Twenty years ago, on erev Valentine’s Day (Feb. 13, 2000), each guest at a wedding at Temple Israel in Alameda received a mock Jewish Bulletin (this newspaper’s former name) with the headline “A match made in newsprint.”
“Defying the odds, a Jewish Bulletin copy editor who is over 50 is marrying a man whom she met through a Bulletin personals ad — without lying about her age,” the story read.
Twenty years later, again surrounded by friends and family, former J. copy editor Janet Silver Ghent and her husband, Allen Podell, celebrated their 20th anniversary. The venue this time was Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.
The slide show at the event included photos from the Temple Israel wedding plus a panoply of their Purim costumes over the years: two French maids, two Einsteins, Carmen and the Toreador, a Masai warrior with his favorite cow, and even a lazy couple in robes and pajamas.
During the blessing from the bimah, Rabbi Janet Marder related the story about how they met — through a personal ad in the Jewish Bulletin, the local Jewish newspaper to which Allen, an electrical engineer, didn’t even subscribe.
However, while taking in the mail for a tenant one day, he spotted Janet’s ad:
CUTE WRITER SEEKS leading man for long-playing drama. Improvise, create sparkling dialogue, passionate interludes. Musical ability a plus but no scene-throwers. I’m cute, slim, petite, 5’1″, stylish, extroverted, introspective, intellectual and occasionally outrageous. Great cook, cuddler, love outdoors, opera, travel. You’re 49-60, active, healthy, ready for comeback after long-term marriage. Willing to share marquee with woman your age, who looks 10-15 years younger.
Podell thought to himself: “At least she’ll have a sense of humor. That she can cook is only alleged.”
With the subject line “2good2btrue,” Podell responded with an email that he hoped would demonstrate he had a sense of humor to match.
They agreed to meet in the Lego department of FAO Schwarz, the legendary toy store that formerly had a branch on San Francisco’s Stockton Street. To make sure they would recognize one another, they had exchanged photos.
“In the normal course of events, Allen and I would never have met in a toy store that last day of January 1999. I lived in Alameda, where I was active in my synagogue. He lived in Palo Alto and hadn’t been to services in years,” Silver Ghent relates.
Silver Ghent sent Podell a picture of herself holding her then-newborn granddaughter, Lindsay. He sent her a photo of himself dressed in a cow costume. Then he forwarded a cartoon about two people on a blind date who had sent one another old photos from many years before, and waited at a restaurant, wondering why the other hadn’t shown up.
She responded with a note suggesting he might want to see a more recent photo of herself, so she attached an image of Golda Meir. Arriving at FAO Schwarz, he rode up the escalator grinning and looking around as he held up the photo of the late Israeli prime minister.
“That sense of humor has carried us through difficult times, including the inevitable setbacks that come with growing older,” Silver Ghent says. “What also makes the marriage work are shared Jewish values, including a love of hospitality, and a proclivity to burst into song at any moment.”
Silver Ghent had shared some reflections on their union with Rabbi Marder, who repeated her words on the bimah. “When you get married at 22, you think your whole life is ahead of you,” Silver Ghent said. “When you get married at 57, you sort of know your whole life is not ahead of you. And 20 years later, you realize you don’t know how much time is ahead for you, so you want to cherish the time you have. I really want to savor our time together.”
Added Silver Ghent: “If we reach our silver anniversary, we will have a party, but at this stage of our lives, we’re not on the five-year plan. Every anniversary is an excuse to celebrate.”