Even in these easygoing times, an Orthodox-Reform marriage raises a few eyebrows. Just imagine how such a union might have been received four decades ago.
In the summer of 1961, Jayne-Anne Appel was living in Manhattan with her mother and grandmother. Originally from Cleveland, she had recently graduated from Wellesley and gotten a job at an ad agency on Madison Avenue. When one of her work girlfriends was planning a weekend at Grossingers, she asked Jayne along. Jayne had no desire to go, but her friend insisted.
Jayne and Allen Jacobson
"We all ended up in this broken-down limousine," Jayne recalls. "And then the resort turned out to be a meat market. It was a forerunner to those notorious 1970s singles weekends in the Catskills . . . just a lot of guys hitting on us including an Orthodox rabbi who kept following me around." Since Jayne had been raised in a Reform home, she’d never even eaten kosher food, and this was her first true exposure to Orthodox Jews.
Stanley, the rabbi, at least offered Jayne and her friends a ride back to New York, and so spared them the limousine ride from hell.
"Stanley kept calling me afterward," she says, "and even though I had no interest in him, my mother said I should go out with him once, as thanks for driving us home."
She finally agreed, and he took her to Jones Beach. Jayne spent a boring afternoon with him and only perked up when he suggested contacting a family he knew who had a summer home there.
"I was so relieved when the family invited us over for dinner," Jayne says. "They were also Orthodox, which was still a bit foreign to me, but when I met their son, I thought he was very attractive."
Allen Jacobson, who was from Boro Park, was also intrigued by his encounter with Jayne. But whenever he asked Stanley for her phone number, which was unlisted, Stanley refused a standoff that continued all through that fall and winter. "Thwarted love," Jayne says with a chuckle.
Meanwhile, Stanley had introduced Jayne to a woman friend who had a serious crush on Allen. Yet, despite her best efforts, he wouldn’t give her a tumble. "Every time we went out to lunch she would gush over Allen," Jayne recalls, "but hearing her go on and on didn’t really bother me. Even though I’d thought he was cute, I was seeing other guys."
That spring, Jayne decided to visit Europe. "Alone," she explains, "because every time I planned a vacation with a friend, she got engaged."
She also decided to take Italian lessons in preparation for her trip. Jayne’s new girlfriend recalled that Allen had some "How to Speak Italian" records, so she hatched a plot to get him to deliver them to her.
The friend phoned Allen with her request, and when he discovered who the records were for, he realized his luck had finally changed. He asked for Jayne’s phone number and, regretfully, the lovelorn woman complied.
"He called me and we ended up meeting in a coffee shop," Jayne says, "and that same day he asked me to marry him." She adds with a grin, "Of course I said no . . . it took a whole month before I said yes."
Shortly after their decision to get married, Allen introduced Jayne to his Orthodox family. Jayne winces. "His mother actually broke out in a rash when he told her."
Things did not look promising for future harmony Jayne’s family thought she was marrying someone with beliefs from the Middle Ages.
"It took time," she says, "but I learned to keep a kosher home, and it all eventually worked out. But for years people kept telling us it wouldn’t last."
Allen says, "I’d warned her she might go out of her mind, but she’d never be bored."
The couple were married in November 196′ and had a daughter, Jacqueline. She attended the University of Chicago, and is now married and the mother of a 7-year-old boy and twin girls, age 5. A non-practicing lawyer who works for the 9’nd Street Y, she and her family live in Manhattan.
Allen and Jayne currently live in Ramsey. Allen, who is now retired, was formerly a research scientist for his alma mater, Columbia, and then worked for a defense contractor. "After that I started my own business," he says, "manufacturing computer terminals, and from there I somehow ended up in finance, retiring as a vice president of CitiBank." Allen is also an avid flyer he’s had his pilot’s license for 57 years and is a major in the Civil Air Patrol and a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Jayne, who ran a marketing company for many years, is currently the chair of the Paramus chapter of SCORE, an organization of business professionals who offer free counseling and low-cost workshops to small-business owners.
Both Allen and Jayne are active in their temple, Beth Rishon in Wyckoff, and Jayne also does volunteer work supporting Wellesley’s alumnae programs.
And so the marriage that everyone said wouldn’t work out has lasted for more than four decades. Compromise and understanding have been key factors in their success as a "mixed" couple.
Allen grins. "And fighting a lot helps."
"Part of it is that we are very different," Jayne says. "We’re not clones, and that keeps things interesting."