From NFTY friends to a nifty wedding, despite the rain

Oren Persing and Sarah Levy met in their synagogue’s youth group, NFTY, while in high school in Boston.

They were friends for a few years, and began dating in 2001, when Sarah was a freshman at Harvard University and Oren was a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Oren spent in his childhood in Israel, but Sarah had lived in Boston her entire life and wanted a change after college. She suggested California. After a spring break trip in 2005, they moved to Berkeley later that year.

Sarah is a freelance food writer and winemaker. Oren is the program director at U.C. Berkeley Hillel.

Oren proposed on the banks of the American River after a white-water rafting trip. He presented Sarah with hand-drawn sketches of an engagement ring he had designed, “and then the gorgeous ring itself,” Sarah recalled.

The couple married June 21 in Beverly, Mass., near Boston, where most of their relatives live.

Sarah and Oren Persing photo/lisa rigby photography

“Since we met at temple, we’re something of a success story at the synagogue — all of the rabbis wanted to perform our ceremony,” Sarah joked.

The ceremony was held at Moraine Farm, an estate designed in 1880 by famous American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

“It poured, and it didn’t matter at all,” Sarah said.

Something old: Since Oren and Sarah knew each other for so long, the wedding was full of old friends, memories and objects. They stood under two chuppahs — one that Sarah’s grandmother had made for her sister’s wedding and another from Oren’s mother’s oldest friend. Sarah also wore a diamond necklace passed down from her great-great grandmother.

“It all came together in this beautiful historical setting that was perfectly fitting,” Sarah said.

Something new: Sarah is a winemaker and served the first vintage of her wine, Je Suis Wine, at the wedding.

“It was a great way to integrate a bit of our California life into the celebration,” she said. “And, of course, it tasted wonderful.”

Something borrowed: The couple planned to have the ceremony outside, with chuppah poles stuck into the lawn.

But when it started pouring a few days before the wedding, they knew they needed an indoors plan. So they borrowed a set of chuppah holders from Oren’s cousin, who was planning his own wedding the following month.

“It was an unexpectedly sweet thing to be able to share with them,” Sarah said.

Something Jew(ish): Sarah and Oren wrote original text for their ketubah, which Oren designed. They had a good friend translate it into Hebrew.

“After we signed it and read the last line aloud together,” Sarah recalled, “our families and close friends surrounded us with singing and happiness.”

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.