Local Jewish couples of different generations reflect on what makes their marriages last
Dan and Goldie Ermine, Dan and Jill Ross, and Jeremy and Shira Tor are observant couples, at least to some extent. All clearly love each other and, at least as important, are good friends. All are engaged in the community, and all are patient. They are at different stages in their lives.
The Ermines are, respectively, 90 and 93, the Rosses 56, the Tors 32. The children of the first two couples are adults, while the Tors’ daughters are just starting: Ariella is 2, and Dahlia was born Jan. 1.
Interviews with these couples – the one with the Ermines was by phone from Delray Beach, Fla. – suggest that one key to a lasting marriage is listening to one another. That may be a vital key.
In deference to age, let’s start with the Ermines, who celebrated their 70th anniversary Sept. 4 at Landerhaven. Goldie Shnider and Dan Ermine, who knew each other from the Glenville neighborhood where they grew up, were married at the swanky residence hotel Wade Park Manor, now Judson Manor, on East 107th Street. About 800 people attended. “In those days, people crashed,” says Goldie.
Is there a secret to a lasting marriage? “First of all, I learned that you can’t sweat the small stuff,” says Goldie, who did most of the talking. “You have to really pick your battles. It took a long time to learn that.”
She and Dan attend B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, though “not every Friday night.” Dan still does accounting occasionally for the Painesville law firm of Dworken & Bernstein, and Goldie keeps her hand in at Menorah Park (she says she runs the kitchen there), presents high tea at R.H. Myers Apartments and tends bar at happy hour at Wiggins Place.
Keeping active is critical, says Goldie, who retired at age 64 from managing Donna Lee, a clothing store at Cedar and Warrensville roads. Accountant Dan, whom she calls Danny, retired at 65.
As for sweating the small stuff, “I had a lot of different issues,” says Goldie, noting her husband “walks real slow” because he has Parkinson’s disease, “but he still works.”
“If you would take a look at us, people who see me and my husband, they don’t believe it,” she says. “They say it’s not possible that you’re 90. I’m very active and I look it. And we had a 70th anniversary party in September at Landerhaven.” The Ermines are the parents of Mark Ermine and Lori Seretan. They have eight great-grandchildren, with a ninth on the way.
A seasoned marriage
Humor is critical to the Rosses, who have been married for 27 years. He’s director of operations for Landmark RE Management, and she has been metro program director at Cleveland Hillel Foundation for 20 years. They live in the Beachwood home in which he grew up, along with their son, Zachary, their daughter, Jamie and their 16-year-old shih tzu – named, naturally, Betsy Ross.
“We were fixed up on a blind date,” says Dan. “Our first date was March 13, 1988. I remember dates. My mom and I used to own Arista’s Affairs for Debonairs, a card gift shop and wedding invitations store at La Place, and the lady across the way, who owned a women’s clothing and accessories store, said, would you like to meet a nice young girl?”
That “nice young girl” was Jill, who noted that that matchmaker was a friend of her parents. Small world.
After their first date, at the Hyde Park Grille Restaurant on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, Jill took off for a 10-day vacation in Mexico, promising Dan she’d call on her return. She did.
She went on lots of first dates at that time, many of them with men named Dan. With this Dan, however, Jill hit it off, fast. This Dan was special.
They were married at the Marriott Park East in Beachwood on July 2, 1989 in a “good-sized wedding” attended by nearly 300. The place was particularly crowded that weekend because of the Davis Family Reunion. “We joked all weekend long because the Davis family was running around in T-shirts in the hotel,” says Dan.
They went to France for a dream honeymoon: a week in Paris, a week in Cannes and a side trip to Monte Carlo. “Every paycheck we took money out so we could afford this trip,” says Dan. “We didn’t have the encumbrances that children bring.”
Faith and a sense of community are as critical as humor to the Rosses, who attend Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike.
“Through faith, you develop an amazing sense of community and I think that’s what gets you through,” Jill says. “You have your friends, your synagogue, and that’s what gets you through it. Our daughter went to (Gross) Schechter School in Pepper Pike and we have some amazing friendships from the community there. And a foundation was really established for her.”
