Aleeza Ben Shalom is a distinguished coach, renowned speaker, expert, and author of Get Real, Get Married and Virtual Dating. As the founder of the company Marriage Minded Mentor, she assists singles worldwide in navigating their path to engagement and marriage, breaking patterns, and building fruitful relationships. Her expertise extends to training dating coaches and matchmakers, and she has successfully guided over 200 individuals to find their soulmates. Her invaluable relationship advice has been featured on various platforms including BBC World News, NPR, and HuffPost. Alongside her professional accomplishments, Ben Shalom is a devoted wife and mother of five.
She sat down with The Media Line's Felice Friedson at her home in Israel to discuss her role in the hit Netflix series Jewish Matchmaking, the modern challenges and transformations of matchmaking, and the broader implications of her work in a rapidly changing world.
The Media Line: A known face to the world, Aleeza Ben Shalom is the host and talent behind Jewish Matchmaking. Thank you so much for taking time in your lovely home to talk about the program.
Aleeza Ben Shalom: Thank you! I’m very happy to have you here.
TML: Aleeza, one of the oldest traditions in the history of mankind, is putting people together, and yet it is modernized through Netflix. Tell me how that came about.
ABS: Jewish Matchmaking came out, and it was a hit show. The production company went back to Netflix and said this is great; we love it. And they said, “Great, let’s do it again.” They said, good, let’s also do Jewish Matchmaking. And then they said, great, go find us a Jewish matchmaker. And that’s how it got started.
TML: Was it a long process to find you?
ABS: It took several months to do all the filtering and for people to do the interviews and then for them to make the final decision. It took more than six months.
TML: Aleeza, I think 100 years ago, no one would have asked a question about fertility [and] saving your eggs. I mean, you have questions that one wouldn’t have even imagined. Where do you even begin to start?
ABS: So, this is difficult because it’s an ever-evolving process of putting together and then living within the modern world, and how we connect those two things has to be done very delicately and very gently and with a lot of tact. And it’s a difficult process.
Also, for me as a matchmaker, you constantly have to know what the next thing is being developed. What is the next technology? What’s available? What are people talking about? What are people into in terms of dating, relationships, marriage, and even fertility?
TML: What is so different from 1,000 years ago? Matchmaking probably hasn’t really changed when you get down to the essence of man and woman coming together.
ABS: From 1,000 years ago, the technology and being able to meet somebody from across the world at any day, at any hour, from any location was never done. You met people in your community, your neighborhood. You went two neighborhoods out.
Nobody went outside of their country necessarily, but because of technology, we have traveled so much further from our living room than ever before. So, the main difference is that we have the ability to reach people from all over at any time and there becomes a little bit of an abundance mindset. And at the same time, if you can’t find anybody, it’s the most depressing thing in the whole world, because literally the whole world is open to you, and [yet] there’s nobody for you.
So, where we used to think that there are possibilities, people look out there and go, “No, there’s nobody—I’ve researched!”
TML: You have been around the world, really, in a way. You’re going to the United States. You’re in Israel. You’ve flown to Florida. People you’ve been speaking to on your show who are the guests on your show who are your clients in Los Angeles. Is there a place that’s better for the match?
ABS: The short answer, is no, but maybe. So, no, meaning wherever you are you have the ability to meet your person now, and they might be local, and they might be long-distance, but you don’t have to go somewhere very special to meet somebody. There are communities where there are greater quantities of Jewish people, so there are more options. I’m not saying it’s better, but it could be.
Israel is fantastic. New York, LA, Miami, Toronto, any of the major cities around the world [are good]. Or any major community that has a strong Jewish community would be a great place to go, but wherever you are, and you like it, you should stay.
TML: You Zoom a lot, but how much travel have you done?
ABS: So, I’ve been traveling around the world, and currently I’m on a world tour. And besides America and Canada, we’re hitting South America, Chile [and] Argentina, Australia, potentially Singapore, and South Africa, we’re talking about as well. So, I’m literally going to be on a world tour, I’m going from Israel to Australia and around the world the other way and doing what I call a live matchmaking show and bringing matchmaking to different communities.
TML: How many languages is the program currently in?
ABS: What I’m doing?
TML: No, Netflix’s show.
ABS: Netflix is, I think, in 32 different languages plus subtitles. It’s in over a hundred and something countries and 32 languages.
TML: What alerted you to the importance of this industry of saying, “Matchmaking is my life; I need to make a change for people”?
ABS: It’s so interesting because nobody grows up and goes, “Oh! I want to be a matchmaker when I grow up and I’m going to go and study that,” because there is nowhere to study that. So, for me, I saw my family, my parents, and my grandparents having beautiful, healthy relationships and I saw that as the glue not just to our family, but to being a happy, healthy person in the world.
And, when I pulled all that together I found my husband and I got married. I started building my own family, and then I started working as a matchmaker online. And I said, oh that’s so interesting! It wasn’t even working. It was a volunteer position. And I thought, “This is fascinating! This is the greatest way to have the largest effect on the world,” because to me, world peace and solving all the world’s problems, really begins at home. And when we focus on building our homes with people in a happy, healthy way that empowers us to be our best selves, we have the greatest effect on our world.
TML: How do you field your clients? It must be very difficult because everybody wants to probably be on the program.
