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All my children

Teaneck bride celebrates sheva brachas with her youngest friends

On Jan. 6, Ruthie Levi of Teaneck got married. Last Thursday, some 70 children gathered at Cong. Keter Torah for her sheva brachas.

"This may be the first time sheva brachas was made up entirely of children," says Levi. "It’s something I dreamed of."

Levi and her husband, Rabbi Bob Carroll of Bergenfield, made aliyah in late December but will officially move to Israel in February. Levi sells gourmet food to supermarkets. Her new spouse is program director for Edah.

Ruthie Levi and Bob Carroll celebrate sheva brachas with guests Gila, Aryeh, Shira, and Eliana Alter.

She is keeping her house in Teaneck because, she says, "I want to remain connected to the community."

According to Levi, Carroll understood that the children-only celebration was "all about me."

Still, he was clearly moved by the outpouring of support from his new bride’s young friends.

"I think this evening was a wonderful and warm sendoff as we begin our new life in Israel," he said, "and it’s proof that strong friendships will last."

Levi’s relationship with the children –- who range in age from ‘ l/’ to 19 –-developed over the past decade as she became friends with their parents, ate at their homes, enjoyed animated movies with them ("My friends don’t like these movies," she says, "so I took the kids") and used much of her free time to help her friends take care of their youngsters.

"I moved to Teaneck [from Washington Heights] 1′ years ago," says Levi, a member of Cong. Keter Torah. "I love kids and there are so many of them here. My friends’ kids have even thrown me birthday parties. I’ll be sad to leave them."

One of the five moderators of TeaneckShuls, an Internet resource for the area’s Jewish community (although it includes posters from Israel and New York as well), Levi says she will continue working on the site from Israel.

"The connection to the community is amazing," she says, adding that she is the only woman in the group, "like the blonde on Mod Squad."

Last Thursday’s sheva brachas –- organized by friends Esther Levie, Marla Kleiner, Susan Turk, Karen Perl, and Dassi Silverman –- featured an invitation designed by Tamar Lindenbaum, age 10. All the children were asked to bring a family photo that Levi can put on her new refrigerator in Israel (she already has their photos on her Teaneck refrigerator).

"It [was] basically a big pizza party," says Levi, "pizza, pasta, fries – kid-friendly food."

During the event, Levi screened a video of her Jerusalem wedding, and one of the kids –- a deejay, Jazzy Jake — provided the music. While boys above bar mitzvah age were asked to recite the seven wedding blessings, girls were invited to do translations of the brachot. "I wanted to involve as many people as possible," says Levi.

The bride also distributed "business cards" to her guests, including, she says, "important information such as my IM address."

Levi, who says she can be a "bureaucratic businesswoman when necessary," believes that single people in a suburban community can really flourish.

"Families, and children, have so much to offer you," she says. "To come to shul and get a hug from an 8-year-old — it makes you cry."

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