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“Now that he’s been able to be completely open to me to tell me that it’s important to him, I understand that and I don’t mind raising Jewish children,” Sara says.From the outset, Yoav felt strongly, as his parents did, about marrying a Jewish woman.“So nice, so calm,” he says, “respectful.” The pair met at a salsa club, where Asaf, a professional salsa teacher and self-professed ladies man at the time, displayed mastery on the dance floor.Sara asked him to dance — although they playfully debate who actually made the first move.With actresses like Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria and Eva Mendez setting a standard for sexiness, it’s not surprising that some local Latinas are capturing the hearts of Israeli American men.
She had never met, let alone befriended, an Israeli up to that point, but with Asaf she felt an instant attraction. Asaf, a 30-year-old salesman and project manager for construction companies, knew upon arriving in Southern California from Haifa four years ago that he’d likely date non-Israelis.“Latinas are the eighth wonder of the world,” says Asaf Raz, who flashes an endearing look to his wife, Sara, as they sit together on a couch in their West Valley home.With olive skin and long brown hair, Sara could pass for a Sephardic Israeli.Since his father took ill about two years ago, Asaf started donning tefillin every morning.Sara has begun to fast on Yom Kippur on her father-in-law’s behalf, and she is about to begin a conversion through AJU.Both Leiderman and Asaf noticed similarities between Israeli and Latin culture that made them feel at home with their mate.“They love to have fun a lot,” says Leiderman, whose wife converted through American Jewish University (AJU) and studied with a cousin who was also dating an Israeli. According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, Jews who have married since 1996 have an intermarriage rate of 47 percent, but specific statistics for Israelis Americans who intermarry are unavailable.“In the beginning when I was with Sara, I didn’t care about her religion,” Asaf says. When the time comes and you’re in a foreign country, you start to change, whether you like it or not.You find you have to get a little tighter with your beliefs — not that you go to an extreme — because you’re living among goyim.She never felt satisfied with answers offered by the Catholic clergy to her questions about her faith, while Judaism’s reasoning appealed to her.“My uncle [the priest] said when I had converted that he knew I would go somewhere else,” she said.