Netflix hit Jewish Matchmaking was just the start for Aleeza Ben Shalom. She is a woman on a mission and what may begin with a good match and then marriage will, she hopes, end in world peace.
The Orthodox shidduh-maker found worldwide fame thanks to the show. On the day we spoke she’s adding dates to her world tour (she’s in the UK later this month, on October 17), she has a mentoring session with someone from the Philippines who needs help with their love life, she’s planning a book, working on an app, training other matchmakers, doing a podcast. It’s exhausting just talking to her.
“I feel like I’ve been given this platform for a reason,” says the American who now lives in Israel. “It’s almost like a magnetic force — all these amazing things are coming at me and all the negative things are being repelled.
“I’m building a community and through communities you get peace. Happy, healthy relationships are the foundation of stability. World peace begins at home and I’d love to help build millions of happy homes across the world.”
When I first interviewed Aleeza for the JC in April before the show aired, I worried about how the world would react to a show which was so unashamedly Jewish. It turned out I didn’t need to be concerned; even on Twitter, that nastiest of social media sites, the general consensus was an outpouring of love for Aleeza, her openness, her dating wisdom and her catchphrases.
“I was emotionally prepared for both fan mail and death threats — I was warned these things were normal — and antisemitism, of course. But in general, it has felt like a shower of blessings from America to London, Australia to South Africa,” she tells me. “People were just so complimentary and whenever they recognise me, they want to give me a hug.”
The only downside of her success has been all work and travelling means that the mother of five isn’t at home as much — although her family has a rule that she can’t be away for more than one consecutive Shabbat.
“We are in a new phase of our lives — our youngest is ten and our oldest is 19 and in the IDF,” she says. “I am so proud of him. I am proud we are in the Jewish homeland and that he is protecting it physically. And I am attempting to protect it spiritually by helping people find love, marry and continue our legacy.
“Now it has changed from a show into a mission. I have changed its tone.”
Proceeds from her tour will be going to the IDF and for food for those in need.
So how do you do live dating? Aleeza’s show falls into three sections.
The first is a monologue about her life — she is naturally very funny. Then she has a question-and-answer session with the crowd. And then she gets to work.
Volunteer singles are invited on to the stage, she finds out a bit about them and then she asks for shidduch suggestions from the audience (which she always hopes will be a mixed group).
“I love the British Jewish community,” says Aleeza, who has made matches here over the years. “They’re fun, warm, engaging, inquisitive and logical.
“Because it’s a small community they think they know everybody — that it’s not possible to find someone — but I hope I can open their eyes and say, ‘Well, how about…’”
Occasionally some of the stars of her Netflix series accompany her.
Sadly, out of the many couples she matched on the show, there hasn’t been a wedding yet but she is hoping still for a second season to carry on spreading her message of love.
“In the meantime, several of them still rely on Aleeza as they’ve been inundated with dating requests from appearing on the show.
“My aim is to simple help people be happy by bringing couples together. Everything is falling into place and I feel like I have divine assistance helping people to find their partner and build a beautiful home.”
For information on Aleeza’s tour, go to tickettailor.com
Jews in the News
I have high hopes for a new drama about Cary Grant starring our very own Jason Isaacs as the Hollywood legend. The ITVX show Archie — his real name was Archibald Alec Leach —tells the story of the actor’s troubled childhood in Bristol and how sadness followed him even when he reached the heights of his profession. Scheduled to start next month.
Talk about a lovely match: Jewish singer Jess Glynne is said to be dating footballer-turned-sports pundit Alex Scott, who also has Jewish heritage. The singer and presenter are said to have been friends before their relationship turned to romance.
Scott discovered during the filming of Who Do You Think You Are? that her mother’s father’s family were Jewish and her great grandfather, Philip Gittleson, whose family escaped pogroms in Lithuania, had fought against the fascists during the Battle of Cable Street.
One of the surprising stars of the Beckham documentary series has to be his mum Sandra, hitherto a very private figure.
David Beckham with his mum Sandra (Photo: Getty Images)
Sandra, whose Jewish father Joseph was one of the footballer’s biggest inspirations and mentors, has been praised by critics for her feisty defence of her son in the four-part show, directed by Jewish Oscar-winner Fisher Stevens.
I’m fascinated by the stories of the Jewish women from history who deserve to be better known — and am pleased that one of them, Fanny Mendelssohn, is being finally appreciated in a new documentary.
A musical sister takes her place in the spotlight
Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn will be released in UK cinemas on October 27. Made by Sheila Hayman, a descendent of Fanny, it examines an extraordinary life.
The story moves from Berlin, where Fanny was born in 1805, to Buckingham Palace in the present day, when Isata Kanneh-Mason performs her work on Queen Victoria’s piano, and reveals how this composer was every bit as brilliant and prolific as her much more famous little brother, Felix.
At first Fanny and Felix were given a similar music education by their wealthy Berlin parents — with one tutor recognising her talent over her brother’s. But her family were against her pursuing a career in music — even as they encouraged her brother.
Her musical talent only began to be recognised in the last year of her short life.
All together she composed 450 works. And when Queen Victoria met Felix and told him which work of his she liked best, he had to admit it was written by Fanny, but published under his name.