- First Date: “We never had a first date.”
- Wedding Date: March 10, 2018
- Venue: B’Nai Israel
- Residence: Evergreen neighborhood in Baltimore
- Favorite Activity: Traveling and seeing live music
Rabbi Jessy Gross and Mark Dressin met in 2000 through live music and mutual friends.
“Mark’s good friends from high school were my roommates in college, and they were in a band,” Jessy said.
They hit it off, Mark said, but not in a romantic way at first. “We were friends for a very long time before we were in an actual relationship.”
“I kind of knew I wanted to be with him from the beginning,” Jessy admitted under mild interrogation. “We joke that it’s a good thing I don’t shake ideas easily.
“I’ve always been pretty laser-focused!”
Romance may have been delayed, in part, because of geographical distance: Mark lived in Baltimore, while Jessy only lived in the city for a couple summers. “I lived in Jerusalem, I lived in California,” she said. “But we were always friends.”
But Jessy planted her roots in Baltimore after becoming ordained in 2012, at which point she founded young adult organization Charm City Tribe. Over the two years that followed, the pair grew even closer, and by the end of 2014, both perceived a subtle shift in the relationship.
“I went with my family to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu,” remembered Jessy, who is now senior director of Jewish Learning and Life for the JCC of Greater Baltimore. “During the 10 days I was gone, it was the most time we’d gone without seeing each other since I moved to Baltimore. We both kind of realized we were ready to take that step. It was never the right time — until it was the right time.”
Mark, packaging lead at Union Craft Brewing, proposed on Jessy’s birthday, April 16, last year. “I had a plan to take her to the tulip gardens downtown. She had no idea I was going to propose on her birthday, because I knew she’d be like, ‘Mark would never do that!’”
But the tulip garden was overrun with people that day.
Mark told a still-unsuspicious Jessy: “I kind of just wanted to walk around with you and hoped it would be a little more mellow than this. Let’s go to the Cylburn Arboretum.”
Jessy agreed, and fortunately, things were calmer at Cylburn. The two, joined by their 10-year-old husky-beagle mix Kofi, took a hike around the arboretum until Mark found a good, secluded spot.
“I found a nice tree, because Jessy’s into nature and trees, and I proposed,” he said.
“It was perfect,” Jessy said.
Their wedding takes place March 10 with Beth El Congregation’s Rabbi Steve Schwartz officiating at B’nai Israel Congregation.
Friends and family are contributing to the ceremony in ways that are meaningful to the couple.
“Jessy came up with this project,” said Mark, “giving 16 people fabric, and a little note saying, ‘We’d like you guys, because you are special in our lives, to make a square for our chuppah,’ and then Jessy’s mom brought them all together and put it together for us.”
“My dad lives in Northern California,” Jessy said, “He actually carved our chuppah poles out of redwoods. We have a friend that’s making our ketubah for us. We got to see pictures of it and it’s really precious.”
The reception will be held around the corner from the synagogue at the 1840’s Ballroom. “It’s a real Baltimore weekend,” Jessy said.
Although many of their friends play in bands: “the rule was ‘no friends work the wedding,’” Jessy said. “We actually have a band put together by friends [who also play in bands]. We want our friends on the dance floor, not working a gig that night. As a rabbi, I officiated a lot of their weddings, so it’s really nice to have our friends all together to celebrate our wedding.”
Afterwards, the pair will begin their honeymoon with three nights in New Orleans before heading to St. Lucia for a week. “We love New Orleans,” Jessy said. “It’s very special to us, so we figured we’d go eat a few good meals and get rested up.”
The pair loves good food. “We are into going to restaurants, trying different types of food, then going home and trying to make them at home.” Their local favorites include neighborhood restaurants Miss Shirley’s and Petit Louis. In addition, the pair “loves to travel, and loves to see music,” said Jessy.
However, Jessy added: “We could do nothing and be happy together.”
Jessy said she loves Mark’s “directness, forthcoming-ness, his combination of passion and sensitivity. I like being with somebody [with whom] I don’t wonder if he’s saying one thing and thinking a different thing. He is literally my best friend. The idea of getting married on that foundation, there’s nothing better.”
Mark agrees friendship is key to their relationship. “It’s hugely important to us. It’s such a good foundation to start with. It just feels so natural, so comfortable to both of us, to be around each other always, to know each other so well, to know each other’s families. You can be in love, but if you’re not friends it doesn’t feel the same to me.”
“After so many years and things we’ve been through together, our relationship feels rock solid,” Jessy said. “It’s a very comforting feeling.”
Erica Rimlinger is a local freelance writer.