The wedding of Reuven Kasten and Tziporah Hoffman looked, at first glance, like a typical wedding of two Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim. Standing beneath a wedding canopy in the pouring ran outside of Lubavitch World Headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., the bearded groom wore a hat, while the bride was bedecked in a flowing white gown and intricate veil.

But the match was made under the most extraordinary of circumstances, an illustration of the array of choices students can make after attending programs at an ever-expanding list of campus-based Chabad Houses. And while a great majority of the thousands who stop by each week do not embrace the Chasidic lifestyle, stories abound of Jewish couples of all stripes getting their start when introduced to each other by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

Rabbi Yonah and Keren Blum, directors of Chabad at Columbia University, first met Kasten when he went by his given English name, Corey.


The Ivy League student, who came from a traditional, but not strictly-religious home, “would often stay over for Shabbat and crash on our sofa,” remarked Yonah Blum. “He was always involved with our campus programs.”

The relationship continued past graduation, with Kasten turning to the Blums for guidance in an exploration of Judaism that ultimately found its expression in the young man embracing the study of Chasidic thought and the Lubavitch lifestyle.

“We watched him get his first job,” said Blum. “We watched him go to yeshiva.”

The transformation wasn’t easy. Kasten found himself negotiating the differences between his and his family’s Jewish observances.

“When Reuven became religious, things were different for us as a family,” said his mother, Helen Kasten, a retired teacher. All of a sudden, he was at “somebody else’s” Shabbat table.

“In the beginning, there was definitely tension about me becoming religious,” said the son. “My parents were under the impression that I was going through a radical change, that I would only be exposing myself to a small percentage of what the world has to offer.”

The happy couple: Reuven and Tziporah Kasten
The happy couple: Reuven and Tziporah Kasten

Making a Match

But then Kasten met Hoffman, a match – known in Hebrew as a shidduch – approved by both sets of parents and helped along by none other than the Blums and another pair of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, Rabbi Shlomie and Devorah Leah Chein at the bride’s alma mater, the University of California, S. Cruz.

The Blums had gotten to know Hoffman, whose own embrace of Judaism also began at her campus Chabad House, after she moved to New York.

“About two years ago, she applied for a job at our Chabad House, which she never took,” related Keren Blum. “After that, we were always in touch with her. She would volunteer at programs with so much energy and enthusiasm, you could just see that she loved it.”

The suggestion for the match was an easy one.

“When I look at Reuven and Tziporah together,” said Cheri Auerbach, mother of the bride, “it’s obvious they are very spiritually connected.”

In keeping with Lubavitch custom, the engagement was announced at the resting place of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, in Cambria Heights, N.Y., known as the Ohel. The couple prayed at the holy site, asking G‑d for blessings in their marriage.

“My first time at the Ohel was on their engagement day,” Kasten’s mother said of the moving experience. “You hear about things, like going there, but until you’re there and experiencing it, you have no idea what it’s all about.”

“When [my parents] met my wife, they were comforted,” offered the groom. “They saw what I was really about, and they knew nothing too radical was happening.”

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Dubrowski, director of operations for the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, was one of the attendees at a celebratory meal held the week after the wedding at the Blums’ center.

“Our emissaries are always talking among themselves,” he stated. “One says, ‘I know a girl.’ The other says, ‘I know a guy.’ And matches are made, more and more every day. It’s a network that works very well.”

For her part, Auerbach said that her daughter is clearly happy.

“During the wedding ceremony, it poured the entire time,” said the mother, a cafeteria manager. “They say rain is a sign of blessing. G‑d wasn’t just blessing us. He was drenching us with blessings!

“I’m very happy with Tziporah’s choice,” she added. “I know that she’s found what she’s looking for.”