But his wife Rita Piel, 36, recounts things differently.
“I remember the day Hunter thinks he first met me,” she wrote in an email. “I was home for the summer from Duke and he came to a friend’s pool. But I knew who he was many years before that, at Pikesville High School. When I was a nerdy freshman, Hunter was a popular senior and I thought he was sooooo cute.”
Their families were already friends. Hunter Piel knew her brother from wrestling, and she knew his sister from childhood sports and mock trial. It wasn’t until later they officially met at the pool, and at the time, Rita Piel had a boyfriend. Still, “I remember getting butterflies in my stomach just talking to him and I thought about him frequently after that first encounter.”
It took a few years for fate to give them the right timing. In her third year of law school at University of Maryland, Baltimore, he proposed. In 2008, the two married at Temple Oheb Shalom.
Rita Piel recently made partner at Fedder and Garten Professional Association. She is a member of the Ben-Gurion Society of the Jewish Federations of North America and a volunteer connector for The Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education.
The couple’s twin sons — they have four total — attend Goldsmith Early Childhood Center of Chizuk Amuno Congregations & Schools, and the family worships at Beth El Congregation.
What do you enjoy about your Jewish identity?
I love everything about being Jewish. You can be anywhere in the world, find a Jewish person, and feel right at home talking to them.
My family immigrated to America from the former Soviet Union. When they lived in Russia, Jewish people faced severe persecution. Most Jews knew nothing about being Jewish. Nevertheless, they were proud to be Jewish and felt bonded to other Jews. I feel very proud to be Jewish and so lucky to be in a country where we have religious freedom and the opportunity to learn and practice Judaism.
I have heard some Jewish people in the U.S. say they are fearful to showcase their Jewish affiliation. I can sympathize, but for me, I see this as a historical time to take a stand against hate. Hiding our Jewish identity gives power to the anti-Semites; showing pride brings us closer together.
How do you share Judaism with your sons?
There is no question that my kids know how proud and passionate we are to be Jewish. We celebrate the Jewish holidays, attend services, build a sukkah on our deck. We volunteer [for Chanukah] at Ronald McDonald House Charities and discuss the Jewish values of tikkun olam. We go to two family Seder dinners [for Passover].
We also read PJ Library books nightly, dance to Chanukah music year-round, celebrate Shabbat, and [reflect on] the week’s parsha.
We don’t always have the answers, but Judaism provides us with countless beautiful stories and lessons that help our kids (and us!) navigate our life journeys.
What do you enjoy about Pikesville?
I often say to my kids that we live in the best place in the whole world. In our neighborhood, my kids ride bikes and scooters, play basketball and baseball, and we all hang out with friends right outside our doorstep. I love that our neighborhood is diverse and welcoming. Pikesville has excellent schools, beautiful green spaces like the Cylburn Arboretum, world-class restaurants (my favorites are Linwoods and Orto), a thriving downtown with attractions like the National Aquarium and zoo, bustling suburban spaces like Quarry Lake.