A member of the Cleveland Hiking Club, Dan relaxes by hiking on the weekends, joking he can’t keep up with the oldsters even though he hiked 280 miles in 2016. He also cooks on Sundays, and both greatly enjoy hosting Passover dinners for up to 45 people.
Jill spends a lot of time with her parents at Menorah Park. “We sit, we laugh,” she says, noting these get-togethers include daughter Jamie, who is studying at a women’s yeshiva in Jerusalem, by Facetime.
The two accommodate each other. Jill points to the Cleveland Browns flag draped over an upstairs banister, noting she’s a Browns fan but unlike Dan, not to that extent. Dan won that battle.
It might have been humor to the rescue. When people ask how long they’ve been married, Dan says 27 years, “three of the best years of our lives.”
Which three? “Depends.”
Jeremy and Shira Tor have been married since Sept. 2, 2012. She’s a Tel Aviv native who grew up in Northeast Ohio and an orthodontist who always wanted her own practice in the Cleveland area – which today she has as a partner at Weiss & Tor Orthodontics in Orange Village. He’s a plaintiff’s attorney with the Cleveland firm of Spangenberg Shibley & Liber, representing individuals who are seriously injured or killed as a result of the wrongdoing of others. Both are active at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood.
Jeremy and Shira got married on a Sunday at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. It rained, but they were able to hold the ceremony outdoors. About 130 people attended including his grandfather, a World War II veteran who turns 90 in May, and her grandmother, who has since passed.
“It was special to have both my grandfather and her grandmother at the wedding party,” Jeremy says.
Doing good is a value they share and exemplify in their professions. That value helped them build on a relationship of many twists and turns. At the same time, the decision to be together has governed them for years.
“I think one of the keys to success is we were both on the same page for a very long time, from very early in our relationship,” says Jeremy.
“I think there is something somewhat traditional about how our relationship began. It wasn’t an arranged marriage, but it had similar aspects,” he says in a joint interview at their home in Shaker Heights.
“I was the brother (of the groom) at (Shira’s) good friend’s wedding, so the pedigree, as it were, was verified. It gave us a foundation to move into, as long as the spark was there – and it was – and we knew there was a good foundation.”
They met in 2009 in greater Phoenix, where the former Shira Lazebnik was going to dental school. She was a classmate of Jeremy’s sister-in-law, whom he’d visit (along with his brother) on breaks from law school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After formally meeting Shira at a party a couple of weeks after the wedding, Jeremy told his sister-in-law to set him up with Shira, but Shira was in a relationship at the time. “I go back to law school and later that fall, I’m sitting in the library and I get a message from out of the blue from Shira, totally unexpected; I thought she’d completely forgotten about me,” he says. “We met at a party, it wasn’t like we’d spent time together. So she messaged me out of the blue, and we started having regular long-distance communications and I would say it progressed rather quickly.”
None had lived with a significant other before, but with the blessing of their parents, they moved in together after Shira entered a one-year general practice residency in Virginia. She says she expected resistance to the idea of their living together, and was surprised when it was OKed. “My parents are very conservative, and it took some persuasion from my father,” she says. “The only reason my dad agreed was that he thought, for my safety at least, he knew I was going to be with somebody he knows and trusts.”
In June 2011, Shira moved to Philadelphia for an orthodontist residency, and drove Jeremy to Beachwood to live at her parents’ home there and become a clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster. Between 2011 and 2013, they lived in different cities – and produced Ariella, their first child. They finally moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 after a year in Princeton, N.J., where she completed her Philadelphia orthodontist residency and he worked at the Manhattan law firm of Baker & McKenzie.Shira moved back into her parents’ home in September 2014 with Ariella, and Jeremy joined them there that November. They acquired their own home a year later.
What binds them?
“Our family, our values,” Jeremy says. “I think Shira and I are both very close to our families, we cherish our families very much. We also both do work where we have the ability to help others, a notion central to Jewish tradition: helping others, giving back to the community, making the world a better place.”
Balancing career with family demands is a challenge, he says. “Family comes first though we both very much cherish our careers, so striking a balance is a challenge.”
Balance, sharing values, humor, staying active, not sweating the small stuff and putting family first – all have worked for these three couples, from generation to generation. js