JANUARY 25, 2018 – For some people, Boston and LA are as far apart as Larry Bird’s Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Lakers. And yet, despite the geographical and social differences, when two people are meant for each other, not even the most heated NBA rivalry can keep them apart.
Such was the case for Marblehead native Ricki Meyer and Los Angeles born Ariel Hecht.
After spending summers at Camp Pembroke, becoming a bat mitzvah at the former Temple Israel in Swampscott, and graduating from Marblehead High School, Meyer attended Northwestern University in Chicago and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social policy. She then went to Washington to work for the US Department of Education.
“I was very involved with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington during my time in D.C.,” Meyer recalled, noting that she also helped start an international nonprofit that supported The Lone Soldiers, those who served in the Israeli Army after making Aliyah.
After a few years there, the daughter of Karen and Mark Meyer returned to Massachusetts to earn a master’s degree in education policy and management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and also a degree from the Boston University School of Law. While back in Boston, she also worked with Combined Jewish Philanthropies, co-chairing its israel360 initiative that encourages civilized debate about Israel.
“I have also worked at various nonprofit and government agencies in Massachusetts,” added Meyer.
Hecht grew up in Los Angeles like his father; his mother is from Tel Aviv. After graduating from UCLA (where he was president of the Jewish Student Union) with a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, he pursued his doctorate at the University of Michigan and then completed a post-doc for the National Institute of Standards and Technology at Stanford University, where he continues to serve as a staff scientist.
“My research focuses on metrology in synthetic biology,” Hecht said, “and my professional goal is to engineer living matter to improve people’s lives.”
While both are clearly committed to tikkun olam and using their educations to improve the world, how did these bicoastal basherts meet?
“We met through a mutual friend when I was living in Boston during law school and Ariel was working in California,” Meyer said.
And while their first date took place in Boston, the second was in Chicago, Meyer’s former stomping grounds.
“It was halfway between us,” Meyer said.
Both traveled to their respective coasts, learning more about each other and themselves with each subsequent visit.
“Some might call it unconventional,” Meyer said, “but it worked for us. Neither of us had done anything close to a cross-country relationship before, but we weren’t afraid to give it a shot.”
In the meantime, the pair also traveled around Massachusetts and California, as well as Baltimore, Denver, Seattle, Vancouver, and even Maui and Tahiti. Among the highlights of these international excursions were riding bikes around Stanley Park in Vancouver; hiking the raging Vernal Fall in Yosemite; and walking around Marblehead in the winter despite the very un-L.A. temperatures.
“Aside from traveling,” Meyer said, “we have started to build a life together.” She moved to California last year and together, the couple have been enjoying their time on the West Coast.
“We cook together every night, and our favorite nights are most often those spent at home, cooking together and relaxing on the couch,” Meyer said.
When her family came to San Francisco to visit, Hecht rented a minivan so everyone could be together. Little did Meyer know what would come at the end of the ride.
“In my mind, I knew we were going to brunch and taking a short hike,” she recalled. After brunch and a walk around historic Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bridge, Meyer began to notice their parents weren’t keeping up.
“Ariel assured me it was just ‘bonding time,’” Meyer said.
Suddenly, they ended up on a long pier, the same one where they had taken one of their first photos together during Meyer’s first trip to the Bay Area.
“Once we got to the end of the pier,” Meyer said, “Ariel got down on one knee and popped the question.”
As it turns out, all four parents were in perfect position to record the moment.
Everyone celebrated at a favorite local spot. “Little did I know when I was making the reservation that we’d be having a lot to celebrate,” Meyer said. “Though maybe I had some hopes.”
For the big day, the pair came back east for a beautiful ceremony in front of friends and family members who had traveled from across the country and the Atlantic to celebrate on Nov. 11 at the Boston Harbor Hotel.
“There were people there who had known our families since long before we were born,“ Meyer said, “and friends we have kept from our childhoods, various college and graduate programs, jobs, and everything in between. The love between us and our families, and the outpouring of love from our friends, was tangible to everyone there.”
Adding to the family feel was the fact that the band – Beantown – had performed at Meyer’s sister’s wedding years before.
“Having a Jewish wedding and integrating traditions from both of our families while also creating our own was important to both of us,” Meyer said, “as was honoring family members who are no longer with us.” When asked about her planning priorities, Meyer replied that the top priority was to involve both of their grandparents.
During the ceremony, the couple used Kiddush cups from each of their respective families and were wrapped in the tallit Hecht had received for his bar mitzvah. Meyer also wrapped a scarf from her maternal grandmother around her bouquet and placed one of her paternal grandfather’s pins inside her dress.
“The second [priority] was making sure our wedding was a true celebration of life and love,” she added. “Throughout the whole wedding process, all details came back to making sure our wedding was a celebration.”
After signing their ketubah, the couple had a Havdalah ceremony under the chuppah.
“We both have fond memories of Havdalah from our childhoods,” Meyer said. “It was a special and unique way to begin the ceremony. We circled each other three times and then made one circle together to symbolize the equality in our marriage.”
For the honeymoon, the pair traveled to Moorea and Bora Bora in Tahiti.
“We were pretty active,” Meyer recalled. “A typical day consisted of eating, water activities, and napping in the gorgeous weather – all on repeat.”
When they returned stateside, it was back to the West Coast. They now live in Menlo Park, and plan to raise a family based on their shared Jewish values.
“We look forward to being active members of the Jewish community wherever we end up,” Meyer said. “We are both fortunate to have grown up with loving and supportive families, with siblings, parents, and grandparents as incredible role models, and we hope to follow in their footsteps while leaving our own marks on the world and in our community.”