When one matchmaker declined Netflix’s offer to host the eight-part series “Jewish Matchmaking,” she recommended a friend, Aleeza Ben Shalom. It was a different kind of bashert in action, and it proved a good match.
Ben Shalom, who lives in Israel, filmed the show in 2022, from February to August, in Chicago; Denver; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami and Brooklyn, N.Y. She credits both her success and the show’s ratings to having run online matchmaker live sessions during the years of COVID-19.
“It all came very naturally,” she said of filming for the 2023 Netflix series. “I was on all these webinars doing matchmaker training online. It was like sitting in front of the mirror for hours in front of other people, so I got very comfortable being on camera.”
The Netflix show—a spinoff of its “Indian Matchmaking”—ran for a season. Ben Shalom encourages prayers and blessings as she waits for news about whether Netflix will renew it.
She is also preparing to run a live event on Sept. 4—Labor Day—at the Des Plaines Theater in the Chicago suburbs. The tripartite event will open with an interview with Ben Shalom with “behind-the-scenes secrets.” She plans to talk about what it was like for her growing up in a secular Jewish family and becoming Orthodox in her mid-20s.
The matchmaker will also share “her wisdom for dating and successful relationships,” and then there will be a live matchmaking portion on stage with “three random singles,” according to the organizer, the L’Chaim Center, based in Deerfield, Ill.
Ben Shalom will interview the “random” singles and “teach interview tactics that work, so you can set up your friends, friends’ kids or whoever you like,” per the center.
‘More positivity in the world’
So far, 350 seats have been sold, Eve Levy, co-director of the L’Chaim Center, told JNS.
“I think what we are seeing is people are recovering from being isolated for so long,” Levy told JNS. “During the pandemic, everything shifted online because of social distancing. But this is not the same as face-to-face connections.”
Levy thinks that Ben Shalom can successfully bring Jewish couples together by helping them overcome social anxieties they may have developed during the pandemic.
“She has great energy and is a pure soul,” Levy said. “We need to see more positivity in the world today.”
Speed-dating also took off online during the pandemic, but there was a lot of uncertainty as to when matched couples could meet in person, according to Ben Shalom.
“This was a particularly difficult time, but the blessing that came out of it was that a lot of people said, ‘I’m tired of being alone,’” she told JNS.
‘We have to go to Israel now’
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Ben Shalom earned a degree, and a Jewish studies and children’s literature certificate, from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999. Three years later, she married Gershon Ben Shalom. (True to form: They met at a Jewish single’s retreat though started dating later on.)
A friend suggested that she work for the online matchmaking site Jmatchmaking in 2007, when Ben Shalom was working from home after her second child was born. She did so for several years. In 2012, she founded the dating service Marriage Minded Mentor, which has trained more than 150 matchmakers and coaches worldwide, according to Ben Shalom’s LinkedIn page.
She told JNS that she has paired more than 200 Jewish singles—100 matches—in marriage throughout her career.
In March 2021, Ben Shalom, her husband and their five children (plus their Aussiedoodle) made aliyah. The family now lives in Pardes Hanna-Karkur, east of the coastal city of Caesarea between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The pandemic turned out to be the final push to do what the family had always planned to do, she told JNS.
“I said to my husband, ‘We have to go to Israel now.’” She told her family that it was better to be “locked in” to the Jewish state than “locked out.”
As for the Netflix show, all of the Jewish singles were either Ben Shalom’s clients or those she recommended, she told JNS.
Producers advised her to be herself in front of the camera, and she told JNS that she impressed herself with how “unusually natural” she felt during filming, though it took some getting used to having a live microphone on at all times.
Noted Ben Shalom: “You have to be very conscious about how you speak.”