A natural disaster creates the perfect climate for a young chasidic couple to meet.
In the chasidic world, matchmakers bring young men and women together.
In the case of Rabbi Mendy and Rachel Traxler, the shadchan was Katrina.
Mendy, 22, part of the Chabad-Lubavitch rescue-and-relief effort in Baton Rouge following the hurricane a year ago, traveled to Houston to join his parents, Chabad emissaries there, for the High Holy Days season. Rachel Kaufmann, also 22, was in Houston with her family, also Chabad shluchim, who left their home in New Orleans for temporary accommodations in Houston.
Both were single. Their first arranged date was in October, erev Sukkot. “Only two or three hours,” Rabbi Traxler says. More dates, conversations in public places, followed. “Things started clicking.” By November they were engaged. In February they were married in New Orleans — they wanted to bring the city a happy occasion.
Their wedding received — pardon the expression — a flood of publicity because of its unique circumstances,
“Everything happens for a special reason,” says Rabbi Traxler. He and his wife work at Chabad summer camps in the Catskills.
In their case, “everything” included a providential meeting at a health food store of Rachel’s mother and a Chabad rebbetzin, which set the shidduch in motion, and the Class 5 hurricane that brought Rachel to Houston when her beshert was there.
“If Katrina had not happened,” Rabbi Traxler says, “we would have met … because the Eibishter [a Yiddish name for God] wanted us to meet.”
Rachel’s parents are back in New Orleans, where their house suffered minimal damage from Katrina’s flooding. She and Rabbi Traxler now live in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, where she is a teacher and he is studying in a kollel program for married students.
They think about the hurricane “every now and then,” Rabbi Traxler says. Come the anniversary this week, he says, the couple will probably call their parents and share some memories.
When they have children, will they give one a Katrina-related name?
“We get asked that all the time.” Rabbi Traxler says.
The answer is no. Katrina, he says, “is part of our lives. It doesn’t have to be a part of our kids’ life.”