In 2014 New Yorker Andrew Joseph traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to experience Gay Pride Week. Andrew, who had previously lived in Israel for 5 years but had been closeted during that time, had always wanted to attend the festivities and had finally managed to arrange a trip. Gay Pride week, Andrew met Ariel Feingold, and they fell for each other. A little over a year later, they were married. The two have discussed expanding their family in the future, one that already includes Ariel's daughter Noam.
September 2014: First time Andrew met Noam. From left to right: Andrew, Ariel and Noam
Ariel had always wanted children, and growing up in Israel, he believed the only way to become a dad was by marrying and starting a family with a woman. He came out in 2011 when Noam was three. That first year was very difficult for Ariel's ex but they shared custody of Noam and she spent a few nights a week with each parent. Ariel's ex has since found a new partner with whom she has a 3-year-old. Fortunately, everyone is on good terms.
Israeli wedding celebration in Tel Aviv, August 2015
When it came to having another man in her life, Noam could not have been more welcoming to Andrew. She was just 6 years old when she first met Andrew, then known as his boyfriend from New York.
"She was very loving and friendly, as she is with most people who are sweet to her," said Andrew. "[And it] didn't hurt that I brought her a Barbie doll."
Andrew and Ariel had a wedding celebration in Tel Aviv in August 2015, and were married in New Jersey in October of the same year.
2015: Andrew and Ariel's New Jersey wedding, October 2015
Ariel began pondering a move to New York to be with Andrew. Even before he could broach the subject with Noam, she brought it up herself. She told him that she just wanted him to be happy, and that she would miss him, but that it would be okay.
The distance has been tough, but Noam comes to stay with her dads 2-3 times a year, and Andrew and Ariel make the most of her US vacations: On her first visit they went to Disney World and made the most of the opportunity to bond.
"[It is] life changing to go from a situation where you're mostly just looking after yourself, to a situation in which a little person depends on you and you need to always put their needs first," shared Andrew on the changes that came with becoming a stepdad. "It [was] one of the hardest things to adjust to as well as the most meaningful."
Disney World trip, May 2015
Ariel has settled into life as a New Yorker and is very happy here, apart from the prolonged distance from Noam. They try to return a couple of times a year but that is not always possible unfortunately due to work schedules and juggling holidays.
The two men plan to stay in the United States for now as their careers (Andrew is a lawyer at Spotify, and Ariel is a catering events manager) are keeping them both busy. Plus the fact that same-sex couples do not have the same rights as their straight counterparts in Israel does not sit well with the two men.
"Eventually we would like to move back to Israel," said Andrew. "I always have, and now that I'm with Ariel there's even more reason to be close to his family, especially Noam, because the distance is really hard on both of them. But it's mostly a financial and professional consideration."
Central Park, New York City, August 2017
Andrew and Ariel plan to grow their family through surrogacy but not for a couple more years while they save up for the (very) large expense. So far they've attended a Men Having Babies conference in New York and spoken to surrogacy agencies and fertility clinics. They're also considering undergoing the process in Canada and have spoken to a fertility clinic there.
"If it's something you want then you have to be willing to give up everything for it," said Andrew.
We're looking forward to sharing their exciting news sometime in the future!
Ariel, Noam and Andrew, summer 2017