For compelling evidence that Jewish mothers can be indefatigable in their matchmaking efforts, consider Loren Rosenzweig of suburban Boston.
She wanted her daughter, Washington resident Annie Rosenzweig, to find a nice Jewish boy, so she cast a wide net on her behalf. A very wide net. It reached all the way to Iraq.
No, Iraq is not a secret repository of eligible Jewish males. It is, however, where Rosenzweig’s then-25-year-old daughter was scheduled to spend several months in 2008 and 2009 on assignment for the Department of Defense. As a civilian employee on loan to the State Department, her job was to help administer the country’s provincial elections.
The elder Rosenzweig poked around and learned that the Jewish chaplain in Baghdad, Rabbi Andrew Shulman, was from the Boston area. She contacted his wife, got his e-mail address and promptly enlisted his help in implementing “Operation Shidduch.”
“She’s going to be there for four months, and she’s a single girl, so why not have a rabbi look out for her?” explained Loren Rosenzweig, a trust and estate attorney. “You have to get involved in the lives of your children. Everyone wants to see their child matched up with the right person.”
In July 2008, the month before Annie Rosenzweig arrived in Iraq, Shulman put out the word via e-mail (a photo of Annie attached) to a small group of young Jews with Iraq or D.C. connections.
“Listen,” he said in his message, “I’ve got this Jewish mother wanting me to set up her daughter; she’s 25, lives in DC, works at the Pentagon — take a look at the photo, pretty hot … “
Annie was appalled. Her mother had cleared none of this with her. Plus, she hadn’t planned on dating in Iraq.
“I was mortified,” she said. “It was embarrassing.”
Shulman’s message eventually found its way to journalist Yochi Dreazen, who had served for several years as the Baghdad bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. But by the time Operation Shidduch was under way, he had returned stateside, where he now covers national security issues for the National Journal.
As it turns out, Dreazen and Annie Rosenzweig already had crossed paths in Washington: Both lived in the same neighborhood, belonged to the same gym and went to the same congregation, DC Minyan.
“We weren’t really friends; we’d only met a few times,” said Annie, who heard nothing from potential suitors for months after the launch of Operation Shidduch — which was OK with her. “I had hoped it would all go away.”
It didn’t. Shulman’s shout-out had put the hook in Dreazen, who now saw his ex-acquaintance in a different light.
“I was smitten immediately,” said the 34-year-old Chicago native.
Dreazen contacted Annie through Facebook in early 2009, shortly after she returned to Washington from her assignment in Iraq.
“I said something romantic, like ‘Why don’t we swap Iraq stories?’ “ he recalled.
It worked. “We hit it off pretty quickly,” Annie said.
Dreazen proposed to her in June 2010 while they were on vacation in British Columbia. The magic moment occurred at the foot of a glacial waterfall they had flown to on a helicopter.
“It was pretty fantastic,” she said.
Dreazen and Annie Rosenzweig were married May 22 just outside Boston and now live in Washington, D.C.
One cannot help wondering: Would the outcome have been the same if a war and a determined Jewish mother had not intervened?
“It’s hard to say,” said Annie, who still works in the Pentagon. “We ran in similar circles, so it’s surprising that we didn’t get together earlier.”
Asked if she is now grateful to her mother for the critical role she also played in the coming-together process, Annie said, “I have conflicted feelings. It might embolden Jewish mothers everywhere. But at the same time, it certainly worked out for me, at least in this one case.”