High school romances that endure and result in marriage are not unheard of. But marrying your friend from preschool days is a precious rarity.
Ilana Shenitzer and Jeremy Rothstein have enjoyed a life-long friendship that blossomed into love in their late teens. They cemented their relationship under the chuppah on Oct. 20, 2012 at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort among family and a large number of mutual friends.
The wedding was not only a celebration of the union of the couple and their families, but an occasion to reunite many Tucson friends.
One could say that Shenitzer and Rothstein were destined to be close. “Our two families were good friends before we were even born,” says Shenitzer. The bride’s parents, Holly and Steve Shenitzer, and the groom’s, Helene and Barney Rothstein, are Tucsonans. “What brought us together the most was spending summers at Camp Charles Pearlstein in Prescott along with ‘our gang’ of about a dozen friends. We all went on a NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) trip to Israel when we were in high school,” explains Shenitzer.
In Israel the Tucson circle of friends enlarged further to include, among others, Sadie Reuben of Phoenix. Reuben became a rabbi and officiated at the couple’s wedding.
Reuben, currently serving as an assistant rabbi at Congregation Ner Tamid in Las Vegas, recalled special memories for the couple under the chuppah. She described how Billy Joel’s song “For the Longest Time” had served as an anthem for the self-described “Jew-Crew” that traveled together in Israel. She explained how those friendships had deepened back in the United States. “I, like so many people here today, have been on a journey with the two of you,” said Reuben. “And today, Jeremy and Ilana, we feel like we are an intricate part of your union.”
Shenitzer and Rothstein worked hard at building and maintaining their relationship while living in different parts of the country to attend college and begin careers. Shenitzer received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Rothstein earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Davis and went on to earn a law degree at Washington University. Committed to maintaining their relationship, they racked up impressive long distance phone bills, since cell phones with free long distance were not yet ubiquitous. They even bought video cameras they’d intended to use to be able to “see” each other more, but, Shenitzer says, they were too busy to actually use them. They did, though, make it a priority over the years to carve out time to visit each other whenever possible. On one of those visits, when they were vacationing in Niagara Falls, ostensibly to celebrate Rothstein’s birthday, he asked Shenitzer to marry him.
Shenitzer says she was completely surprised but will never forget the date he proposed, which was 11/11/11.
“Our wedding was intimate, even though it was pretty large,” Shenitzer says. “Everyone knew everyone — from our childhood Tucson friends to those we’ve met over the years.” One of the couple’s Tucson friends, Jameson Tilsner, has known them since they were about 8 years old. “Jeremy and Ilana’s courtship began during our junior year of high school and there were about a dozen of us that felt invested in their relationship. We all encouraged the romance. The wedding was a coming together of families and friends that have been close since we were in primary school. This was one of many reunions, but certainly the most celebratory,” he says.
Along with both sets of parents, family attending included the bride’s grandmothers, Molly Shenitzer of Tucson and Jewel Fishkin, formerly of Chicago, but now living in Tucson, and the groom’s brother, Evan Rothstein, now of Denver, who served as best man. Shenitzer’s maids of honor were Megan Rovner, a childhood friend from Tucson, now living in Scottsdale, and Shelley Hoffman of New York.
The reception at the Hilton El Conquistador included a wedding cake created by Shenitzer’s oldest friend from Tucson (and one of her bridesmaids), Lindsay Nagel. Guests took advantage of a photo booth at the reception to have their pictures taken. They posted those photos in a book and wrote comments in it for the couple, creating the wedding guestbook.
For their honeymoon, the couple is traveling to South Africa for a safari as well as to the Seychelles this month. Their home is currently in Chicago, where Rothstein is an attorney in private practice and Shenitzer works for a public relations firm.
Renee Claire is a freelance writer in Tucson.