When Tom Curran’s company sent him to work for the Israeli Ministry of Defense at the age of ‘3, he had no idea of the major life changes he would soon face.
"I had been in the Navy," Tom, a Los Angeles native, recalls, "and in 1983 I was working for General Dynamics out of San Diego. I was a wide-eyed Catholic boy who knew nothing about the Jewish faith. Even though I’d dated a Jewish girl in high school, I never went to her home for any of the holidays."
Tom and Anat Curran
Tom felt like a fish out of water once he arrived in Tel Aviv wondering, for instance, why he couldn’t get a burger and a glass of milk at his kosher hotel, the Dan Astoria. His main source of comfort became watching the attractive cashier at the hotel’s lounge although he never spoke to her. But sometimes he would play the piano in the lobby near the lounge, hoping she would be listening.
"Eventually I got to know the hotel’s official piano player, who kept encouraging me to talk to her," Tom says. "I told him it was out of the question and asked him to please not mention it to her. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to stare at that wonderful face."
The Currans’ three sons, Jonathan, Tomare, and Jordan.
Even after Tom moved to his permanent residence, he’d still return to the hotel to look at her or play for her. He was sitting at the bar one day when he got a phone call. "It was the piano player, with her phone number," Tom says. "Of course he hadn’t listened to me about keeping it secret, and I was angry. Now I was too embarrassed to call her, let alone look at her." His friend finally pressured him into making contact.
"She was very sweet on the phone," Tom says, "and we made a plan to meet the next day."
Anat Ben-Shimon was born in Tel-Aviv and grew up in Holon. She was curious about this young American, but her faith and culture were also very important to her. In spite of connecting nicely on that first date, and continuing to see each other for a year, the couple broke up when Tom was scheduled to return to San Diego.
"We were just too different in every category," he explains. "Aside from being from different countries, she was Jewish and I was Catholic. She was short, I was tall. She has dark hair, I am blond."
But the connection was not so easy to sever. They kept in touch, and Anat came to visit him in 1985. Tom was thrilled to be able to show her California. "I guess you could say it went well," he observes. "I asked her to marry me at Disneyland."
When Anat broke the happy news to her father, however, his first question was "Is he going to convert?" When Anat told him no, he said, "Pack your bags and come home now."
Tom wasn’t going to lose this woman who had become so precious to him. After some soul-searching, he agreed to study Orthodox Judaism with a Chabad rabbi. "It was the best thing I ever did," Tom says. "And the best thing her father ever asked me to do. I thank him to this day."
The couple settled in San Diego, where their three sons, Jonathan, Tomare, and Jordan, were born. The family made aliyah in 1995, returning to America in ‘003. They’ve been living in Wyckoff for the past four and a half years, and attend the local Chabad in Franklin Lakes, where Tom is the gabbai.
Tom, who has his MBA in international business, worked in the high-tech and defense industries for the past ‘5 years and is now a consultant. Anat runs an interior design business from their home. They are proud to point out that their eldest son, who had a stellar basketball season during his final year at Ramapo, will be traveling to Israel this summer to join the IDF.
After overcoming one major obstacle, the couple have found happiness and contentment in this union.
"Always make sure you’re having fun," Tom says. "When I was thinking of marrying Anat, I asked myself if I would still have fun with her at 50. And I knew the answer was yes."
"We also understand that communication is important," Anat says. "You can’t both be right, so you have to have a good balance in a marriage. You have to know when to back off, when to listen and when to talk." She adds with a smile, echoing Tom, "And, yes, you have to have fun."
Did you and your bashert Yiddish for "intended" meet in an interesting or unusual way? Do you have a love story to tell? Write to email@example.com and your story may be included in this column.