When Renee Krul of Elizabeth heard the story of the Stranded Bridegroom, she knew she had to share it with a reporter.
“We too often have to read about unfortunate events and stories about bad decisions and behaviors,” Krul, a member of the Jewish Educational Center, told NJJN via e-mail. “This shows the innate good in people. I believe that any Jewish community would have opened their doors in the same way given the opportunity. Elizabeth was blessed to have had the chance to do the mitzva this time.”
The story began when Dave Savitt and his sons returned home from synagogue on a Shabbat evening in November, bringing an unannounced guest with him. His wife, Jessica, said she was “a bit piqued.”
She hadn’t been feeling well and was in pajamas, and — as an Orthodox woman — had to hurry to cover her head. But when her husband explained the young man’s circumstances, she did an about-face.
Actually, the story had begun a few hours earlier. Avraham Adler, a student from Yeshiva Gedola of Passaic, was driving to his old school, Yeshiva Gedola of Cliffwood in Aberdeen. It was a week before his wedding, and he was set to be in shul there the next morning, for his aufruf, a ceremony in which the groom is honored by being called up to the bima for a Torah aliya.
But traffic on the Garden State Parkway slowed his progress, and he found himself at Exit 138, 28 miles from his destination, as the sun was about to set.
Forbidden to drive on the Sabbath and aware there was an Orthodox community in the vicinity, he told NJ Jewish News, he parked his car and tossed the keys behind a nearby bush (carrying such objects is also forbidden on the Sabbath). He began walking, asking people along the way for directions.
“I wasn’t really worried,” he said. “I’d texted my friends that I was running late and I might not make it,” he said. “I thought I’d just take things one step at a time and make the best of it.”
David Savitt encountered Adler on Magie Avenue as he was walking home from a Shabbat service.
Adler had dinner with the Savitts and their three children, but turned down their invitation to stay the night, saying he intended to head out on foot to Aberdeen. The Adlers tried to dissuade him, but no arguments about the distance — it would have taken at least nine hours — the cold, or the danger could change his mind. He was determined to have his aufruf.
When they suggested his fiancee wouldn’t approve of his getting foot-sore and worn out a week before the wedding, he told them she knew him to be someone who acts on impulse and would understand.
Finally Jessica came up with the winning line: “God told Avraham in the Torah to listen to whatever Sarah said to him. I told this Avraham that my Hebrew name is Sarah and that he had to listen to me and stay for the entire Shabbat.”
That did the trick.
“I suppose it was kind of wishful thinking that I could walk so far,” Adler admitted to NJJN. “I didn’t even have a coat.”
The next morning, David took his visitor to Shabbat services at the JEC Elmora Avenue Shul. He told Rabbi Avrohom Herman and his congregants about Adler’s plight. The decision was made to hold an impromptu aufruf party at the Savitt home that afternoon.
“Thankfully,” Jessica wrote, “I keep a ready supply of nosh in my house because my kids often have their friends over. We were able to set up the tables with a lovely spread of food, and the men who showed up sang and discussed Torah together with Avraham, and the party was a beautiful, spiritual success.”
They even came up with plenty of candy to toss at Adler to wish him a sweet and fruitful marriage.
Adler insisted the Savitts attend his wedding the next weekend, and since then he and his wife, Shana, have come to spend Shabbat with them (arriving just in the nick of time as darkness fell).
“We are in touch via e-mail and phone,” Jessica said. “We are hoping they’ll agree to come again once they have accepted all the invitations from their friends and family members. They have sort of become our adopted couple, whom we’ll welcome whenever they can make it back to us again.”
As for Adler, he said he has not only made new friends, he has seen for himself the bond that exists between Jewish people even when they’re total strangers.
“The Savitts were awesome,” he said, “and the Elizabeth community was so warm and welcoming and generous. When I told my friends what happened, they started joking that they should pretend to be getting married and also go and get stuck there!”
Jessica agreed with her sons “that it was some sort of miracle that on the Shabbat when we read about Avraham avinu [our father] traveling from his home to an unknown place, here was a young man named Avraham who was a ‘stranger in a strange land,’ so to speak.”