Left to right: Jory, Michal, Rena, Yehuda
An Aliyah Love Story
How Two Best Friends Married Two Best Friends
BY ODELIA GLAUSIUSZ
A Bnei Akiva couple since high school, Rena Schweitzer and Yehuda Bessner married in Israel this past June. In Israel for the summer, I stopped by their cozy apartment for dinner to meet them and another couple, Michal and Jory Dayan, to learn how Rena and Yehuda brought Michal and Jory together.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Rena studied at Sha’alvim for Women for her gap year, and made Aliyah that February. “Doing Sherut Leumi was always a goal of mine,” she tells me, “and you had to make Aliyah to do it.” She lived with seven other girls – “now my best friends” – in a bodeda apartment in Kiryat Moshe, and worked in a school teaching Hebrew and math to first graders, half of whom came from at-risk backgrounds. She then worked as a madricha at Midreshet Moriah for a year, where she met Michal (originally from the Five Towns in New York).
After two years at MMY, Michal chose to stay in Israel, doing college online and working as a madricha. “I realized,” she explained, “that if I want to be the best Jew I can be, I should do it in the place where I can connect to Hashem the most.”
Yehuda grew up in Montreal, where he was a Bnei Akiva madrich and was inspired by his teachers to make Aliyah. In his second year at Yeshivat Hakotel, he drafted into the IDF through Hesder, serving as a Givati machine gunner before returning to Hakotel in 2021. Jory, from Toronto, was by his side the entire time; roommates and chavrutas in yeshivah, they also served in the same unit. It was in their fourth year in Hakotel when Jory – helped along by Yehuda and a coalescence of seemingly random events – first met Michal.
Michal explains that she decided to say the Nishmat prayer at the Kotel every day for forty days, as a segulah to get married. “The whole tefillah is about instilling bitachon (trust in G-d) in yourself; every segulah for marriage is really all about bitachon. I sound like a crazy person,” she laughs, but “I even walked barefoot to the Kotel while fasting on Yom Kippur. I was very into it!”
A year ago, she originally made plans to spend Shabbat Chol HaMoed of Sukkot with a friend in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Realizing this would break up her forty-day commitment to being at the Kotel, they spent Shabbat with Rena in Yerushalayim instead.
After – of course – davening at the Kotel, they stopped by Yeshivat Hakotel so Rena could see Yehuda. As Yehuda explains – “I saw Rena was with a friend, so I went to wake up Jory, who was taking a nap in the downstairs sukkah. He was supposed to have gone out for lunch, but ended up staying in yeshivah with us because the wind blew away his hosts’ sukkah. I said, ‘Jory, wake up, Rena’s here with a friend, come say hi!’”
Yehuda and Jory walked the girls out of the Rova, and that night Michal and Jory set up their first date. Laughing, Yehuda admits, “I told Jory that Michal liked him, and I told Michal that Jory liked her, to get them both interested. I had no idea!” Rena takes over: “On their first date, Michal was gone for 6 hours! I started to worry that Jory had kidnapped her, but then she came back at midnight and told me it was the best date ever.”
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Michal says of Rena and Yehuda: “They’ve been such supportive friends, they hosted Jory’s aufruf, they’re hosting our sheva berachot. They didn’t just set us up, they’re still with us and I’m so grateful!”
Michal and Jory married in late August, and, as you’d expect, are now Rena and Yehuda’s neighbors in Yerushalayim.
Odelia Glausiusz holds a degree in English Literature at King’s College London and is an intern for HaMizrachi magazine.