It was a sunny September day in 2008 when Jessica Landes flew into Tel Aviv from Rio de Janeiro (her hometown), and there were her three best friends, holding up a sign: “Marry him.”
Her boyfriend, Pato Lejderman, was carrying flowers and the ring.
Seven years earlier Pato had written in Jessica’s notebook: “In the future if we’re not married, you will be my wife.” Pato never saw the Julia Roberts movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” in which two friends promise to marry at age 28 if they are still single. But life imitates art.
Jessica and Pato were born the same year about two hour’s flying time apart in Brazil. Their families used to vacation in the same coastal town. Pato thinks he met Jessica on occasion. Jessica doesn’t remember. According to the 1991 census, there were about 86,000 Jews living in Brazil.
Growing up, they were both active in Hazit Hanoar, a Zionist youth group, and would meet at seminars around Brazil. “But we didn’t talk,” says Jessica.
“We really got to know each other when we both came to Israel in 2001 for a year’s program for young Diaspora leadership,” says Pato. “We became very good friends. But we didn’t become a couple.”
Over the next five years, Pato and Jessica pursued their academic degrees – Pato studied law in Porto Alegre (his hometown) and Jessica studied education in Rio.
Because they were both part of the garin (core group) pledged to move to Israel in 2007, their paths intersected and Jessica was frequently a guest in the Lejderman home.
In 2006, Jessica’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, became ill and was taken to the hospital in Porto Alegre. When Jessica called Pato to tell him the situation, he came to her side immediately. He took her to a romantic coffee shop, and their relationship took a new turn.
“I knew then that I was in love with Pato,” says Jessica. “He was always there for me. He takes care of me.”
Pato had similar feelings for Jessica. He felt she took care of him; she understood him; she was an important part of him. But he wasn’t ready to commit. The following year, two weeks after they made aliyah to Israel, Jessica called for the question and gave Pato an ultimatum. Soon after Jessica’s 25th birthday, Pato declared: “I want you to be with me until the end of my days.” But that still wasn’t a marriage proposal. None of his friends were married. There was no pressure from his parents.
Then Jessica had to go back to Brazil for four months. Pato was miserable. That’s when he decided to take the leap and propose.
They wed in Porto Alegre in a ceremony “according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” Both were 27. Jessica’s grandmother, who played a key role in their evolving relationship, was one of the guests. And 10 friends came from Israel. The celebration was a blast. Four hundred guests partied until 4:30 A.M.
Jessica and Pato were married on August 29, 2009. Mazal tov. Felicitaciones!
Click here to see the article onThe Jewish Week’s website
10 Nov 2009