Sunday, January 21, 2018
Features and More

Couple find faith in each other, and something bigger

TAMPA

The first time Janice and Jerry got married, it happened it in their back yard. She sang him the song Time After Time. They picked a Unitarian minister.

Janice had always celebrated Jewish holidays, but she felt a little disconnected from her faith. Jerry was Catholic once, but he stopped believing when he was 13. Religion didn't factor into that wedding in 1984. What did factor was their connection, fiery and palpable from the start.

Janice was 30 when they met a few years earlier. She was twice-divorced with a young child, intent on shucking the disappointment and gloom of her failed marriages. She decided to go to a New Year's Eve party. She wore a white pantsuit and navy blouse. She was beautiful, with a young face and salt and pepper hair, elegance in a room of raggedy sweaters and jeans.

Jerry noticed her immediately and felt breathless. He was 24 with a broken pickup truck and one pair of gym shoes to his name. But he was undeniably cute. At midnight, every unattached woman in the place lined up to give Jerry a kiss.

Janice got in line.

"Couldn't I have one of those?" she asked.

They moved in together, got married and had a baby. Jerry stayed home with the kids while Janice visited Israel with her parents. She experienced the reverence there, the people of faith speaking Hebrew, the deference to the Sabbath so strong even city buses stopped running. It was hard to explain the shift she felt. But she wanted more.

"We have to check out the synagogue," she told Jerry back home.

Jerry was always a scholar, a history buff, a big reader. The idea of learning about the Jewish faith in a synagogue was interesting, and he wanted his wife to be happy. The family started going. They joined their last names and became Jerry Nepon-Sixt and Janice Nepon-Sixt.

They raised their kids in the Jewish faith. Jerry taught Jewish Sunday school for seven years. In 1990, the family moved from Iowa to Tampa and found a young, growing temple in Congregation Beth Am. They felt a click there, and they gave much of their time.

Jerry was so committed, some people at the temple didn't know he wasn't really Jewish. His rabbi did, though. He told Jerry that once he was truly Jewish, he would just know. He would feel it. He wouldn't have to think about it. Things happened as the rabbi said. Someone on an airplane asked Jerry if he was Jewish. He said yes.

He began the official process. He went through the required steps, the classes, the training, the dedications. This year, he converted.

"Now you can be married under the chuppah," he told his wife.

Janice started planning. She arranged the band, the caterer, the clothes. They took the required marriage counseling from their rabbi. How would they be different the day after their wedding, the rabbi asked. They were 60 and 55 now. How would they improve on the 28 years they had already had?

On Aug. 12, they signed the ketubah. They walked down the aisle at Congregation Beth Am together. She circled him three times, he circled her three times, and they circled once together. Janice and Jerry drank from the same cup of wine. They exchanged bands. They received seven blessings, and Jerry broke a glass under his foot.

After the ceremony, Jerry stared at Janice. They felt the same but different, and they gripped each other. When they emerged for the reception, the band leader introduced them by their Hebrew names.

Jerry and Janice danced to Time After Time.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.

Comments
Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

TAMPA — Many times during Sinfonietta, Leoš Janácek’s notoriously difficult but joyous work, it was impossible for a regular patron of the Florida Orchestra to escape this observation: They have never sounded quite like this.This isn’t to say musicia...
Published: 01/20/18
‘Mike Hammer - Encore for Murder’ serves up hard-boiled 1950s fare with a healthy side of wit

‘Mike Hammer - Encore for Murder’ serves up hard-boiled 1950s fare with a healthy side of wit

CLEARWATER — From the moment the title character takes center stage, Mike Hammer — Encore for Murder is sold. Rarely does one actor own an entire production the way Gary Sandy owns this world premiere, and it’s a pleasure at watch, in large measure t...
Published: 01/19/18
Banksy’s Haight Street Rat coming to Winter Haven gallery

Banksy’s Haight Street Rat coming to Winter Haven gallery

Fans of notorious street artist and activist Banksy won’t have to travel too far to see one of his original pieces, thanks to an exhibit opening on Jan. 27 at the Outer Space Gallery in Winter Haven. The "Haight Street Rat" will be on display, on the...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Inside American Stage’s plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

Inside American Stage’s plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

ST. PETERSBURG An air compressor did most of the talking as the small crew stapled down flooring to the stage. A master carpenter kept unskilled but eager workers on track, telling them where to line up edges. An astringent smell of glue permeated t...
Published: 01/18/18
Overtourism and safety cited in Fodor’s where-not-to-go list

Overtourism and safety cited in Fodor’s where-not-to-go list

As you contemplate all those "where to go in 2018" lists, here’s a twist: a list of places to avoid in the new year. The where not to go list is from Fodor’s, the travel guidebook publisher. Fodor’s "no list" includes places plagued by overtourism an...
Published: 01/18/18
Bar review: Florida spirits and brews at the newest Local Draught House in Tampa

Bar review: Florida spirits and brews at the newest Local Draught House in Tampa

I don’t consider myself "old" — though I have gotten into a bad habit of informing door people insistent on checking my ID that I’m halfway to 70. But I’m frequently made aware of how far removed my lifestyle is from that of my 20s.So when I walked i...
Published: 01/18/18
Local craft beer of the week: Electric Wizard IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

Local craft beer of the week: Electric Wizard IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

The past six months have been kind to Dunedin’s 7venth Sun Brewery. In August, the brewery’s long-awaited Tampa expansion finally happened, with its much larger Seminole Heights facility and tasting room opening in a town eager to try its range of ul...
Published: 01/18/18
Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Fabio is coming! Not the Fabio on your romance novel, with the billowing hair and large quantities of artificial butter. This Fabio, in all likelihood, uses real butter. And olive oil. Fabio Viviani, the charming Top Chef alum known for appearances...
Published: 01/17/18
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Published: 01/17/18
Shake Shack inches closer to Tampa Bay with new Florida restaurant

Shake Shack inches closer to Tampa Bay with new Florida restaurant

Beloved burger restaurant Shake Shack, which once inspired hungry diners to wait in hours-long lines at New York's Madison Square Park before expanding with dozens of locations across the U.S., is inching closer to Tampa Bay. A lease agreement  with...
Published: 01/17/18