From Ingmar Bergman’s dark small-screen masterpiece “Scenes From a Marriage” to Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives,” the cryptic inner workings of marriage have long been a collective cultural obsession. Questions like, What makes a good marriage? and, Are men and women really meant to be monogamous? have been plumbed throughout history by everyone from Tolstoy to Sartre to Tori Spelling. And yet, to most of us, married and single, what makes a marriage work remains an inscrutable mystery.
To that end, TRIBE sat down with three Jewish couples representing different generations, from the San Fernando Valley, to get their take on marriage in the modern age:
Nate Braun, a 29-year-old attorney, and Effie Braun, a 27-year-old results analyst, tied the knot two years ago. Effie grew up in a tight-knit Persian-Jewish family in the Valley — her dad is a cantor — while Nate describes his Tarzana-based family as “a typical Eastern European mishmash.” When not logging long hours at work, the Studio City couple participates in a bevy of recreational activities (they’re holding off on having kids). Nate’s culinary passion du jour is bread making, while Effie is the president of Valley Beth Shalom’s VBSnextGen, geared toward Jewish couples in their 20s and 30s.
Alex Lee, 40, director of admissions at Village School in Pacific Palisades, and Sharon Furman-Lee, 38, a Hebrew teacher at Milken Community High School, met in 2006. Lee, who is Korean-Japanese and was born and raised in Hawaii, is not Jewish. Furman-Lee, a sabra from Tel Aviv, moved to New York City in late 2002. Married since 2007, they now reside in Woodland Hills and have two sons, Kai, nearly 3 years old, and Lanai, 16 months.
Dave Gersuk, 51, who works in property management, and Marilyn Simon-Gersuk, 51, who works in nonprofit management, met as high school sweethearts in 1976. Married for 26 years, they live in Chatsworth and have two sons, Max, 25, and Jake, 23; and a daughter, Carly, who is 19.
From whether infidelity is immediate grounds for divorce — an unequivocal yes from all six — to who controls the family finances, the spirited round-table discussion was, like many marriages, filled with minor disagreements, bouts of laughter and plenty of insight. Here’s the best of the evening — held at new TRIBE hangout Bow & Truss in North Hollywood.
TRIBE: So, how did you meet?
Alex: We met in August 2006 in the lobby of my apartment building in New York. I was talking to Tony, the doorman, and Sharon walked by and I said, ‘Tony, who is that?’ And he said, ‘Run! Don’t get involved with her. She’s a tough cookie. She eats guys up.’ That’s when I became interested.
Sharon: I had just come back from Israel, from a visit, and I was showing Tony some pictures. Alex said to me, ‘My name is Alex.’ I said to him, ‘My name is Sharon,’ and then he left. Two minutes later, he came down the elevator. He had changed his clothes. He was wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt, as if he was going jogging or something. And he was holding weights in his hands.
Alex: And it was cold outside. It was like 40 degrees.
Sharon: And he said to Tony, ‘Here are the weights you wanted.’ And then he starts flexing his muscles. [She laughs.]
Sharon: We met nine years ago when I was a freshman in college at UCSD and we had a class together. He had just done a classroom presentation and we spoke for a couple of minutes. Then, the next day, he was looking over my shoulder, reading a conversation that I was writing to someone else, and he wrote me a note answering the question that the person was asking me.
Nate: And then we started dating.
Sharon: He graduated, and then I graduated, and then he went to law school, and then he proposed.
Marilyn: We’re the old couple here. We met in 1976.
Dave: We were high school sweethearts; we actually met through USY [United Synagogue Youth]. You know, we had a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. We had a year or two off in there, and then we got back together. We got married in 1986.