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Separate faiths, united in love; AMY JUSKOWITZ AND PAUL SPONSELLER


Paul Sponseller and Amy Juskowitz met as they were signing in for volunteer shifts at the Children's Miracle Telethon in June 1997.

Paul, chief of pediatric orthopedics at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Amy, a communications specialist at Hopkins, chatted for a few minutes, and later, she formally introduced herself to him. But when her shift at the telethon ended, Amy left without saying goodbye.

Three weeks later, Amy was walking through the hospital when she met Paul and his team of residents. The couple exchanged greetings as they passed.

Two days later, Amy returned to her apartment in Homeland and found a message from Paul, asking her out. Their first date -- at a jazz concert -- was "wonderful," Amy says. The night was beautiful, the music inspiring and Amy and Paul both enjoyed each other's company and the conversation that easily flowed between them.

From the start, their relationship was marked by simple gestures that meant a lot to both of them. Paul often brought Amy fresh roses from the garden at his home in Cockeysville. And Amy instantly opened her heart to Paul's two Samoyed dogs.

The couple knew as their relationship progressed, however, that they would have to have some frank discussions about their religious differences. He is Catholic; she is Jewish.

Armed with a "fair amount" of knowledge about each other's faiths, Paul says he and Amy knew that on a personal level, their beliefs about how you treat others and the ways you give of yourself and give back to life for the blessings you have received were very similar.

"We are both very spiritual people from two different religions," Amy explains. "I think we both wanted to see how we could blend those two different lives together."

Amy and Paul also knew that in order for their relationship to work, they would need to help their families adjust. Fortunately, the adjustment went fairly easily. Paul's mother went out of her way to make sure Amy was comfortable at Christmas events with Paul's large Catholic family (he's the oldest of seven). And Amy's sister quickly welcomed Paul to her family's Hanukkah dinners.

Very strong in their faiths, Paul and Amy knew that no matter where their love took them, they each would continue to practice their own religion. But after Paul proposed on Aug. 30, 1998 -- Amy's birthday -- they knew that to start their life together right, they would need to find common ground.

"Our goal was to have a blended ceremony where everybody felt comfortable," Amy says.

On Jan. 23, Paul, 42, and Amy, 46, were married in an interfaith ceremony at the Peabody Library in Baltimore. Before the ceremony, the couple signed an interfaith ketubah, a Jewish wedding contract.

Amy's mother, Ruth W. Juskowitz of Longboat Key, Fla., and her sister, Alice D. Weisko, walked her down the aisle -- the three women reflecting with love on Amy's father, the late Norman Juskowitz. ("I know he would've loved Paul," Amy says.)

Paul's parents, David and Mary Sponseller of Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as other members of his family were among the 160 guests. The wedding party included Amy's nephew, Paul Weisko, who served as ring bearer, and Paul's niece, Livia Sponseller, who was the flower girl. Paul's brother Robert was best man and his brothers William, Ed, John and Tom were ushers.

In a service officiated by Rabbi Joel Braude and Father Thomas Walsh, Paul and Amy were united in marriage by both Catholic and Jewish custom. Traditional passages from Corinthians and Genesis were read, as well as the Seven Blessings of Judaism. The rings were blessed. And after Paul and Amy said their vows and were pronounced husband and wife, Paul broke a glass in the Jewish tradition -- a reminder to the couple of the frailty of marriage.

After a honeymoon trip to Paris, Paul and Amy will settle into his home in Cockeysville. There they expect to continue "the wonderful journey" they began nearly two years ago, "growing stronger and closer every day," Amy says.

Pub Date: 01/31/99

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