Life & Culture

Meet Netflix's new Yente-in-Chief

Aleeza Ben Shalom is the cupid of Netflix's Jewish Matchmaking


Her five children are aged between nine and 19 and while Aleeza Ben Shalom isn’t searching for their significant others quite yet, sometimes she just can’t help herself.

“When we meet someone new, I’ll say to one of them, ‘Now that would be a good match!’” she laughs.

“They might roll their eyes, but I’ll reply, ‘They are very sweet and kind, just like you.’”

If there is such a thing as a stereotypical Jewish mother, Aleeza is that woman times ten, for she is also a professional matchmaker.

Now she’s set to become the most famous Jewish matchmaker in the world with a show on Netflix in which she attempts to match a range of Jewish couples. Sometimes heart-warming, sometimes completely cringey, Jewish Matchmaker is always compulsive viewing.

The series is from the same team that made the Emmy- nominated Indian Matchmaker, which became a surprise hit around the world.

“I watched it when it started in 2020 and thought, gosh, just swap out the culture and religion and this is just like Jewish matchmaking,” she says.

“Then I thought, if they can do that with Indian matchmaking, they can do it with ours!” Someone at Netflix had the same idea.

“They’d interviewed a friend of mine who is a matchmaker and she called me and said, ‘I don’t want to do this, I’m not good on camera — you should do it.’ She gave them my number, I did a casting interview, and that was it.”

Aleeza is a natural. Not only does she have the charisma to hold the eight-part show together, she has a set of dating mantras -- repeated regularly to her trepidatious would-be matches.

“From ‘date ’em ‘til you hate ’em’ to ‘a relationship only goes as fast as the slowest person in it’, the things I tell them are rooted in Jewish wisdom,” says Aleeza. “I’m just sharing them in plain language so that anyone can relate.”

The show is possibly the most Jewish programme ever aired, with our many facets — our neuroses and strange words — laid bare.

There are religious Jews and secular ones, young and old, idealistic and cynical — all hoping for a shidduch.

As one hopeful puts it bluntly: “I just want to meet someone I want to have sex with.”
Aleeza, who met her husband on a Jewish singles holiday, started life as secular but is now practising Orthodox and wonderfully non-judgmental.

She starts by asking each of the people she aims to match what values they are looking for in a partner and then the desired level of religiosity. Frum or not? Do they keep shabbat? How long will it take them to get to the chuppah?

It will be interesting to see how the non-Jewish world reacts to the show. One of the saddest scenes is when two young people, who have what is arguably the best chemistry of all the potential couples, decide not to pursue things because they aren’t quite matched religiously.

But there are moments of joyful compensation when you see strangers start to fall in love with each other.

“I have the best job in the world,” grins Aleeza who says she’s sent at least 200 couples to the chuppah during her 15 years as a matchmaker. And she knows of others who have been inspired by the concepts she shares on YouTube and over Spotify.

She started as a matchmaker while still a young mother, working on a Jewish online service called Soulmate Sinai.

The website has 500 matchmakers who are all given basic training — you can get a certificate in matchmaking — and who then learn on the job, matching Jews from all over the world. “British Jews and Canadian ones get on particularly well,” she muses.

Her first role on the site was matchmaking middle-aged people and she describes the experience as a baptism of fire.

‘‘Younger people have less baggage — marriages, divorces, kids, complicated life situations. But I handled things and took it from there.

“I think I was always a natural connector, good at introducing people to each other,” she adds.

“And I’ve always loved watching couples too — my parents were married happily for many years so I have that hinterland, seeing a beautiful long-term healthy relationship thrive.”

Matchmaking might seem like a old-fashioned concept in a world where we can find our other halves with a swipe on our phone, but Aleeza feels sure that today’s singles need as much help finding a partners as yesterday’s did.

“If you think of big hit shows like Love is Blind there is a matchmaking process, and religious Jews have always had shidduchim, of course.

"Sometimes we all need some expert help. That’s why this show is not just about Jews, it’s about everybody, about giving people the tools they need to find the person who’s right for them.”

‘Jewish Matchmaker’ starts on Netflix next Wednesday (May 3)

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