Have you felt guilty witnessing the pandemic-inspired culinary exploits of people who are making the perfect loaf of challah from scratch instead of binge-watching Netflix in their pajamas? Well, Rachel Levine and Steph Schroeder are two such over-achievers but blame it on their scientific bent. They’re not trying to impress anyone, just keeping their extra-restless brains occupied. Rachel and Steph met in college at the Rochester Institute of Technology where Rachel studied mechanical engineering (undergrad and Master’s) and Steph focused on biochemistry, then a Master’s in environmental sciences.
Rachel landed in Cincinnati first, at GE Aviation working in additive manufacturing (creating jet engine parts using 3D printing with metal). Steph was soon hired as an environmental consultant with Partner Engineering and Science. They had already started discussing what their life together would look like. Rachel was raised Jewish, but Steph was not, yet it felt right to them both that they would move forward in a Jewish-focused direction. Steph found the NextGen@Wise group and began working on her conversion with the help of Rabbi Danziger. Not long after, Rachel was transferred to Germany, and Steph to Poland, where she continued her conversion studies with the rabbi on Skype. It was in Europe that they became engaged.
After two years abroad Rachel and Steph returned to Cincinnati, where Steph finished her conversion and they lived in an apartment in downtown Cincinnati with Bella, their globetrotting foster fail pup. Next up was their October 2019 wedding in Ithaca, New York. Rachel is from Harrisburg, PA, and Steph from New York state (Cincinnatus, no less!) so a destination wedding made sense. After a Vermont honeymoon, it was back to Cincinnati to prepare for the trip of a lifetime in February, Honeymoon Israel. Steph explains, “The takeaway is you have this Jewish focused experience together with other couples from your city, and hard conversations about what you imagine your Jewish life to be, then hit the ground running with a like-minded community of people.” Rachel and Steph met NextGeners Jazz Duncan and Eric Wolk, (who are getting married in October) and cemented their relationship with them on the 10-day trip to Israel. Rachel says “We’ve become extremely close. They’re our partners in crime now.”
Just as the pandemic hit hard, Rachel and Steph closed on a house in Pleasant Ridge, what Rachel calls “South Amberley.” They were able to move in April, and because lock-down was already in full swing they had plenty of time to empty all the boxes in record time. What do two scientists do to keep boredom at bay? Steph admits, “We’re social creatures and like to be out and about with friends, having new experiences. Living within the bounds of our property line is an adjustment.” Rachel adds, “We love to travel. I’ve never seen so many of our weekends just empty.” Hence, the mission to create the world’s greatest non-dairy ice cream. Coconut milk is hands down the best plant-based milk. The best success so far? Chocolate marshmallow (amazing!) And the worst? Basil peach (yuck–pesto ice cream!)
After the whirlwind of the last few years, their new normal includes more sleeping, reading, and taking long walks with Bella. They are thankful to have jobs, healthy loved ones, a house and a yard. They are also just enjoying being with each other, establishing Jewish traditions in their home (like being together every Friday night for Shabbat), and sharing the foundation they have begun to build together.