the couple holding hands and smiling
Phillip Hall (left) and Jonathan Kurshan (Photo/Steven Gregory Photography)

‘Coupons on a first date? In my mind, that’s marriage material!’

Jonathan Kurshan did something on his first date with Philip Hall that some might consider a deal-breaker. When they were deciding where to go to dinner after seeing Adam Mansbach’s “Angry Black White Boy,” he pulled out a book of coupons his aunt had given him, noting they were about to expire.

Hall was of another mindset. “Coupons on a first date?” he thought. “In my mind, that’s marriage material!”

Up to that point, Hall wasn’t sure they were clicking. “It felt more like a meeting” than a date, he said.

It wasn’t until they had sushi after the play (and yes, using those coupons) when things began to feel more comfortable and Hall felt like they truly were on a date.

Hall, 35, is from San Diego. He has just left his family business in the solar industry to explore his longstanding interest in creative writing (he has kept a blog for the past five years called “Eats Pork Jew” that is part food blog, part storytelling about travel and life.)

Kurshan, from Roanoke, Virginia, first came to the Bay Area to work at Berkeley Hillel, and returned after graduate school at the London School of Economics. He helped start the original UpStart nonprofit incubator lab in San Francisco, and now is a project manager at Yelp.

In November 2008, after volunteering for the No on 8 campaign to defeat the ballot proposition banning same-sex marriage, Kurshan attended a post-election happy hour for volunteers, where he met Aviva Kellman, a close friend of Hall’s.

“I always had Philip in mind, so when I met Jonathan I thought, ‘this guy seems like a mensch,’ ” Kellman recalled.

As he was leaving, she asked how he felt about being set up.

Soon after, Hall was at Kellman’s for dinner. They were “two bottles in,” as Hall puts it, when they found Kurshan on Facebook and Hall looked through all his photos.

They decided she would send Kurshan a message saying, “My friend is interested,” attaching Hall’s page.

Kurshan replied, and the two agreed to speak on the phone over Thanksgiving weekend.

Little did Kurshan know that for at least part of that conversation, he’d be on speakerphone with Hall’s family members listening in. (Hall only told him this much later.)

And we argue very well. We discuss, and listen to each other.

“We’re very close. I wanted their approval,” said Hall. He got it.

Their relationship moved pretty quickly after that first date, and they had a good laugh when they learned that one of Hall’s first crushes at Camp Swig was Kurshan’s college girlfriend.

In the summer of 2009, they traveled together to Australia. And even though they had decided they wouldn’t discuss moving in together until their one-year anniversary, Kurshan found himself wanting to have that conversation earlier.

It was an easy conversation, as Hall had admired how well Kurshan fit in with his family and how quickly he bonded with his nieces and nephews. They moved in together in February 2010.

“In addition to his being kind and generous and intelligent, I love the pragmatism he brings to our life, and we both love that counterbalance he provides,” said Hall.

“He makes me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed in my life,” said Kurshan. “And we argue very well. We discuss, and listen to each other.”

But when it came to marriage, they didn’t talk about it — mainly because Kurshan saw no need for a piece of paper.

Even when same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, he still wasn’t interested.

Finally though, in a conversation with his sister, Kurshan realized that he wasn’t so much opposed to marriage as he was to having a wedding. Which could be problematic when your partner wants a wedding for 300.

They decided to get married during dinner at a bistro in San Francisco, and Hall agreed to forego his dream wedding. They wed at City Hall, with no one else present but a photographer and the officiant. They did so on Dec. 6, 2016 — the eighth anniversary of their first date — with the officiant mixing up who was whom and reading the ceremony “with all the sentiment of a memorized dissertation on fourth-dimensional quantum physics,” Hall wrote on his blog.

The couple spent the rest of the day revisiting favorite food haunts from significant milestones in their relationship — with the photographer in tow — ending with a meal at Gary Danko.

In February, they participated in Honeymoon Israel (a Birthright-like trip to Israel for couples). But before embarking on the nine-day excursion, they inquired about having a Jewish ceremony while there.

Though weddings aren’t usually part of the trip, the organization agreed.

Their Jewish ceremony took place Feb. 20 at Moshav Yesod Hama’lah in the Galilee. The CEO of Honeymoon Israel and their tour guide signed the ketubah, and an educator from the trip officiated. Participating couples reading the seven blessings.

And though their families weren’t present, Hall and Kurshan were able to share the occasion — live-streaming it to them via Facebook.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."