Newlyweds Matthew and Julia Fleisher sat down to speak with us shortly before leaving for their honeymoon in Israel. The couple credits Etz Chaim for helping them lay the foundations of a Jewish home and a relationship grounded in Torah wisdom.
Matthew, a trained opera singer with a master’s in public health who is currently finishing his law degree, grew up Reform but stopped engaging with Jewish life after his Bar Mitzvah. He knew he wanted to get more involved, but didn’t know where to start. He met Julia, who’s currently finishing her master’s of public policy at the University of Maryland, on a dating app in their mutual hometown of Philadelphia. Although both were looking for a Jewish partner, neither was particularly religious at the time.
On their first date, Julia mentioned to Matthew that she’d like to start attending shul more often. That was the beginning of their Jewish journey together. In addition to Shabbat services, the couple started taking Jewish history and tradition classes as they fell more and more in love.
When Julia and Matthew moved to Baltimore in May 2020, they were looking for ways to keep learning and connect with the community. They joined JCare and started one-on-one learning with Rabbi Zev and Elana Pomeranz. Matthew even started a weekly Torah portion group with some of his new friends from JCare.
During the pandemic, Matthew and Julia had a lot of time to think about how they wanted to grow as a couple. Eventually, they started keeping kosher and Shabbos. Matthew praises the one-on-one attention he and Julia received from Etz Chaim staff: “We wanted to build a Jewish life together, and Etz Chaim was there for us.”
He continues, “What Etz Chaim does really well is build community, and the team helps you find what being Jewish means to you.” Julia adds,” Etz Chaim gives everyone the tools and ability to learn and interpret and feel Jewish, in whatever way works for them, and I think that’s a really special thing.”