SPOTLIGHT | Dr. Leslie Koblentz & Kenny Cohen

All photos submitted by the couple and wedding guests. 

How did you meet? 

Kenny: We actually met in Sterling Lakes. We lived three streets apart from each other and just by chance we happened to meet. We found we had a few things in common, starting with that both of our spouses are buried at Bet Olam (Cemetery) at Chagrin and Richmond. One of our first outings was going to the cemetery together. We never knew each other before, even though I had grown up with Leslie’s late husband, Steve, and I knew Leslie’s siblings from many years ago. 

Leslie: We probably crossed many, many times, but we didn’t stop at the intersection. He was happily married and I was happily married.

Do you have any interesting stories to share about getting to know one another?

Leslie: When I met Kenny, I was very nervous. I had been seeing somebody. And when I realized I wanted to get to know (Kenny) better and he wanted to get to know me better – after all, he was a widower and I was a widow – we decided to go for coffee. I said, let’s go to Nervous Dog at La Place, I don’t want to see anybody I know. We sit down to have a cup of coffee, and of course somebody who will remain nameless who knows everybody … he runs up out of nowhere and says, “Oh my god, you two are so cute together!” And I thought, oh my goodness, I didn’t want to be seen, I figured there would be nobody here. I wasn’t very good at picking places to hide. You’re new at this, you don’t really know. 

… (Afterward), we would meet for lunch on Fridays. We called it our Shabbos lunch, and then we started going to the cemetery to visit our spouses. We started realizing as our relationship was growing the commonalities we had, and our friendship grew into a romantic-ship. 

Kenny: When I lost my wife, I (had) the crazy thoughts you have in your head because you spend the majority of your life with (that person). Finding out Leslie was a psychiatrist and had also lost her husband, I just wanted to know if the things I was thinking, if they were somewhat normal. So when we got together, even though I wanted to have these in-depth conversations with her, we would end up talking about what we had done the previous week or weekend, who we went out with, what we had done. And we reached the point where I said, “Well, why don’t we just go out?” I was just looking for really someone to have dinner with. …
Then she said to me, “I’m sticking with the guy I’m with, I can’t see you anymore.” 

She felt bad, she came over my house that Friday with a challah because we should say a proper goodbye to each other – that the friendship was over. Which was really nice. And then the next morning as I cut the challah up, I took a picture of the two pieces of challah. I sent it to her and I said, “I’m still thinking about you.” 

The next day on Saturday happened to be the first day I was doing the opening part of our service at B’nai Jeshurun. While I’m doing the service, my phone is vibrating. So when I was able to sneak out, I saw it was from Leslie and she said to me “What if I made a mistake?” And I wrote back to her, “The universe has a way of righting the wrongs.” And then the rest is history. We sort of felt this whole thing was bashert, or meant to be.

How did you know you wanted to marry your partner?

Kenny: My late wife was Yael, who was very active in the community. I said to Leslie, I had Yael in my 50s and 60s. Steven was sick for 16 years, she missed out on the 50s and 60s – the age of being able to do things. And, you want to share your life with somebody.

Leslie: I kept feeling so comfortable with Kenny. And this is not to diminish at all his life with Yael or my life with my husband Steve, who I met when I was 17, but you realize when it’s such a wonderful thing. We feel like we’ve known each other for years, when we really have not at all. (With Kenny), I feel like I did with my late husband – that he’s my best supporter, he’s guiding me to make the best decision for us as a couple. And that’s how my late husband and I lived our lives. I supported him in law school, he supported me in medical school and law school, and he was an incredible father to our three children. And I get visions of Steve at times saying, “You’re going on the right path, you’re doing the right thing. I’m happy for you going forward in life.”

How long did you know each other before you got married?

Leslie: About a year or so. 

Tell me about your engagement. 

Leslie: This young man that I married must have been thinking about this because he planned a trip with his best friends. I’m not a Vegas girl, but Kenny enjoyed going, so of course I went along. It was December 2022. We were having dinner at Prime, which is the big beautiful steakhouse at Bellagio. Kenny said to our friends, Robert and Ronna Zelwin, “You were with us at the saddest of times, when Kenny’s wife got her bad diagnosis.”

Kenny: And, now I want you to be there at one of the happiest moments because I’m about to ask Leslie to marry me.

