Love blooms late at
Jack Baum and Claire Konikow
Special to the Jewish News
t reads like the plot of a
Hollywood movie: confirmed
bachelor meets hopeless roman-
This however, is a Birmingham
drama. There's still that happy ending.
Jack Baum, 53, of Birmingham was
the confirmed bachelor. A freelance
technical writer and trainer, Baum
leads a busy life and is very involved in
his synagogue, the Birmingham
Bloomfield Chai Center. He rents a
unit in a condominium complex, and
would frequently date, although he
has never married.
Nearly three years ago, Claire
Konikow, 54, purchased the condo
unit next door. She knew that her
neighbor was Jewish because of the
mezuzah on his door, but she knew
little else. Baum, as well, had figured
out his new neighbor was a single
Jewish woman because he found a sec-
ond issue of the Jewish News in the
oversized mail bin in his building,
addressed to Ms. Claire Konikow.
Until then, he was the only Jewish re s -
ident in his building.
After a few weeks, they finally met
in the parking lot, and while Baum
acknowledges that she seemed very
sweet and friendly, he admits that it
was not initially about attraction.
However, the two began to see each
other in the hallways and parking lot
more frequently, and each time would
strike up a conversation.
Whenever Baum would refer to
Konikow, it would be as his "friendly
neighbor." Around holidays, when
Baum would receive gifts of food, he .
always shared his bounty with his
In his eyes, he says, he "was being
mentshly, and doing a mitzvah because
she was unaffiliated with a shul and
didn't have a lot of family around to
help celebrate the holidays." Nothing
Konikow, an elementary school
teacher in Bloomfield Hills, did not
know whether he was simply making
friendly gestures, or was, in.fact, inter-
ested in her as more than a neighbor.
She also had never been married. She
intimated that she would be interested
in dating, but Baum never seemed to
pick up on her hints.
• Later, Konikow learned that Baum
was reticent because he enjoyed her
companionship, and was concerned
that if they started dating and it didn't
work out, things would become awk-
ward for the two. Meanwhile, she was
"frustrated at hinting around about
going out with him."
Konikow would see Baum every
Shabbat morning as he was leaving for
the Birmingham Bloomfield Chai
Center. One day, he invited her to go
with him, but she declined. She told
Baum that she gfew up attending
Temple Beth El, and was afraid she
wouldn't fit in since she wasn't
Orthodox, would not know any of the
women with whom to sit, and her
knowledge of Hebrew was limited.
But curiosity got the better of her,
and she agreed to accompany him one
Shabbat morning. The congregants
and rabbi welcomed her immediately.
She has joined him nearly every
Shabbat since, and has become an
integral member of the congregation.
Their friends from shul saw the two
were a perfect match, but Baum insists
he still didn't think they were necessar-
ily right for each other. Still, the two
were friends and he invited her to cel-
ebrate holidays with his family, always
introducing her to newcomers as his
At this point, Konikow believed the
two were dating, albeit not exclusively,
but Baum acknowledges he didn't see
it-that way. He would "receive invita-
tions to functions addressed to Mr.
Jack Baum and friend. After meeting
Claire, the invitations were all
addressed to Mr. Jack Baum and Ms.
"Though HaShem put us together, I
wasn't ready to acknowledge it.
However, it seemed that nearly every-
one else did. I was a bit slow," Baum
He cannot say exactly when their
relationship changed, but Konikow
recalls they finally discussed dating
exclusively only after the two were
inseparable "friends." After receiving
one more of those invitations
addressed to them as a couple, Baum
recognized his feelings. He decided
that he had found his beshert (meant
Baum decided he would ask
Konikow to marry him, even though
the two had never discussed the possi-
bility. Before Baum's father died a
number of years ago, he gave his son a
diamond ring that he had acquired
during his years of investing in gem-
stones. Baum decided Konikow was
the one who should finally receive the
The pair were planning to attend a
wedding, and Konikow was late com-
ing home from work. After months of
Baum bringing up her mail, Konikow
_did not think it was strange that Baum
had left her parcels sitting on a ledge
in her condo. What was strange was
that even though they were late, Baum
insisted that she open up a particular
She expected to find an article of
clothing she had ordered. She was sur-
prised to find another box inside.
When she saw that it was an engage-
ment ring, Konikow was "shocked
Konikow says that Baum's family has
not only welcomed her with open
arms, but has told her repeatedly that
even if the two didn't get together,
they would still welcome her as a part
of the family. Both families were over-
joyed about the engagement news.
After their Oct. 6 wedding, Baum
will be moving from his condo —
where the story began — next door
into Konikow's unit. The couple will
go on a honeymoon this winter when
she is on break from . teaching.
"It was too much of a coincidence
that of all the places I could buy, I
selected the one next door to the only
other Jewish person in the complex,"
says Konikow. "I know someone was
looking out for us."