July 10, 2008
A long time ago, when my parents were teenagers, they met each other through United Synagogue Youth, the Conservative movement’s youth group. A few years before, my mom’s sister had joined the group. My mom’s sister met a nice Jewish boy named David N. at USY; a few years later, my mom met my dad, another David N., in the same USY chapter.
Now, this would be enough coincidence for most families, but not mine.
My aunt married her David N. and my mother married her David N.
All three families — my dad’s family, my mom’s family, and my uncle’s family — were, and still are, members of the same synagogue and best friends.
Here the story gets even stranger. My uncle’s two siblings also met their future spouses in this same USY chapter.
All of these couples stayed together through college, even though most of them had to deal with multiple state lines in between them; in my parents’ case, they had to deal with the Atlantic Ocean.
And their relationships flourished. Four families that sprang out of one USY chapter. But the question is, what does that mean for the offspring?
From the time I was little, my parents always told me to date (and eventually marry) only Jewish women. I always had it stuck in the back of my head that I would get myself a girlfriend in USY. And guess what? I did.
Last summer, I went on USY’s Outdoor Adventure Pacific Northwest, a month-long camping trip in Washington state. Of the 14 campers, eight were girls and six were guys.
One of those girls was named Alyson. She lives in Florida. About two weeks into the trip, we were considered “together.” I don’t really know what that means, but what I do know is that the day after I came home, I called her up and asked her if she would be my girlfriend. She said yes. That was seven months ago.
Seven months is longer than the regular season of all professional sports except for boxing, motor racing, and horse racing.
Longer than it takes to sail around the world. Much, much longer than it takes to run across the USA!
And in the world of teenage relationships, it’s all about time, and time markers. In a long-distance relationship, you learn that time is the one thing on your side.
Space, however, is not. Distance is a major factor. Some people consider Springfield to Hamilton a long-distance relationship. Driving is a two-hour-and-16-minute round trip over 117 miles. To drive to see my girlfriend would take nearly 38 hours over 2,434 miles — and that’s without stopping.
My girlfriend and I talk to each other a lot by phone, AIM, Facebook, text messaging, whatever.
Some people can’t handle the time and distance, but it’s not as hard as it seems. Some people believe a long-distance relationship is not a true test of a couple’s connection. They say when you see each other every day, you get more agitated and frustrated, and that a long-distance relationship doesn’t test you that way.
Being Jewish and being members of Jewish youth groups is a major aid. In Pirkei Avot, chapter 2, verse 20, it says, “The day is short, the task is great...the wage is abundant and the master is urgent.”
This phrase provides me with strength whenever I think of my relationship. It sends a message — do not avoid the struggle of being in a long-distance relationship, but also do not take full charge. You and your girlfriend must meet somewhere in the middle — neither one of you can make all the calls, write all the letters, write all the e-mails.
Being in a long-distance relationship is something many people never get to experience, and they’re missing out. Still, it takes two committed people to make a long-distance relationship work — people who don’t require constant attention, who can fend for themselves, and who are mature enough not to cheat.
There is one thing, above all, that makes a long-distance relationship so rewarding. When you don’t see your girlfriend for three months, it becomes so much more amazing when you finally spend time together. It’s like meeting someone for the first time all over again without all of the uncertainty and awkwardness. It’s an incredible experience to see someone you love doing well.
Cory Nagelberg, 15, attends Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union and is a member of Nu magazine’s teen board.