Make me a match!

Make me a match!

TV shadchan Aleeza Ben Shalom is in Ridgewood to help support BCHSJS

Aleeza Ben Shalom is reality TV’s “Jewish Matchmaker.” (Aleeza Ben Shalom)
Aleeza Ben Shalom is reality TV’s “Jewish Matchmaker.” (Aleeza Ben Shalom)

It’s true that matchmaking goes way back in Jewish life. The shadchan was a well-established figure, way before Tevye’s daughters sang about it in “Fiddler on the Roof.” And of course the daughters’ ideas of the shadchan went from dreams about glamorous romances to dark images of elderly, abusive husbands.

In real life, shadchanim have made matches for centuries and continue to flourish in some parts of the Jewish world.

But having a shadchan become a reality TV star is something new.

That reality TV star, Aleeza Ben Shalom, will be at an evening supporting the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies on Monday, May 20, as the school celebrates its 50th anniversary. (See box.)

Ms. Ben Shalom, who headed the one-season Netflix show called, logically enough, “Jewish Matchmaking,” doesn’t fit any stereotype of the shadchan. She calls herself a dating coach as well as a matchmaker, and her superpower is her ability to listen to people, and to help them listen to themselves.

Much of her work now is with singles individually, but she also takes her show on the road; she’s a native Philadelphian who made aliyah a few years ago, so that road frequently takes her back to the United States.

Her live show, she said, “is a three-part program that involves inspiration, humor, and live matchmaking.” The goal is not to find one of the singles who have volunteered to come up on stage for public matchmaking a partner then and there — although of course such a miracle would be welcomed — but to empower that single to know what he or she really wants, and also to empower the audience to look out for possible matches.

Ms. Ben Shalom’s upcoming appearance will be in Ridgewood. In the suburbs. Isn’t everyone in the suburbs married already? Absolutely not, she said, and it’s a big mistake to assume otherwise.

The first part of her show is a monologue. “I tell a little bit about my own story, about Jewish wisdom, and about Jewish matchmaking. I try to infuse humor and wisdom about Judaism, and about the process of matchmaking.”

The middle part of the program is questions and answers — audience members write out their questions before the show starts — and Ms. Ben Shalom is interviewed. In Ridgewood, the interviewer will be the show’s MC, BCHSJS’s interim principal, Barnet Goldman.

The third part is the matchmaking.

When people register for the show, they are asked if they would like to be matched; people who say yes are prescreened, and three or four will be chosen. “We look for outgoing, social individuals who are comfortable with being put on the spot,” Ms. Ben Shalom said. Then audience members ask them questions. “I train the audience on what to ask, and I get them to be involved,” she said. “It is a very interactive program.

“And then, at the end, I ask for ideas. I encourage the audience to actually match people. The match is unlikely to be someone who is also sitting in the room, so the person onstage doesn’t leave with a name. But that person leaves with hope.

“Everything we do is very tasteful, done with warmth and love and play and humor,” she said.

And there’s a reason behind what Ms. Ben Shalom does. “We are looking for ways to build the Jewish community, and one of the greatest ways to do it is through matchmaking,” she said. “We bring people together, and that way there will be more Jewish children in the world.”

The desire to have strong, stable marriages that lead to children is not only a Jewish desire. Matchmaking is universal, and so is love. “But I do also think that we are a very community-oriented group, and we work hard to keep our people together,” Ms. Ben Shalom said. “We are very interconnected. I think that there is a lot of Jewish wisdom based in Jewish values.”

Ms. Ben Shalom stresses — and her Netflix series shows — that although she is Orthodox, her clients come from all over the Jewish world. “We have a lot of non-religious clients,” she said. She grew up in a Conservative, not particularly observant family, “so it’s really easy for me to relate to people, and I think that a lot of people feel comfortable with me.

“I feel familiar to people. I don’t feel foreign to them.”

