t ask me some erudite question about my time at Brandeis. Instead, like a true grandfather, he asked, “So, who did you meet?”
— Jonathan M. Golub ’85. Married to Cindy Golub ’88.
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Ich liebe dich
During junior year, Joan worked evenings in Kutz Dining Hall, ably manning the gravy station. I’d always smile and give her a shy hello as she poured gravy on my mashed potatoes.
That February, I didn’t have a date for a formal dress party, a Corridor Cotillion in North A Lounge. My roommate would nudge me as we went through the dining hall line: “Ask the Gravy Girl! Ask the Gravy Girl!” So I finally did, and we had a joyous time together.
As it turned out, beginning the Monday after our date, we had two successive morning classes together on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I sat next to Joan and walked between classes with Joan. She was then supposed to head off to her theater literature class, and I to my German language and literature class.
So smitten, not wishing to separate from Joan, I decided on impulse to skip my German class, even though it was with Mrs. Rawidowicz, a beloved teacher I had had since freshman year. Indeed, I never again went to German class for the rest of spring semester. For 18 straight classes, I went to Joan’s class, a class I was not registered for. I even read a number of the plays and diligently took notes in class.
The nightmarish day of reckoning came: the German final exam. Madly, for three days, I tried reading all the German assignments (including an entire novel), and attempted to borrow books from fellow students who might have written in the English translation of difficult German words. I went to that exam in a state of terror, certain my name wouldn’t even appear on the class list you had to sign during the exam.
My name was there. And, fortunately, I’d done well in the first semester and on the midterm (the last time I’d seen Mrs. Rawidowicz), and I did a weak but good-enough job on the final. I passed the course, though my C+ grade for the year was likely, in part, a gift.
Whenever Mrs. Rawidowicz graded a paper, she would also include a comment in German, written in her beautiful Old World hand. I never got my final-exam booklet back, but I imagine the lovely and seemingly all-knowing Mrs. Rawidowicz jotting down my final course grade and sympathetically writing “Lass immer im Herzen Raum für Liebe.” Roughly rendered, “Always make room for love.”
Joan and I celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary this summer.
— Michael Kalafatas ’65. Married to Joan Kalafatas ’65.
Hugs and kisses, stat!
Aric, just before his 19th birthday, and I, 16 years old, enrolled in the emergency medical technician class our freshman year. We wanted to become EMTs and join Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo).
He was the outgoing guy who sat up front and asked hypothetical question after hypothetical question. I thought of him as the “what if” guy.
We became good friends, checking each other for obstructions and spinal injury. That was fortuitous, because, just months after we graduated from Brandeis, our BEMCo friends had the backbreaking pleasure of lifting us in chairs at our wedding.
A few years ago, we returned to campus for a BEMCo gala and discovered we are affectionately referred to as “the BEMCo couple.” We had no idea we carried this distinction.
— Bobbi M. (Brachfeld) Bittker ’94. Married to Aric Bittker ’94.
In freshman season
In September 1967, when I was a junior, I served as a freshman adviser during Orientation. The first day, a friend and I went to the Ralph Norman Barbeque (of course). As we gazed upon the sea of faces surrounding us, it seemed we actually knew quite a lot of them, which was puzzling.
“I don’t think there are even any freshmen here,” I said.
From the lawn by my feet, a girl’s voice piped up: “Oh, yes, there are!”
Her name was Lois. In three years, we were married. Nearly 44 years after that, we still are.
— Neil Nyren ’69. Married to Lois Nyren ’71.
Fifth time’s the charm
So, I’m on the course registration line in the gym, and this cute girl is willing to talk with me, a lowly freshman. I get up my gumption and ask her for a date.
After a remarkably short time, I am as in love as I was capable of being at age 18. A few weeks and a few dates later, I screw up my courage to ask if she could ever “feel about me the way I do about you.” (Not my best line.) She candidly admitted she could not promise that. Socially, she was having the time of her life as a cute freshwoman.
I am shattered and go cold turkey rather than try to macho it out with the competition. By our junior year, I needed closure, so I asked her out one more time. She accepted and acted as if nothing had ever happened between us, putting me at ease. I admired her composure and class, but that one date was all I could handle.
Flash-forward 18 years, and I am now divorced and living alone in New York City. I look in the Manhattan phone book under her maiden name — and there she is! Eureka! Once again, I screw up the courage to call, and she claims she remembers me but is “involved.”
Three months later, I call again, and now she’s just come out of the hospital after an illness.
I wait, call again and try my best line: “You’ve got nothing to lose. A drink is in it for you at the very least.”
Finally, I am successful. We’ve been married for 34 years and have a wonderful son.
— Richard Levin ’62, MA’76. Married to Susan Menzer Levin ’62.
David Loebl ’77 was my friend. He died in 1993 at age 37, after living in San Francisco for many years. He left behind a lifetime of people who loved him, who each had their own version of a love story with him. This is mine.
He and I met at the beginning of freshman year. I lived in Shapiro, he lived in Deroy, and we were in several classes together. David took me out for my first drink when I turned 18. He took me dancing in Boston. He was forever encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things; that is just one of the many things I miss about him.
During freshman year, David embarked on what would become one of the great love affairs of his life. He acquired a small, singularly unattractive little black dog named Shirley. For the next three years, I’m sure there were people who mistakenly thought David was straight, since his name and Shirley’s were always linked. To know David was to know Shirley, and to love David was, well, to try, not always successfully, to love Shirley, too.
