Ruthie Arbeiter liked to wear silk flowers in her hair. She liked them so much that she wore one most days, changing the color to match her outfit.
One day in the fall of 2008, while in her freshman humanities class at Stanford, one of those silk flowers caught the eye of Joe Caparas. “I should talk to her sometime,” he thought.
A few days later, he got his chance.
After attending a faculty dinner in her dorm, where students invite faculty members to join them, Arbeiter enjoyed it so much that she attended the faculty dinner of another dorm, where Caparas lived. She was early, and Caparas saw her as soon as he arrived. He figured this was his chance. After an engaging conversation, Arbeiter realized, “I didn’t know I could have so much in common with another human being. I was craving to spend more time with him.”
They started sitting together in humanities class and going to lunch afterward. This evolved into attending other campus activities together on a friendly basis — until just before Thanksgiving break, when he asked her out on a proper date. She was torn.
At home on break, Arbeiter realized she was falling in love, but was deeply saddened by the fact that Caparas wasn’t Jewish.
Arbeiter, now 25 and the director of communications and marketing for Palo Alto’s Congregation Kol Emeth, was raised in a Conservative home near San Diego. “I’d been raised culturally very traditional,” she said. “We were Conservative, but it was drilled into my head from birth that I could not date a non-Jew, and I only wanted to date if there was the potential for marriage.”
Meanwhile, Caparas, now 25 and the manager of a copy and print shop, was born in New York (at Beth Israel hospital, he pointed out — perhaps a harbinger of his future as a Jew, Arbeiter noted) and spent his middle- and high school years in Alabama. Though Filipino and Catholic, Caparas said he didn’t receive the same kind of pressure from his parents about marriage.
By the time Arbeiter returned to campus after break, she’d had a change of heart. “I had discovered this incredible happiness of knowing Joe, and why would I destroy this happiness by depriving myself of this incredible relationship?” She decided to give romance a chance.
“I love his humor and creativity, plus he has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met,” she said.
“I love how logical and artistic she is, plus her enthusiasm for life and all the little silly things she does,” said Caparas.
Conversion wasn’t considered at the time, Arbeiter said, for two reasons: Growing up, she didn’t know many converts, and secondly, because “I didn’t want to marry someone who would convert just for me. He had to be passionate about Judaism independently.”
In fact, Caparas had turned away from Catholicism years earlier. “I had formed my own beliefs as to what God is and what my religion should be,” he said. “And as Ruthie began to tell me more about Judaism and we went to Hillel, I figured out that the belief system I came up with independently aligned perfectly with Judaism.”
“The moment he had that revelation,” Arbeiter said, “it came together: that we’re meant to be together, that he was meant to be Jewish, that I was meant to be with him.”
When the pair approached Hillel at Stanford Rabbi Mychal Copeland about conversion, she directed them to Congregation Kol Emeth, where the Mountain View couple are today active members.
They were married Aug. 2 by Kol Emeth’s Rabbi David Booth at Lake Natoma Inn in Folsom in a Conservative Jewish ceremony with Filipino traditions. In the veil ceremony, loved ones pinned a veil over the groom’s shoulders and bride’s head, to symbolically clothe the couple as one. They also looped a cord with an infinity knot over the couple’s shoulders, to symbolize infinite commitment. And a coin ceremony was held, in which the groom pours coins into the bride’s hands, symbolizing his commitment to financially take care of her. (They modernized the ritual by having the bride pour the coins back into the hands of the groom, to signify mutual support.)
Since both bride and groom are huge dog lovers — she prefers pugs while he favors corgis — they worked that into the celebration as well.
“I knew I’d have to make a custom cake topper since I wasn’t going to find one with an Asian groom with a kippah standing next to an Ashkenazi bride,” said Arbeiter. “I like crafts a lot, so I thought, if I’m making one that looks like us, it will also have a pug and corgi.” And that she did.
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