It’s a love story so well-scripted, it was destined to have a Hollywood ending.
In 2013, Floridian Loren Goldstone flew to Israel as a group leader on Birthright Israel, an international program offering free heritage trips to the Holy Land for Jews ages 18 to 32. In that short, intensive 10-day trip, she fell in love with Alexei Brovarnik, a medic from the northern Israeli town of Nof Hagalil who was randomly assigned to her tour.
What followed was a yearlong overseas courtship and marriage proposal from Alexei that was documented on Season 3 of the US TV channel TLC’s hit reality show “90 Day Fiancé.”
With over 13 million viewers per episode, the series chronicles long-distance couples who have applied for or received a K-1 visa and must marry within 90 days or part company.
Seven years, a wedding, and one baby later, the couple, both 32, now star in the ever-popular spinoff “90 Day Fiancé: Pillow Talk.” From their home in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, they comment on the cross-border relationships of “90 Day Fiancé” couples, and share their Jewish pride and love of Israel with fans the world over.
In October, Loren, whose married surname is Goldstone Brovarnik, headlined a virtual event by Yachad Toronto called Disability Reality Check. Speaking from her master bedroom where “Pillow Talk” is filmed, the new mom shared her experiences on “90 Day Fiancé,” reflected on the joys of parenthood, and candidly addressed living with Tourette syndrome (TS), a condition she was diagnosed with at age eight.
Goldstone Brovarnik’s connection with Birthright dates back to 2011, when she first traveled to Israel as a program participant. It was there, in her 20s, that she “got bat-mitzvahed,” she told attendees of the virtual event. At the time, Goldstone Brovarnik, who speaks limited Hebrew, knew almost nothing about the country.
She credits her friend with introducing her to the Birthright trip to Israel. “I thought, why would I go there? I’m not going to ride a camel! It was so ignorant of me… When I was a participant, it changed my life completely,” she recalled via Zoom.
“I did not grow up very religious; my parents did. I never thought I would go back to Israel. Now I go back every year. Now I’m so pro-Israel and pro-Judaism. Not that I wasn’t before, but Alex and I are much more traditional. We do Shabbat, we say the prayers, we light candles… I’m so pro-Birthright — obviously it affected my life in the best way possible,” she said.
According to Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark, “Before COVID-19, Birthright Israel had experienced record-breaking annual participation, with more than 45,000 Diaspora Jews from all over the world attending trips in both 2018 and 2019.”
During a year of long-distance dating for the couple, Alexei applied twice for a tourist visa to the US, both times denied. Goldstone Brovarnik recalled traveling to Israel five times during that period, often staying only a few days before catching a redeye back to the US so she could promptly return to work.
It was her roommate who suggested Goldstone Brovarnik contact “90 Day Fiancé” to share her story. With Alexei’s approval, she “wrote them a spiel about how I’m dating this guy, and of course I sent pictures,” said Goldstone Brovarnik, who underscored her love of the show in her email. Less than two weeks later, the TLC network called to set up an interview with the couple, and the rest is history.
“We were filling out the papers for the [K-1] visa in November 2014 [when we were contacted by TLC], so we really didn’t know [if it would be granted],” said Goldstone Brovarnik.
In January 2015 the couple got engaged, and that March TLC began filming the show in Canada, since Alexei was not permitted to enter the US. The K-1 visa was ultimately approved and the couple married in September 2015. This past April, they gave birth to son Shai, an adorable “Pillow Talk” fixture whose birth has led to social media speculations about whether he, too, has TS.
While Goldstone Brovarnik’s condition is “mild” and manifests as facial and vocal motor tics, it is chronic. There is a 50 percent chance that Shai has inherited the gene, but the new parents are not overly concerned, saying they’ll “cross that bridge when we get there” and will serve as his greatest support system. For now, said Goldstone Brovarnik, the two are “just enjoying him — his chubbiness, his rolls, his laughter, everything!”
As an ambassador of the Tourette Association of America, Goldstone Brovarnik speaks candidly and confidently about her condition — a far cry from the days when she attempted to keep it a secret. She was bullied as a child and an adult because of her tics, which have also been analyzed ad nauseam by “90 Day” viewers.
I never in a million years thought I was going to open up about Tourette syndrome
“I never in a million years thought I was going to open up about Tourette syndrome [on the show],” Loren said. “After the first season I got very caught up in the social media trends… I got annihilated on social media: ‘she’s twitching, she’s ticking, what’s wrong with her? Why is she sniffing? Is she on drugs?’”
“I think people forget I’m a human being. I have feelings… [But] I realized I have a platform… Opening up was the best thing I could have done for myself, and if I’m going to help at least one person, then I’ve done the right thing,” she said.
The Brovarniks exhibit the same confidence when it comes to their outward support of Israel and Jewish pride. Their social media accounts include pictures from their trips to Israel, images of them sporting Star of David and map of Israel necklaces, and wishes of “Shabbat shalom.” Shai also appeared on an episode of “Pillow Talk” dressed in an onesie with an Israeli flag graphic. As for those who may take issue with their pro-Israel stance, Goldstone Brovarnik remains undeterred by haters.
“It’s something that I deal with a lot and I don’t respond. I get so much negativity… everybody has their opinions, and everybody has their beliefs. I don’t preach mine to other people. I just smile and nod,” she said. “I’ve learned that less is more and you kill people with kindness. It’s a very, very tough topic, but you just want to come out strong. [As Michelle Obama said,] when they go low, we go high.”
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