It is a month of dreams coming true for Melody Mostow and Avi Coven.
Mostow, of Mt. Lebanon, and Coven, of Chicago, will be getting married Sunday, Aug. 11, in Pittsburgh.
Two weeks later, they will be making aliya.
And, as if those extraordinary life events were not themselves an embarrassment of riches, the couple just won the $10,000 grand prize in the Nefesh B’Nefesh Wedding Gift Challenge to help them start things off right when they get to the Holy Land.
Mostow and Coven competed with 24 other North American couples in the social media-based aliya contest, receiving just over 10,000 votes.
“I’m really grateful to everyone that voted for us,” Mostow said, adding that she was “not shy” in asking “everyone she knew” to cast an online ballot on her and Avi’s behalf.
The contest, which was launched in March, caught Mostow’s eye when she noticed postings on Facebook that other couples had entered it. She immediately got busy researching eligibility requirements, and “within a day, we were competing, too,” she said.
To be eligible for the contest, a couple needed to be married on or after January 1, 2011, or be engaged to marry before December 31, 2013. The couple also needed the intention to make aliya upon winning the contest prize and before December 31, 2013.
This was the first time Nefesh B’Nefesh, a resource agency for people making aliya, sponsored the Wedding Gift Challenge contest, according to Yael Katsman, the organization’s director of marketing and communications.
Mostow and Coven met five years ago in Israel while studying on the Conservative college leadership program, Nativ. They were “best friends” for months, Mostow said, and began dating toward the end of the program. After coming back to the States, they both enrolled in Indiana University. Coven graduated in 2012, and Mostow graduated this past May.
Making aliya is the realization of an aspiration that Mostow formed at the age of 15, after completing a high school semester in Israel, she said. While Coven had thought that maybe retirement in Israel would be in his future, he eventually came around to the idea of making the move a bit sooner.
The contest money will certainly come in handy for the young couple once they get to the Jewish State to start their new life together.
“I will be getting a master’s degree at IDC Herzliya in Israeli government and while I’m studying, I will have an internship at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,” said Mostow, a political science major who aims to work in the Israeli government. “Avi is seeking a job in real estate, which is what he did in Chicago.”
Nefesh B’Nefesh created the Wedding Gift Challenge to get more young American couples discussing aliya, according to Katsman.
“The couples have been really inspirational,” she said. “We hope very much to do it again next year. We were very happy with the level of engagement, and the friends and the social networks that have gotten involved.”
Mostow and Coven have been “very proactive” concerning their upcoming move, said Katsman.
“They seem to really have their plan in order. It’s stressful to plan a wedding and also do this contest. It is amazing to see how they rallied and put their energies into this. They are just so excited to move to Israel.”
In addition to Mostow and Coven’s grand prize, other prizes were awarded to all other couples that entered the contest, depending on how many votes they received. The twenty couples that reached 300 votes won a $1,000 Israel IKEA shopping spree, a $200 private Israeli vineyard tour and dinner, and a $50 gift certificate for a 220-volt appliance. Three couples reaching 150 votes received the vineyard tour and dinner, and the appliance gift certificate; and one couple, who reached 50 votes, received the appliance gift certificate.
As grand prizewinners, Mostow and Coven received the IKEA shopping spree, the vineyard tour and dinner, and the appliance gift certificate, as well as the $10,000.
“It’s just a complete whirlwind,” Mostow said. “Just this week we won $10,000, and we’re getting married. And in 23 days, we are moving to Israel, too. It’s been crazy, but it is a good crazy.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)