David’s death left a huge void in so many lives. One of my favorite pictures of him was taken not long before he died. He’s sitting in a restaurant on his last trip, waiters and guests and activity behind him, and he’s smiling, his blue eyes forever sparkling straight into the camera.
— Judith Powsner ’77.
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In sickness and in health
In fall 1957, during my senior year, I was in a physical chemistry lab, trying to learn glass blowing. Two first-year chemistry graduate students peeked into the room and approached my bench. One started making snarky comments. That, along with his looks, aroused my interest, and we started dating.
Then a flu outbreak closed the campus after the infirmary couldn’t keep up with the influx of sick students. I decided not to go home because both my parents and my brother were ill. The graduate student decided to stay as well.
On the almost-deserted campus, we courted, seated on boulders in the shadows of the Three Chapels. My husband of 55 years says few people in the world can claim such auspicious ambience.
— Ruby Weinstock Fajer ’58, P’89. Married to Jack Fajer, PhD’63, P’89.
“Are you feeling rabbinical?”
Spring semester, 1980. I’m a sophomore constantly searching for that one girl who will be my soul mate. Sally is a midyear transfer student. We don’t know each other but see each other repeatedly as our lives intersect at Hillel, at Israeli folk dancing and on the kosher line at Sherman Cafeteria.
Berlin Chapel. Friday-night Shabbat services just ended. Clumps of students head toward the exit. Sally approaches, with the best pickup line of all time: “Excuse me, are you feeling rabbinical?”
What? I thought the young lady had a screw loose.
Turns out Sally was recruiting actors for a small Hillel production at Cholmondeley’s. The cast of characters included a rabbi, a part that was still unclaimed. Through gentle coercion, Sally convinced this tall, skinny, shy student to accept a speaking role in the upcoming theatrics. Did I mention Sally was charming and vivacious?
During the weeks of rehearsal, when our characters were not involved in the action, we spent long evenings together in the cramped backstage area. In whispers, we talked endlessly about our lives, our cares, our dreams, and, slowly and unexpectedly, we fell deeply in love. For the remainder of our Brandeis years, we were inseparable.
— Eric Pomerantz ’82. Married to Sally E. Michael-Pomerantz ’83.
I was sitting in my third-floor room in Renfield in February 1966 when a knock at my door announced a phone call. I had been hoping this cute guy from Shapiro B would call. Instead, it was a voice I didn’t recognize, saying, “You don’t know me, but I would like to appeal to your sense of adventure. Will you come with me to my dorm party in Shapiro B this week?” I thought, Well, I might actually see the cute guy there, so why not?
Ben and I had a nice evening, although he was pretty quiet (very uncharacteristically, I later learned), and our life together began. Dates on campus, movies in Boston, dinners at Ken’s at Copley. He really swept me off my feet once by taking me to the Metropolitan Opera.
One day, Abraham Maslow let his class, including Ben and me, leave early so we could all go hear R.D. Laing speak. As Ben and I walked down the path, he leaned over to kiss me. Just at that moment, Dr. Maslow came by and exclaimed, “Great! What spontaneity!”
Some years later, Ben told me I was his third choice for that dorm party — one girl had to go to her brother’s bar mitzvah, and another was busy. I think it was probably b’schert.
— Suzanne Bronheim ’69. Married to Ben Bronheim ’68.
By spring semester 1980, we were really coming into our own. Experienced sophomores, we knew the score. We had our friends; we knew the campus; we were long past freshman requirements and high-school intrigue. Since the drinking age was still in our favor, the Stein was the place to be on Thursday nights.
One Thursday, with a great Boston band playing — I think it was Private Lightning — I took a chance and asked a girl to dance. I’d had my eye on her for a while, even though we were worlds apart. You see, she was a Reitman girl. Reitman was the rowdiest dorm in the rowdiest quad. There were always parties, loud music, spontaneous crowds, outrageous pranks, RAs who looked the other way. Wild times for a guy from East.
She agreed to dance. Stars aligned in the heavens. We’d talk and dance with each other every week.
One Saturday night, we went out on our first real date. The next day, the one close friend we had in common asked me, “How was your dinner with Sharon?”
Still savoring the evening, I replied, “I’m going to marry her one day. Do NOT say a word.” Despite my 19-year-old male brain, I really meant my prediction.
More than 20 years later, I found out, to my surprise, that our friend told Sharon exactly what I’d said — told her within an hour of my saying it, in fact. Amazingly, not until we had celebrated our 40th birthdays did Sharon ever reveal this to me.
As history shows, I ended up being right. Reitman may have had cool girls, but we guys from East got game.
— Paul D. Underberg ’82. Married to Sharon Estreicher Underberg ’82.
Grade A “meet”
At the beginning of my sophomore year, my roommate and I threw a party in our room in Sheffries. To invite girls, we looked through the student handbook — aka the “meat” (meet) book — picked out all the cute ones and phoned them.
Laura was one of the naive freshmen who showed up. Soon, after Rosh Hashanah services, dinner in Usdan and a stroll around campus, we became a couple.
Twenty years, a dog and two kids later, we have the meat book to thank.
— Steve Wander ’97. Married to Laura Gingiss Wander ’98.