Little did Yishaya Rose know when he enrolled at New York University nearly six years ago that not only would he meet his future wife, he’d find the deep religious connection that led him to the city in the first place.

But today, after journeys that took both Rose and the former Shira Wasserman – who met at the Chabad House serving NYU – on separate trips to Israel and back, and a shared one to the wedding canopy, the couple will be welcoming their own students as the directors of the new Chabad-Lubavitch center serving the University of Toronto.

Rose, who hails from Toronto, picked NYU after attending a Jewish day school because he wanted a university with a strong community and the availability of kosher food. Soon after his arrival, a friend told him about the Chabad House directed by Rabbi Dov Yona and Sara Korn, and he stopped by for Rosh Hashanah. He quickly became a regular, spending much of his free time volunteering and studying.

A year later, he met the freshman Wasserman, a California native who similarly picked NYU for its Jewish community, at a Shabbat dinner at the Chabad House. Although the pair became friends, any thought of marriage remained unshared.

“It happens we both felt we wanted to become religious, but we didn’t really discuss it,” says Rose.

A Series of Fortunate Events

Following his sophomore year, Rose transferred to Hadar HaTorah, a Chabad-Lubavitch yeshiva in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn primarily for students who came from non-religious homes. Wasserman, meanwhile, studied at Machon Alte, a Chabad-Lubavitch women’s seminary in Safed, Israel, before returning to New York and enrolling at Machon Chana in Crown Heights.

Despite living just blocks from one another, they didn’t speak. In fact, neither sought the other out.

Still, admits Shira, “I always had my eye out for him.”

A friend to them both, Dov Yona Korn had previously discussed the situation with them. His advice was that if they both wanted to live a religious lifestyle, then it would be better for them to first do so as individuals. Intensive study would be paramount, he cautioned.

After a year-and-a-half, each ready to date, the choice of available matches was clear.

“[We] were talking to different rabbis and rebbetzins about one another,” says Rose.

Then they went on three dates at the end of the summer of 2006. Their conversations pointed in one direction: marriage.

Because they had spent so much time at the Chabad House together as undergraduates, “we already knew one another,” explains Rose. “It wasn’t like we had just met.

“We realized we were the same people as when we had met,” he continues, “and quickly decided our love was real.”

The following month, they got married in Crown Heights. Rose returned to his studies, and earned his rabbinical ordination this past January.

With their infant daughter in tow, the family arrived in Toronto in May, moving into the second and third floors of a building near campus. They’ve been hosting students for Shabbat meals all summer, and are planning a welcome-back barbeque for the beginning of the next term.

(Of an estimated 60,000-strong population, between 4,000 and 5,000 of the University of Toronto’s students are believed to be Jewish. A grant from the Rohr Family Foundation is helping to fund the new Chabad House.)

Rose admits that their life path is different from most, and notes that their parents had their reservations at first.

“Both of our parents are very supportive, but like any parents, when we first decided to go down this path,” they were apprehensive, he says. Seeing their dedication to each other “and the wonderful work that a Chabad House does” was proof that the couple made the right decision.

For his part, Korn derives a slight bit of pride in knowing that he and his wife had a hand in the match.

“We are incredibly happy that they’ve opened their own Chabad House from scratch,” he says.

Rabbi Nechemia Deitsch, the director of Chabad of Midtown Toronto who invited the Roses to move to the city, says that he recognized the couple’s contagious charisma from the start.

Given their backgrounds and first-hand knowledge of campus life, says the rabbi, “they’re the right couple to tackle the needs of Jewish students at the university.”