Lindy Wisotsky and Josh Dembowitz
October 29, 2017 in Woodbury, N.Y.
They met at an Edison, N.J., Holiday Inn during the icebreaker portion of a 2006 Jewish teen bus tour, USY on Wheels. Josh, then 15, and Lindy, 14, were assigned to the same one of a half-dozen buses that would take the group to cities and landmarks across the country over six and a half weeks. Instantly interested, both volunteered for the laborious loading and unloading duties, as it seemed a sure way to get to know each other.
“I really liked how he was always joking around and wanting to be everyone’s friend,” Lindy said. She was a bit reserved back then, and that made it challenging to really get to know her, Josh said, but he was up for that. Besides, it didn’t stop her from questioning his assertions about their faith or anything else, and he really liked that.
In addition to touring, the teens prayed three times a day, kept kosher, observed the sabbath, and studied Jewish texts. Those who always did these things (Josh) mentored those whose day-to-day Judaism was less traditional (Lindy).
As the bus prepared to depart Cleveland, Josh, who is from Cherry Hill, and Lindy, from East Northport, N.Y., claimed one of the backseats and talked and flirted the entire way to Chicago. They held hands while walking through Navy Pier and from then on spent every moment they could together.
About a week after the tour finished, Josh went to visit her on Long Island. They talked constantly by text, Facebook, MySpace. But as summer ended, Lindy’s Grandma Belle, who lived with her family, died. Struggling with her grief and the need to keep it together when school started, Lindy told Josh the relationship was off.
“It felt like the end of the world,” he said.
They weren’t together, but not entirely apart, either. They messaged each other with every important development in their lives, and, from time to time, all that emotional intimacy brought them back together again, for weeks or for months, until the next impasse. When they were in high school, geography was the main obstacle. When they graduated and left home to study political science — he at the University of Pennsylvania, she at George Washington University — distance was no longer the biggest barrier. The differences in the way they lived their faith — part of what made them so interesting to each other initially — now made them doubt they could foster a long-term relationship as adults.
“It felt like neither one of us was willing to budge, and neither would be happy living the other person’s lifestyle,” said Josh, now 27. “It made it seem like we could never be together, but at the same time, we could not shake each other.”
In September 2013, Josh moved to Manhattan for work. He is now manager of sales strategy and planning for PepsiCo. Lindy, who is now 26, moved back to New York, as was always her plan, the following month. She is assistant director of the contemporary Jewish life department at the American Jewish Committee. Soon after moving to opposite sides of Central Park, they again became a couple.
This time, when the old discussion about how to make their different ways of being Jewish work together arose, Lindy realized that living without driving and electricity from sundown Friday to Saturday and keeping a kosher kitchen were much smaller sacrifices than being apart from Josh. “We compromised, but I met him 80 percent of the way,” she said. “Maybe closer to 90 percent,” Josh said.
It was hard at first, Lindy admits, but this new way of being Jewish became easier, then essential. “I learned to live with it, and now I love it.”
When it comes to pizza, Josh and Lindy are all-in. After reading Eater’s list of New York’s 25 best pizza places, they went on a two-year quest to try them all.
In August 2016 — after having an important discussion with Lindy’s dad and asking his sister to accompany him to a jewelry store — Josh collected empty pizza boxes. In each of 24 of them, he placed a single rose, photos from the 10 years they had been in each other’s lives, and a note about moments that made him ever more sure of his love for her.
On the roof of her apartment building, Josh arranged the boxes in a line that led to a small table.
“I knew I loved you when you got along with Savta,” said the note in one box, referring to Josh’s beloved grandmother. “I knew I loved you when you became an Eagles fan,” said another. Lindy opened the 25th box and read, “Will you marry me?”
Josh knelt. “Of course!” she yelled. One box actually held pizza, which they ate. Then Josh had another surprise: Family and friends were a block away, waiting to celebrate.
It was so them
The couple, who now live in Manhattan, wed in the sanctuary at Woodbury Jewish Center. “You really feel the presence of God there,” Lindy said.
Before the ceremony, Josh danced to his bride, surrounded by friends and family members for the bedeken. Lindy’s dad, Peter, had that year had been in and out of the hospital. Dancing Josh to Lindy was the fulfillment of his recovery wish.
Josh’s brother-in-law Jordan, a rabbi, and Lindy’s childhood cantor, Ralph, co-officiated. Family and friends participated in the Seven Blessings. There were two tallit beneath the chuppah — one that Josh’s Savta Marilyn had woven him on a loom for his bar mitzvah, and one that Lindy’s Grandma Dotty gave her for her bat mitzvah. The tallit draped over the couple’s shoulders had belonged to Josh’s Sabba Morris, who was a rabbi.
After the ceremony, another gaggle of dancers danced the newlyweds to the yichud room, where they spent some early married moments with only each other.
Their reception for 220 was held in the center’s catering hall. The music ranged from Alicia Keys and Billy Joel to old-school simcha, which set the tone for a 40-minute horah. To entertain the couple, Josh’s fraternity brothers formed a pyramid. His brothers danced in Eagles jerseys. Lindy’s bridesmaids donned aprons and carried pictures of Guy Fieri.
Josh and Lindy exchanged letters to be read before the wedding. “I read her note twice, and I thought I had my tears out,” he said. Then Lindy tapped him on the shoulder. “Seeing her in this dress I knew she was so excited about … that was the moment where it truly felt real,” he said. “This is the woman I’m lucky enough to spend the rest of my life with. This is the realization of this hope and dream I’d had, in many ways, since I was 15 years old.”
Josh stomped on a glass, breaking it in a symbol of permanence, and they kissed. “In that very moment, I realized we had just gotten married,” Lindy said. Then everyone began to dance in parade formation. Seeing them all, “I thought, ‘These are our people. These are the people who are here with us, and who will always be here with us.’ ”
A bargain: Lindy loved the dress she describes as “all lace and incredible.” It was even more lovely when she found it at the Bridal Salon of Dix Hills for $500 less than where she saw it in New York.
The splurge: A band that could move seamlessly from R&B to Jewish traditional and back again, plus extra for Hebrew singers.
Later this year, the couple heads to Italy, where they plan to eat lots and lots of pizza.
Behind the scenes
Officiants: Cantor Ralph Nussbaum, former cantor of the East Northport Jewish Center, and Rabbi Jordan Soffer, rabbi-in-residence at the Carmel Academy in Greenwich, Conn. (and brother-in-law of the groom).
Venue: Woodbury Jewish Center, Woodbury, N.Y.
Food: Regal Caterers, Woodbury, N.Y.
Music: Pete Saunders by Hank Lane, New York.
Photography: Salzman & Ashley Studios, Plainview, N.Y.
Flowers: Jerusalem Florist, Woodmere, N.Y.
Dress: Maggie Sottero, purchased at the Bridal Salon of Dix Hills, Huntington, N.Y.
Groom’s attire: Ted Baker, purchased at Rothmans New York, New York.