Written by: Jen Bokoff, Honeymoon Israel Chicago, December 2019

Hilary Markus and Ryan Kelly were looking forward to their early April wedding. Given coronavirus, they made the decision to postpone. What they didn’t expect was for their HMI Los Angeles cohort to celebrate them anyway.

“When the doorbell rang and there were flowers and champagne for us, I was floored. You can’t be best friends with 40 people, but to know they all wanted to do something special for us was amazing. We know we have a family behind us,” shared Hilary.

That same night at a virtual Shabbat, the Passover tradition of four glasses of wine was adapted into four toasts to the couple. Ryan felt “shocked and surprised in the best way possible. It was the cherry on the cake of feeling grateful for all that we have.”

For the interfaith couple, being a part of HMI was an opportunity to connect with and learn from others in a similar life moment. They particularly appreciated that their group had many commonalities, but also felt very diverse in all aspects, from religious upbringing to perspectives.

Hilary found the breakout conversations on the trip particularly surprising, as she felt comfortable being vulnerable. Because of that, “we still feel the community and connection even though the trip is over. We’re a perfect example of the community still existing and thriving in full force.”