A Jewish matchmaker with more than 200 weddings under her belt says singles need 'clarity' to find their soulmates
- Netflix's new series "Jewish Matchmaking" Orthodox Jewish matchmaker Aleeza Ben Shalom counsels singles.
- They come from various religious and cultural Jewish backgrounds, which Ben Shalom keeps in mind.
Jewish matchmaker and dating coach Aleeza Ben Shalom became the go-to expert on Netflix's new series "Jewish Matchmaking" just how you'd expect: Her friend, also a matchmaker, made the connection.
On "Jewish Matchmaking," Ben Shalom, a small bubbly matchmaker, manages to ooze warmth through the television screen as she counsels a cohort of singles from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, including a fellow Orthodox Jew, non-religious Jews in their 20s, 40s, and 50s, and a former Orthodox Jew and divorcée who now only keeps kosher at home.
"There are 15 million Jews in the world and 15 million ways to be Jewish," Ben Shalom declares during the first episode, which premieres on Netflix on May 3.
On the show, she embraces her clients' diverse desires and dating requests, even the ones that have nothing to do with Judaism. It's impressive, considering the demands of some of Ben Shalom's clients, like Ori, an Israeli Jew who lives and works with his parents and will only date blonde-haired blue-eyed Israeli Jewish women who speak Hebrew. Dani, a 27-year-old in Miami, wants to date a man who has gorgeous eyebrows, but not so gorgeous that they outshine hers. And Harmonie, a 44-year-old self-proclaimed "unicorn" in Los Angeles wants someone she can start a family and travel the world with.
Values-based dating rooted in tradition
In the series, Ben Shalom guides clients through the long-held Jewish tradition of shidduchim, a Hebrew word for an arranged marriage. It involves dating in an honest and intentional way to find one's soulmate, Ben Shalom, who has been in an Orthodox Jewish marriage for 20 years, explains at the start of the series.
"This type of matchmaking is rooted in Jewish wisdom, but it's for the whole entire world. It's for everybody. If you want to have a great relationship, you definitely want to have clarity," Ben Shalom, who started her business out of her home in 2007, told Insider.
To help clients gain clarity, Ben Shalom interviews each one in person, always considering their checklists of requirements. During the meeting, she stresses the importance of complete honesty with her and themselves. In fact, she said that she won't match a client until they do a coaching session with her and agree to answer her questions about their dating history, relationship fears, and non-negotiables.
On the show, Ben Shalom offers advice to help clients achieve dating clarity. Religious or not, without a sense of what you want and need in a partnership, you're bound to choose the wrong mate, she said.
She instructs Ori, who is especially particular about the physical appearance of his matches (the man is arguably obsessed with blue eyes), to go on a second date with a beautiful but brown-eyed Israeli woman. She also pushes 25-year-old Nakysha to go on a date with a 37-year-old, despite her initial concern about age gaps. And she tells 44-year-old Harmonie to consider shomer negiah, the practice of not touching a romantic prospect until marriage, even for just a few dates. According to Ben Shalom, the lack of physical touch can lead to clarity about long-term chemistry.
Stuart, a 52-year-old contestant on the show, told Insider that he only met with Ben Shalom once in person, and but the experience solidified his interest in dating Jewish women who can understand his "Curbed Your Enthusiasm" references.
Adapting the Jewish tradition of matchmaking in the digital age
Matchmakers have long existed in Jewish culture. The first-ever, written about in the Torah, helped Judaism's first patriarch Abraham find his son a wife, which Ben Shalom explains on the series.
Today, matchmakers like Ben Shalom carry on the tradition. She said that she's seen matchmaking become increasingly popular in Jewish communities in the last 20 to 30 years as people get married later in life and may need help finding connections outside of the schools and extracurricular groups they attended as youth.
Off-camera and in her personal matchmaking business, Ben Shalom, who lives in Israel, also uses methods like online webinars and one-on-one coaching services that range from free to over $1,000. She uses a proprietary "clarity chart" to help singles pinpoint the traits they seek in a match, and she also trains budding Jewish matchmakers through virtual webinars.
The value of intentional dating could go beyond religion
By the series end, none of Ben Shalom's clients have found their match, it seems. But they all appear to be clear on who they're looking for and want to keep trying to find that person.
Unlike the expert who headed Netflix's first matchmaking series "Indian Matchmaking," Ben Shalom doesn't appear to shame her clients for their checklists of date requirements. While she nudges them to challenge their perspectives on things like age gaps and first-date indifference ("Date 'em until you hate 'em," she declares in episode 1), Ben Shalom never insists clients should lower their expectations. Ultimately, she wants them to feel understood.
Dani, who identified as a secular Jew with close family ties, said that her past three relationships ended when it became clear she and her exes wanted different things out of life. But since working with Ben Shalom, she can more easily spot signs of incompatibility and let those matches go instead of hold onto unwarranted hope, Dani told Insider.
Harmonie, who was skeptical of Ben Shalom and the entire matchmaking process, said her worries melted away the second the matchmaker walked through her front door.
"She asked me, 'How do you want to feel?' and I thought that was the most beautiful thing because it got me into my heart and out of my head," Harmonie told Insider.
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