It took a few days for Rosh Hashana and Dr. Margaret Swenson Soper suddenly had no more plans. She had just learned that the tickets she believed required church services had failed and felt sorry for herself.
“I had a little pity party for myself,” said Dr. Soper, 41 years old. “And then I woke up the next morning and thought, ‘You know what? I will find out something. ‘”
She reached out to a Facebook group of other divorced mothers and eventually joined a woman whose then boyfriend Sandy Climan is in Los Angeles, where Dr. Soper Lives, hosted a Rosh Hashana dinner. After exchanging numbers, Mr. Climan invited them to dinner. After Dr. Soper, who had never met him or his girlfriend before, searched Google for Mr. Climan’s name and was discouraged when she found out he was a well-known Hollywood producer.
“All of a sudden I was really intimidated and thought, ‘Wait a minute, now I’m going to be at this fancy, big Rosh Hashana event and I’m going to be the nerdy doctor there and I’ll be out of place,” said Dr. Soper, a radiation oncologist at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. “And then I thought of this guy, Jason.”
Dr. Soper and Jason Alon Kessler had voted on the league’s dating app in August 2018. They’d spent the past few weeks messaging but not exchanging phone numbers. Mr. Kessler is a screenwriter currently working on an upcoming limited series for Apple Studios, and Dr. Soper thought he could enjoy dinner, which would at least make for a memorable first date.
Unknown to Dr. Soper, Mr. Kessler, who recently moved to Los Angeles, had no plans for Rosh Hashana either. He wouldn’t be able to go on vacation to the east coast with his family and was in the middle of his own pity party when she mentioned dinner. He suggested that he be her date, and the next evening she came to see her with a bouquet of flowers.
When they got to dinner, they found that what they thought was a big event was an intimate meal for about seven. Everyone else at the table was either family or close friends, and Dr. Soper and Mr. Kessler made a decision in a split second to pretend they were already a couple to try to contain some of the awkwardness. Over the course of the night they bonded over their common secret and got to know each other through their table mates.
“Faking intimacy was the perfect way to let real intimacy grow,” said Dr. Soper. “By pretending we know each other -“
“We never stopped,” said 40-year-old Kessler.
They soon spent much of their free time together, and about five months after they hooked up, Dr. Soper Mr. Kessler before her 5-year-old son Eli. “I’ve waited all my life to find someone I can really fall in love with,” said Kessler. “Only the happiest of us will find the happy person we have dreamed of. And it’s just an embarrassment of riches that I came with such an incredible son. “
In November 2019, Mr. Kessler suggested Dr. Soper on a hiking trail near the Griffith Observatory in front. It was a trail he wandered many times when he first moved to Los Angeles to pursue his scriptwriting dream.
“He would be sitting in this place overlooking the city and wondering what his future would be,” said Dr. Soper. Now, two years later, he was back in the same place, this time with Dr. Soper, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child.
On April 26, 2020, the couple took up a tenaim ceremony, an ancient Jewish engagement ceremony, in which they read each other’s vows and loaned each other their wedding rings. Rabbi Nicole Guzik of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles led the ceremony remotely. A month later, Dr. Soper gave birth to her son Jordan Kessler.
The couple had planned to wait for a big wedding until after the pandemic, but as the months passed, they finally decided to get married in an intimate ceremony just to the two of them and their children.
They were married on December 29 on the same hiking trail near the Griffith Observatory. Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Judith Meyer officiated while her sons Eli and Jordan watched.
As for your Rosh Hashana host, Mr. Climan?
“We went to two Thanksgiving dinners with him that we told him was pregnant,” said Kessler. “It has become a special relationship for us.”