Israel Story

Love Syndrome, Revisited

An update to our most popular episode ever

October 6, 2020

On March 22, 2020, as we were just starting to fathom the new reality we were all about to enter, hundreds of Israel Story fans went online to hear an update from an ultra-Orthodox woman from Tzfat. Six years ago, Chaya Ben Baruch’s inspiring story brought listeners around the world to tears. It was the story of a trailblazer who wouldn’t let life, and the many obstacles it presented her, dictate reality.

Chaya grew up as Enid, in a Conservadox Jewish family in Far Rockaway, New York. Like many women from her community, her life seemed to be preordained—she’d study, marry a nice Jewish boy, raise a family, and be active in the congregation. But Enid had different plans: Midway through college, she left that world behind and ventured off to faraway Fairbanks, Alaska, to study the mothering patterns of sea otters.

A decade, three children, and one failed marriage later, Enid met Stan, a tall, Catholic salmon fisherman from the Gold Stream Valley. Together they had three more kids, the last of whom—Angkor—was born with Down syndrome. While many parents—especially at the time—might have seen this as a devastating misfortune, Enid and Stan saw it as an opportunity. They were determined to find Angkor a partner, a soulmate. That wish kicked off an incredible journey that led the family from Alaska to Tzfat, in the north of Israel, and—on the way—precipitated a return to Judaism. Host Mishy Harman brings us a tale that unfolds in court rooms, hospitals, ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, immigration centers and wedding halls.

The original episode, scored by Pejk Malinovski with music composed and performed by Rob Burger, was featured on WNYC and on dozens of Public Radio stations around the United States and the world. It won prizes and appeared on many best-podcast episodes of the year lists. And in today’s episode we hear the original episode that aired in 2014, followed by a short update from Chaya. Did her son ever find his soulmate? What happened to the young couple? And what is it like to parent special needs children who leave the nest? All this and more in an edited conversation between Chaya and Mishy at the end of the episode.

Julie Subrin, Yoshi Fields, and Zev Levi edited the episode, which was mixed by Sela Waisblum. Additional music by Broke for Free. The end song, “Nekuda Tova” (“Good Point”) is by Shuli Rand, and features vocals by Ehud Banai.

Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.

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