Religious School Sweethearts: New Members Have a Long History at Emanu-El

By Jackie Peterson, Communications Manager

Religious School is a time to learn about Jewish identity and history, to develop a sense of right and wrong, to make lasting friendships, to study for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah… and, for some, a time to meet their future spouse.

Matt and Annabel Perelman did not start their romantic relationship until long after they left Temple Emanu-El’s Religious School, but their friendship dates back to second or third grade. On Wednesday afternoons, the two shared a classroom. “He was a troublemaker and the class clown,” Annabel said of Matt. The two share fond memories of their time at Emanu-El, with many involving the late Rabbi Posner.

“Any time Rabbi Posner would stop by a class or we would interact with him, it felt like you were being graced by a head of state,” Matt said. “People would sit up really straight and hang on his every word.”

Annabel shared a story in which some Horace Mann students, herself included, treated themselves to a leisurely outdoor lunch before going inside, where they should have been preparing for their Confirmation.

“Imagine our surprise when (Rabbi Posner), followed by our entire class, marched out of the synagogue and down the block to where we were eating. ‘Children, look upon your classmates!’ he said. As we scrambled to gather our things he said, ‘Oh no! Don’t let us rush you!’ before turning around and heading back inside with all of the students,” she recounted. “Of all the lessons Rabbi Posner taught us, this was one of his finest.”

Both Matt and Annabel stayed in Religious School through Confirmation. They remained friends throughout their time at Emanu-El, Annabel said, but did not remain in contact after Religious School. Though they both continued to attend services at the temple with their families, they held seats in different sanctuaries and rarely ran into each other.

For 11 years after leaving the Religious School, Matt and Annabel didn’t stay in contact.

“It’s probably a good thing we didn’t keep in touch,” Matt said, “because I was a terror as a teenager and probably would have scared her off for life.” But in 2012, the couple ran into each other, and the rest is history.

Matt and Annabel are now married and have a young daughter. They previously stayed involved with the temple under their parents’ memberships, but recently joined as new members. “Now that we’ve started a family of our own, it felt like the right time to join ourselves,” Annabel said.
Though the pair met in their early years at Religious School, Matt also attended Nursery School at Emanu-El. The couple is planning on applying to Nursery School as well and, when their daughter is old enough, enrolling her in Religious School. “Maybe she’ll meet her future husband!” Annabel joked.

It seems that Temple Emanu-El has made a lasting mark on the Perelman family. What makes this a community that encourages young couples to join the temple with their new families? Annabel shared her thoughts with us:

“Temple Emanu-El is truly generational. Most of our friends don’t belong to the same synagogue they attended growing up, except for our friends who grew up attending Temple Emanu-El,” she said. “We continue to go back (to temple) along with our parents and grandparents, and the temple has seen us through our life’s most important events.”

Annabel’s parents were married at Emanu-El by Rabbi Chapin; Rabbi Posner officiated Matt and Annabel’s Bar and Bat Mizvahs; Rabbi Ehrlich and Rabbi Davidson helped to bury Annabel’s father and Matt’s grandparents. Last month, Rabbi Davidson officiated the Perelman’s daughter’s baby naming.

“That is just so incredibly special, and unlike any other synagogue we know.”

This piece was originally published in the September/October issue of our Temple Bulletin.