Matchmaker and dating coach Aleeza Ben-Shalom offers sound advice to her Orthodox, Conservative and Reform clients: “Date them until you hate them,” “Never give up,” and abide by the golden rule that “too much analysis leads to paralysis.”
Ben-Shalom, an American who lives in the Israeli town of Pardes Hanna with her husband and five children, is the central figure in the new Netflix series, Jewish Matchmaking, which appears to have been inspired by Indian Matchmaking, a show hosted by Sima Taparia of Mumbai.
Not surprisingly, both reality television shows are remarkably similar. The matchmaker dips into her voluminous database, sets up a meeting, and hopes for the best possible outcome — marriage.
Neither Taparia nor Ben-Shalom are under any illusions, knowing that their clients are much too picky for their own good and that their chances of finding a soulmate are fairly slim. Nevertheless, they keep moving forward, understanding that perseverance is the name of the game in their line of work.
Ben-Shalom, once secular and now modern Orthodox, is a pleasant and perky woman with a clientele of young and middle-aged Jews from the United States, Europe and Israel.
Dani, a social media marketeer for restaurants, wants to be married by the age of 30. The man of her dreams will be “obsessed” by her and treat her like a queen. She grew up in Los Angeles, but her parents are from South Africa. While they observe the laws of kashruth, she is fond of cheeseburgers. She meets David in Miami and seems smitten. His eyes “pierce her soul,” and she thinks they have potential as a couple. But what happens next?
Ori, a resident of Los Angeles, lives with his Israeli parents and works for his mother’s event planning company. He claims he dates only beautiful women, preferably blue-eyed blondes. He would prefer to marry a “spiritual” Israeli American of Moroccan ancestry. And since he likes to eat pork, he would like to marry someone who’s not “too kosher.” Ori is very choosy. He won’t go out on a second date if there is no chemistry.
Ben-Shalom arranges a date for Ori. Adi is an aspiring actress from Israel trying to break into the Hollywood film industry. He rejects her and is set up with Karin, an attorney who likes dancing and desires to have six children.
Harmonie, a 44-year-old marketing and brand consultant from Los Angeles, values Jewish traditions, though she was raised in a non-traditional home. She hopes her grandmother can be at her wedding. It’s a long shot, since she’s turning 100.
Chatty and outgoing, Harmonie wonders whether she has missed the boat. But she hasn’t given up, hoping she can meet a man who’s passionate in bed and likes to travel. She is introduced to Aron, a divorced professor of architecture from Vermont. Their conversations flow harmoniously, but he’s too “nerdy” for Harmonie. On to the next guy.
Cindy, a resident of Jerusalem, is still licking her wounds after a failed three-year relationship that broke up eight months ago. She is looking for a tall, dark and handsome man. She meets Daniel, who wants to settle down and marry within two years. They don’t hit it off. His values misalign with hers.
Fay, a rigorously Orthodox woman from New York City, seeks a “sincerely frum” man of good character. Ben-Shalom locates a suitable candidate, but he doesn’t measure up to Fay’s standards.
Stuart, 51, an adman, describes himself as a “professional dater” who thought he would be married by now. He’s learned the “hard way” that a Jewish woman would be better for him. He meets a bubbly standup comedian who appears to light up his life.
Noah, 24, comes from Rome. The son of an Italian diplomat, he currently lives in Tel Aviv, and has served in the Israeli army. On his first blind date, he meets Alyssa, but they are not meant for each other. He goes out with two more women — Gabriela and Tav — but the sparks do not fly.
Nakysha, a heavyset biracial woman from Kansas City, has settled down in Miami. Ryan, a special education teacher, does not turn her on. Evan, an eccentric-looking person, seems to be Mr. Right.
Jewish Matchmaking, like Indian Matchmaking, is entertaining and fun to watch. Whether Jewish or Hindu, the clients whom the matchmakers serve so attentively are hard to please, which probably means they will remain single for the unforeseeable future.