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How We Met - Enchanted Moment



Photo by Rose Eichenbaum

In 1972, Aron Manheimer was a foreign correspondent in Jerusalem. Judy Hirt, who had a strong interest in world music, had joined a kibbutz near the Lebanese border and then left there to move to Jerusalem. “I was exploring different kinds of communal lifestyles and happened to go to the kibbutz where she had been, but I didn’t meet her then,” recalls Aron. 

Judy had plans to travel in Europe before heading back to North America for graduate school. Aron happened to tell a friend from the kibbutz, who knew Judy, that he and his sister were planning to travel around Europe as well. The friend suggested they meet and travel together. “Maybe the friend just had a feeling that we’d get along,” says Aron. 

That meeting forever changed their lives. 

“It was love at first sight. We knew it instantly, the moment we laid eyes on each other,” says Aron. “It was electrifying. My sister was there and saw the sparks flying.”

“We just fell in love, completely,” says Judy. “We both knew that this was the person.”

After only one week of knowing each other, they had to make a decision about what to do next. Judy had plans to go to the states; he was staying in Israel. They had a picnic at the ancient Valley of the Cross, where they decided their fate. 

Judy decided, “I will stay with you” and canceled her plans. “It was very courageous of her,” says Aron. “It was not just a matter of luck or love at first sight. We had to make a decision and a commitment, and trust our instincts.” 

They did take that trip to Europe together, spent time in Israel, and a year after meeting were married in her parents’ garden in Vancouver. They then moved to Los Angeles, where they both attended graduate school and their first son Noah was born.

In 1976, Aron got a job in NYC as the editor of Reform Judaism magazine and is still at that job today; he is also a book editor. “If you find what you want to do and who you want to be with and stick with it, it’s never boring,” he says about his career and life. 

Another bit of love at first sight for the Hirt-Manheimers—after visiting a friend in Ridgefield in 1983, they fell in love with the town and bought a house two weeks later. 

“We were thinking about buying a country place, but when we found Ridgefield, we thought we could do it all here—commute to the city and be in nature,” says Judy.

Now, they have three grown children—Noah, who is a partner in the family business, the Enchanted Garden; Isaac, another partner who also founded an eco-village in Ghana; and Mimi, who is an actress and singer in Brooklyn. 

Judy created the Enchanted Garden and is still actively involved in it. She and Aron live on New Street. Years ago, they sold part of their property to Noah and Susi, who live there with their two children. Isaac and his wife Gloria, who also have two children, bought the house next door to Noah, jointly with Aron and Judy—a family compound. They all gather together for Friday night Shabbat dinners every week. Says Judy, “Holidays of many traditions are very big in our house. We believe in celebrating life.”

As for the meeting 42 years ago, Aron believes it was “a moment of destiny.” She agrees, “it was a magical when we came together and we knew it. We belong together.” 

“I consider myself a very lucky person,” Aron adds. “The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was meeting Judy. It was providential.”

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