Communication. Give and take. Love. These are some the themes that emerged when the AJP spoke recently with nine couples in the Jewish community who have been married more than 50 years – six, remarkably, in the 60-plus range — about the secrets to a long marriage.
Here, without further ado, are those steadfast couples.
Harriet and Jerry Belenker of Green Valley were married on June 21, 1952 at a wedding hall in Brooklyn, New York. The pair met in a high school earth science class and both graduated from Brooklyn College; Harriet received an M.A. in education from Loyola College in Baltimore and Jerry earned an M.A. from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from the University of Northern Kentucky. The Belenkers lived primarily in Silver Spring, Maryland, before moving to Green Valley, Arizona, in 2006. They have two daughters and a son, and five grandchildren.
Harriet believes the secret to a long marriage is “overlooking most things, frankly; picking your battles and avoiding the others.” She adds that since Jerry was a lawyer by day and a professor of economics in the evenings, they didn’t have time to argue. For Jerry, the secret is “that we love one another and never forgot that, no matter what happened.”
Donna and Hans Moser were married June 19, 1960 at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun in Milwaukee. They met when Donna was a high school senior and got a part-time job in a shoe store, where Hans was working his way through college. They dated for five years before they wed. The Mosers have four children and seven grandchildren. For Donna, the key to a long marriage is simple: “Always having an open discussion.” For Hans, it’s even simpler: “I’m lucky.”
Sandra and Gerald Ross’ nuptials were held at the Chateau d’Or wedding hall in Brooklyn, New York, on Jan. 11, 1959. “Respect, love and respect” is the recipe for a long marriage, says Sandra, noting that the pair worked together for many years. Gerald started the Famous Sam’s franchise and before that, they owned nightclubs; Sandra kept the books. When they met, she says, Gerald was an actor, having graduated from the University of Arizona in 1956 with a degree in theater arts.
They met at the Tamarack Hotel in upstate New York. Sandra, only 17, was there for Rosh Hashanah with her family. Gerald commissioned his sister-in-law to get her phone number, drove two and a half hours to Brooklyn to court her and told her on their first date that he was going to marry her. They have four children and three grandchildren. Gerald jokes that to keep a marriage happy, it helps “if the husband is deaf and blind,” but adds more seriously, “I fell in love with this lady, and that was it. I couldn’t help myself.”
Ruth and Marvin Hoffman’s wedding took place in Tucson on Feb. 13, 1955 at Congregation Anshei Israel’s old building on Sixth Street, with Rabbi Marcus Breger and Cantor Maurice Falkow officiating. The couple, who met on a blind date, have lived in the same house for 62 years, and raised two sons and two daughters there. They have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Marvin says of their enduring marriage, “We each had our own way and then we settled down in between, so to speak.” Ruth says the key is to make sure to kiss each other goodnight and not discuss problems at bedtime. “Go to bed happy,” she says.
Charne and Morrie Shoob of Green Valley were married Aug. 7, 1966 at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They met on a blind date when Charne was in Milwaukee visiting her aunt, uncle and cousin. “The date was ‘just OK’ for both of us,” she says in an email. “We went to see the movie ‘The Longest Day’ and I still refer to that evening as ‘the longest date’!” Things went better the next day at a Rose Bowl football party — and University of Wisconsin won. The Shoobs have two daughters and a grandson.
According to Morrie, the secret to their long marriage is “the two words, ‘yes dear,’” while Charne credits “tolerance and patience. Truthfully, we have been through many challenges over the years and have faced and overcome them with a united front, no matter what.”
Sally and Sid Brodkin were married on June 14, 1953 at the Benson Chateau in Brooklyn, New York, five months after meeting at a dance at the Avenue N Jewish Center. They have lived in Tucson for more than four decades, and have one daughter and two grandchildren.
“To make a good marriage,” Sid says, “you have to be totally honest with your mate. You must care about your mate as much as yourself, and maybe more.” Sally says, “The art of give and take is the key.”
Judy and Ted Direnfeld were married Nov. 2, 1957 at Congregation Anshei Israel. Asked how they met, Judy laughs. “I was on a blind date with someone else,” she says, at a dance at the old Jewish Community Center on Tucson Boulevard.
Communication is the secret to a long marriage, she says. “A lot of give and take.” Without hearing his wife’s comments, Ted echoes, “It’s a case of give and take … a case of talking to one another and working things out.” The Direnfelds have three children and two grandchildren.
Joyce and William Becker were married on Aug. 16, 1959 in Tucson, at the home of Joyce’s parents, the Goldwyns, with Rabbis Albert Bilgray and Marcus Breger officiating. They met on a blind date arranged by a friend of Joyce’s brother, while Bill was home from dental school in Milwaukee. When they married, Joyce transferred from Vasser College in Poughkeepsie, New York, graduating from Milwaukee-Downer College. The Beckers have two children and two grandchildren.
The secret to a long marriage? “Compromise,” says Joyce and adds, “Sharing each other’s interests. When he writes a scientific article he asks me to correct the grammar and offer suggestions. When I paint a watercolor, he critiques it and offers suggestions. When one has health problems, the other one acts as caregiver or physical therapist.”
“I married up,” says Bill. “I’m not kidding; I married someone smarter than I am. She’s also beautiful, but she graduated number one in her class at Tucson High. … She’s very smart, very clever, very beautiful, very patient, very kind … You know anybody in Tucson that knows Joyce, they’re going to always smile and say, ‘Oh yeah, Joyce is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life.’”
Johanna and Richard Stein were married on Nov. 21, 1956 in Phoenix, having eloped from Tucson with Dick’s best friend and his girlfriend as witnesses. As Johanna explains it, Dick had returned from the Army to find that cousins were sleeping in his old room. After two years living in barracks, he wanted a room of his own – although he did have to share with Johanna. Amusingly, a friend who called Johanna’s mother with long-winded congratulations ended her speech with, “And do you know Dick Stein? He got married the same weekend.”
“Humor is the only thing that’ll keep anybody together,” says Johanna, who appreciates Dick’s running commentary on life. Dick agrees that humor is necessary, along with patience and understanding. The Steins have three daughters and a son, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.