Set up or set back?

Set up or set back?

Even bashert couples occasionally need a little prod in the right direction. All signs kept pushing Marcia toward Fred, but it took seven years before they finally found that romantic spark.

Marcia Jacobs grew up in Monsey, N.Y., and attended Queens College. When she was ‘1 and working in Manhattan, she suffered a bad breakup with her boyfriend. She was so distraught, a coworker, Rich Zollino, suggested fixing her up with Fred Schulman, a Jewish guy he knew who worked at Citibank. Marcia finally agreed, and Rich passed along her phone number — but Fred never called. Fred, who was from West Hempstead and attended Yeshiva, had no idea that this omission would one day come back to haunt him. Six years later, Marcia registered for a psychology course. After her first class, a guy came over and asked her for coffee. "Sandy hair, blue eyes, small nose," she recalls. "And I immediately thought, not Jewish." She made some excuse, and never went back to the class.

Marcia and Fred Schulman at their wedding in 1986, in Israel, 1987, and today.

A year later, in 1985, she was on her way to spend a weekend at a kosher house on Fire Island when she noticed a man on the ferry looked familiar. Eventually, he strolled over and introduced himself — Mark Schulman from her psych class. It turned out he was heading for the same kosher house as Marcia. She also met his friends there, Charlie and Marlene, who liked Marcia so much they invited her for a weekend in the Berkshires.

On the drive up, Marcia asked Charlie who else would be there, and he said Mark’s brother, Fred Schulman. Suddenly, Marcia made the connection with her long-ago blind date that never happened. "Does he work for Citibank?" she asked. Charlie said he did indeed.

"As soon as I saw Fred," Marcia recalls, "I marched up to him and said ‘Do you know Rich Zollino?’"

Fred looked a little started. "It was an awkward moment once I realized who she was," he says now. "I don’t know how I even remembered the incident after seven years, and I was surprised she remembered. My initial reaction was to avoid this woman for the entire weekend."

That proved difficult with only eight people in the house. "It didn’t take long to see that she was a lot of fun," Fred says. "She made me feel comfortable and at ease."

On the ride home, he asked Marcia to go out to dinner. They ended up at the Pumpkin Eater in the City, where Fred was impressed by Marcia’s appetite.

"He was used to women who picked at salads," she says with a grin. "I not only ate my meal, I finished his."

They began spending time together, and at first Marcia only thought of Fred as a good friend. His feelings were a bit more involved. "It was difficult," Fred admits. "I had some concerns about our religious compatibility — she’d been raised in an Orthodox home, but was no longer observant, while I was Orthodox. Yet that didn’t stop me from liking her."

Once Marcia realized Fred’s feelings were romantic, she gave him the "let’s be friends" speech. Fred was hurt, and decided it would be best to stop seeing her.

But since they lived only a few blocks from each other, it wasn’t surprising that a few months later they ran into each other on the way to the butcher shop. Fred tried to avoid her, but she managed to catch up with him. "I realized how much I missed him," Marcia explains. This time he agreed to be her friend and that December invited her on a skiing trip, in spite of the fact that she had just broken a toe.

During that weekend, something definitely clicked between them. But then Marcia announced that she had to leave early. "I didn’t tell Fred, but I’d made New Year’s Eve plans with a guy I’d been seeing. Then, during my date, it occurred to me that I was much more comfortable with Fred."

From that point on, things got pretty intense for the couple, and they were engaged by Valentine’s Day. "I wanted a ring right away," Marcia recalls, "but Fred said it took time to order one. I told him it didn’t have to be fancy. So we went off to a flea market, and I got a ring for a dollar. Even after I got a proper ring, I kept that first one."

The couple were married in August of 1986, and not long after, they decided to buy a house in Teaneck — "before housing prices got any higher," Marcia explains. They still live there with their three children, Jacob, 16, Adina, 15, and Tamar, 13.

Both Marcia and Fred work in the computer field. "When we can’t sleep at night," she confesses, "we lie there and talk computers." They have family memberships in Congs. Beth Aaron and Netivot Shalom, where Fred is the head gabbai and is in charge of the education committee. Fred also attends classes at Young Israel and occasionally attends the mechitza minyan at the Jewish Center of Teaneck, the Carlebach minyan, and Davar. "He likes to have a pinky in lots of different shuls," Marcia says.

Her spirituality takes form in song — she is a past member of Tavim, a choir at Cong. Beth Sholom, and she sings with the Zamir Chorale. "I started singing with them when I was 18," she says, "then stopped when I had kids. Once they got a little older, I went back to Jewish music."

Marcia has also used her computer skills to set up Yahoo listservs — which enable people with a common interest to communicate with the entire group — for Cong. Beth Sholom, Tavim, the Teaneck Women’s Tefillah, the Synagogue Leadership Initiative, and the Chofetz Chaim Women’s Learning Group.

When asked if she has advice on keeping a marriage happy, Marcia replies, "I have lots. Every day take a moment to appreciate some quality in your spouse. Recognize that no one is perfect, and if you get annoyed, remember, you do annoying things too. Never forget those things that made you want to marry that person in the first place."

She adds with a smile, "Fred is the best thing that ever happened to me. He is my best friend, who shares my joys and comforts me in times of sadness. We laugh a lot, and as long as we’re together, we can get through anything."

read more: