“We knew immediately we were going to be best friends,” Max said.
It took a little longer for Rachael to hear wedding bells, but nonetheless she loved being around him.
“He was still coming out of his shell post-college and fraternity,” she said. “I wanted to see where his maturity level was, but it was never really hard for us to talk to each other.”
The two Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion rabbinical students met in the first year of their program in Jerusalem, where they dated and cultivated a working relationship that breathed life into their friendship.
The couple worked together through school, interned together and launched The Table, a program to help young professionals in Cincinnati experience an authentic Shabbat.
On July 15, the Millers will continue working together as the new assistant rabbis at Temple Emanu-El.
When the two Reform rabbis-in-training came home from Jerusalem after that first year of study, things began to get more serious. By Passover of their second year, Rachael knew a proposal was in the works.
“Most girls grow up dreaming about their wedding dress. I grew up dreaming about my wedding ring,” she said. “I knew it was coming soon, and I didn’t want him to fly blind.”
Rachael picked three settings she liked and left Max to make the final decision on the ring.
She waited for him to pop the big question before the first seder at Passover three years ago. When it didn’t happen, she texted a friend that he wasn’t going to propose. Little did she know that Max made special plans for that night.
“I wrote in Rachael’s haggadah, ‘Rachael answers fifth question,’ ” Max said.
The answer was yes, giving a new reason that night was different from all others.
Engaged in spring 2014, the couple married Aug. 16, 2015, at Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati, the original home of the Reform movement’s historic Isaac M. Wise Temple and the same synagogue where the Millers will be ordained May 20.
Now married for 19 months, Max said a definite spiritual transition took place during the exchangie of vows.
“It seems like the stars were aligned. Being in the chuppah with our parents around us was a very awe-inspiring place,” Max said. “It’s very hard to describe the feeling when we were performing the ritual.”
The synergy between them is undeniable as they tell their story through smiles. Their chemistry also led Emanu-El, the congregation where Max grew up, and Senior Rabbi Spike Anderson to hire them as the assistant rabbis, stepping in for Rabbi Scott Colbert after his retirement June 30.
New rabbis often have a hard time getting placed with a synagogue, but Rabbi Anderson wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to employ the Millers.
“They are such a dynamic couple,” Rabbi Anderson said. “I would have hired both of them individually. They’re greater than the sum of their parts.”
Max is from Johns Creek, and Rabbi Anderson spent time with the couple during holiday visits to Georgia. The sparkle in their personalities led Rabbi Anderson to ask his congregation for help to hire both Max, who is 27, and Rachael, 26. He said their energy is hard to find among rabbinical students.
“Many rabbis are not extroverts; most are introverts,” Rabbi Anderson said. “To find two rabbis who are truly outgoing, dynamic and married to each other and have deep connections in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs brings our congregation to a new level.”
When he brought the idea to hire the newlyweds to his congregation, it was an easy sale. He said 30 families stepped up financially so the congregation could afford to hire two rabbis instead of one as planned.
Now Rabbi Anderson hopes the Millers will bring their entrepreneurial flair to the synagogue. “It’s a shot of adrenaline for Temple Emanu-El. It’s very rare to hire two rabbis at the same time,” Rabbi Anderson said. “I feel like I got the No. 1 and 2 draft picks of the seminary class.”