Leslie: I wasn’t even realizing what he’s saying, and it was probably the first time in my life I was speechless. Of course I said yes. I got the attention of the whole restaurant and I clanked my knife on the crystal glasses. I thought to myself, I’m in Vegas and the most wonderful man in the world next to my sweet late husband is asking me to marry him. All these people were clapping. They sent dessert, they sent flowers. They came by the table, people we will never see again. They just couldn’t believe to hear such wonderful news.

Kenny: The only thing is, I wanted to go to the Elvis Chapel, but she said no (both laughing).

Leslie: We couldn’t go to the Elvis chapel – I had to tell my children, and your children, and the rabbis, and we have things to do! I’m not an Elvis girl. 

What was the best part of the wedding?

Leslie: No. 1, it was realizing Matt (Rabbi Matt Cohen, Kenny’s son) was going to marry us. 

Kenny: I said to Matt, one day you’ll look back at your career and I hope this would be one of your top 10 highlights of performing this marriage ceremony because it was very special for me. To see the kid you raised, and all the sudden, here he is back in Cleveland after many years, as the rabbi of a nice size Reform temple, it was very thrilling for me. 

Leslie: It was a small, intimate wedding on a gorgeous fall day. We had our siblings, our children and spouses, and I think two other couples that we are close with, and that was it. 

Were there any conflicts between the two of you or your families in the planning process? 

Leslie: I don’t think so. The night before (the wedding), Kenny took all of our children and their partners for a private dinner at Hyde Park so they could get to know each other better. They have met each other on a few occasions, but that was so special because that really got our children and the grandchildren together. 

And the cute part was with Matt being the rabbi, we didn’t have to worry about too much premarital counseling. He was so cute. He said, “Do you think we have to meet before the wedding?” I said, “Matt, ask me anything you want, and if your father hasn’t learned things by now, that’s his problem.”

Is there anything else you wanted to share about your marriage or future?

Leslie: The key to our marriage, I think, is laughing. He’s very funny, he would have been the clown in school, and I never would have cracked a joke – I was the student. 

… We have so many friends in the community passing away, and you don’t think this will ever happen to you. I met my husband when I was 17, we planned our whole life for the rest of our lives. And unfortunately, the day after his 68th birthday, he passed away. I know people who will not go forward. I’m telling you not as a psychiatrist, but as a person who’s lived through things, you have two choices in life. My mother was widowed very young and she always said, “You can go down, or you can go forward.” And I think Kenny and I just chose to go forward, and that’s why it’s all fallen into place. 

“(Our) wedding was a rarity. A widow and a widower who had so many connections, crossing paths and living three streets apart, yet we never ‘met’ until both of our spouses had passed.”

-Leslie & Kenny 

Wedding Day
Oct. 1, 2023
Service at Temple Emanu El, Orange
Celebratory brunch at 17 River Grille, Chagrin Falls

Ages: 71 and 72
Hometown: Sterling Lakes in Pepper Pike
Synagogues: Temple Emanu El, Park Synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun Congregation


Engagement: Dec. 12, 2022
Officiant: Rabbi Matt Cohen (Kenny’s son)
Wedding colors: White, pale pink, sage green and ivory
Bride’s suit: Chanel from Saks Fifth Avenue
Wedding rings: Gottlieb & Sons
Jewelry: Earrings gifted from Leslie’s first marriage
Shoes: Stuart Weitzman
Hair/makeup: Jackie Ropos at Hair4ce
Groom’s formalwear: Ticknors Men’s Clothiers
Bouquet/flowers: Red House Florals
Flautist: Zoe Stier
Planner: Family planned together
Chuppah: Covered by a tallit they bought in Israel, and donated to Temple Emanu El
Ketubah: Made by Canadian designer
Photographers: Wedding guests
Catering: 17 River Grille in Chagrin Falls
Cake: Cassata cake from Casa Dolce
Rehearsal dinner: Hyde Park in Beachwood
Registries: Asked for no gifts
Honeymoon: Next fall to Japan
Extras: A borrowed 1960s red Cadillac convertible drove the couple from the temple through Chagrin Falls after the ceremony

-Responses told to Editor Amanda Koehn. Edited for brevity and clarity.

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