And, she adds, she’s not at all judgmental; her goal is to help Jews find matches, and she doesn’t care where in the Jewish world that search takes them.

She takes on most clients who want to work with her, she said, although she demurs when it’s someone who lives in a part of the world where she has absolutely no connections. Her work is entirely based on connections. She doesn’t work with LGBT clients, but not because she disapproves, she said; it’s simply because she isn’t familiar enough with the community to do it as well as she wants to be able to. But she does refer potential clients to other matchmakers who are close to the community.

“We only work with people we think we can help,” she said.

Her clients range not only in observance but also in age. “The oldest person I worked with was 89,” she said. “She did something we call ‘mystery in your history.’ She looked back to see if there was someone relevant in her past.” That’s someone with whom there had been some interest, some spark, some connection that had been felt but left unpursued. “We tracked down someone, and they had a relationship,” Ms. Ben Shalom said.

Matches can go in many ways. Although it is highly unlikely that the first person a client dates is the one, she had a client whose first match was the right one for her.

It’s like buying the first wedding dress you try on; most of the time that doesn’t work, but most of the time isn’t never.

Much of her work is in coaching, she said; she helps people understand what they should say. To go a little deeper, she helps people understand why they should say those things and why they have been saying the wrong things. To go deeper still, she helps people understand what they truly want.

The dangerous state of the world right now, the rise in antisemitism, and the trauma that Israelis live through, with the unresolved horror of October 7, the knowledge that the hostages who still are alive are languishing in Gaza, and the ongoing war there has caused an upsurge in her business.

“Any time of crisis, whether it’s war or covid, is very good for dating, love, and marriage,” Ms. Ben Shalom said. “People are heavily motivated to make something happen now. Whenever anybody feels like the world is ending, they want to make their world start. When the world feels like it’s ending, you want to make sure that you hit your bucket list. And getting married and building a family is often on people’s bucket lists.

“It’s not that they’re seeking joy. They’re seeking meaning.”

But, she added, her live shows, like her television show, are interactive, warm, non-threatening, and actively fun.

Those are good things to help draw people to the program and to help them understand the value of the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies, its executive director, David Fine, said. Dr. Fine is also the rabbi of Temple Israel & JCC in Ridgewood, and he sees a direct connection between what the school offers and what Ms. Ben Shalom does.

“We wanted to bring entertainment, but it is not a magic show,” he said. “It’s not just entertainment. She is talking about forming Jewish families. That is Jewish continuity. That is what so much of we at BCHSJS are about, and what our investment in Jewish education is.”

To be clear, the evening is not for high-school students. It is for adults. But the connection is clear, Rabbi Fine said. “Obviously we are not matchmaking for high-school kids. We have an investment in Jewish education, and part of that is making sure that there are Jews in the next generation.

“We all invest in programs like Hillel and other on-campus programs — and now Hillel is playing an incredibly important role, a role that we never imagined it would need to play. But Hillel also makes spaces where Jews can meet other Jews.

“We live in a large society, where it’s hard to make connections with other people, and with other Jews. So what Aleeza is bringing is not just the connections she will make in this show, but teaching us things that we should know about making good matches.

“Relationships, dating, marriage — these are hard things, and they don’t happen automatically.”

In the end, it’s all about connections. That’s what makes a community, the interwoven connections that allow movement but keep people and hopes and dreams from falling through the cracks.

The Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies helps form and maintain some of those connections so that its students, like Aleeza Ben Shalom, help weave the web of community.

Who: The Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies

What: Presents “From High School to Chuppah — An Evening with Netflix’s ‘Jewish Matchmaker,’” Aleeza Ben Shalom

When: On Monday, May 20, at 7:15

Where: at Temple Israel and JCC in Ridgewood

Why: To celebrate BCHSJS’s 50th anniversary, and to help provide for its future

How much: General admission is $50; there are many more levels, with many more perks

For more information and tickets: Go to and click on the show’s box, or go directly to

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