ABS: Yes, I am still getting calls. Please, can I come on Season 2? I say, look we just dropped Season 1. We’re waiting to hear if there’s going to be a Season 2. But if you want to find love, don’t wait for a show. It’s so much easier to do that when you’re not in front of a camera. We can do it in front of a camera also, but we have so many more options and resources when we actually aren’t in front of a camera.
So, we do have thousands of people that are reaching out to us to do matchmaking, coaching, take some of our courses, do some of our learning, and really empower them to have all the tools and the skills they need to meet the right person.
TML: Popping the question—everybody is asking when is somebody going to get married on the program, and obviously it ended with that question mark of, where is it going next? What is the next step?
ABS: So, I can tell you now because we are far enough out from the launch date that none of the couples got engaged from the program to each other, but I did continue working with people. Shaya got engaged to Faye whom he found and met through a matchmaker network, and I worked with him and her through the process, and they’re a beautiful couple.
There’s a couple that’s not yet out that they’re engaged, but it is a match that I made after having met somebody and set them up with somebody else. And we’re not saying anything, but that’s up and coming. And I just heard about another engagement that will be announced soon, so you’ve got to follow me. I’m going to share all the details as soon as everything is public.
TML: Aleeza, you are beaming over that. Is that what gives you the greatest joy?
ABS: Look, a couple finding each other is a miracle. It’s really difficult in a world of so many different people to find somebody, so it is the greatest joy to see that happen but there’s also great joy in helping people through the process. And even if they haven’t found that person yet, I know they will. But seeing somebody go from being low to being happy, healthy, high, able to go through the daily process a little bit more gracefully, that’s also a huge win for me. That somebody feels hopeful. That they see the light at the end of the tunnel.
TML: Is it harder for men or women?
ABS: Good question! Right, so I’m a woman. I can’t tell you from a man’s perspective. I can tell you that in different years there’s been this perception that it’s been easier for one gender or the other, and it’s kind of switched over time. There’s a perception right now from the world that it’s easier for a man to find somebody and make this happen.
I will tell you that for anybody to make a decision to find your person to choose to get engaged, to choose to get married, is extremely difficult. To me, it’s the hardest thing that somebody is going to do.
You can get a job. You can move countries. You can learn another language. Oh, find a person. They love you, and you love them back. Sure, good luck! It’s not the easiest thing. It’s extremely challenging. I think that women are more equipped to build relationships. Men have more longevity and like a stick-to-itiveness in staying in relationships. I don’t know. It’s a toss-up to me.
TML: People are set in their ways, [such as] older couples, and it’s very difficult to get them to bend. How do you deal with that? And you do talk about that on the program with some people?
ABS: Yes, couples of any age have a problem, but the older we get the more life experience we have, and the more challenges we’ve already overcome, and the more set that we’ve already become in our ways, so bringing two people together becomes a greater challenge. And I’m always challenging people to make space in their world. So, if they have a bookshelf, I’ll tell them to take out ten books. Move them! Leave that blank! Somebody else is going to come in. They are going to put their books there. They are going to take up your space. So, I’m trying to physically and metaphorically teach people to make space in their lives for the other person.
TML: How well is that working?
ABS: A lot of people are really receptive to me, so in their own lives with other people I don’t know. When they work with me, I get a lot of positive responses from people who say, oh, that’s a good idea! I’ve been thinking about that. Let me try this.
And for me, it’s like clothing. We try it on for size. And either it works or it doesn’t, and then we try something else. So, if moving your books didn’t work for you, I’d tell you to move your toothbrush to the other side. Open and clear a drawer. Go into your cabinet and move all of your spices and make space and just leave some empty spaces. And internally, leave a space inside that’s not full so that somebody can come in and enrich and fulfill your life.
TML: As a news agency, we’re used to polling, but often polling is about something you want to get out and be heard, and not always answering the questions of the poll. So, when you are coming and trying to reach out to people to answer questions, are they answering the questions because they want to be heard on the show? Are they answering questions because, yes, they know that they are looking for a match? What’s happening in this equation? And, are they actually on the program just trying to be the glamorous self that they are because they’re on TV?
ABS: It’s a really good question. For me, I genuinely showed up, and I think that helped people to show up as themselves. I think that you see people after the show who are what they’re doing in the world. You’ll know who came for fame and who came for a match. I would say that a majority of the people really came to find their person, and they were genuinely curious about the process. Many people were not religious, and so this wasn’t a normal thing for them.
And Faye and Shaya, who were the couple who went out that were religious, in the religious circles it was very hard for us to find people who were willing to take a risk and to do television. [These] people don’t even own televisions. “We don’t even have a television in our home!” And you’re asking them to be on this thing that they don’t even own. So, it was a little bit of a challenge.
I think that when I was in person with people, almost all of them were genuine, and a few times I felt like, are you telling me the truth or are you saying that just to say that, but most of the time I actually felt that people were really genuine.
TML: You were really working with Jews from all over the world. You’re talking to people who are very different. Some religious, [and] some might have a parent that was Jewish and not Jewish. It’s kind of complex.
TML: So, how do you really dive through this? Give me some background. What does Aleeza really do when she’s preparing to talk to these people, and how are these people really chosen?
ABS: So, this for me is very normal because in my business, in my life, I work with Jewish singles of all ages, in all stages, and all backgrounds: 18, and my oldest client was 89. Like you said, one parent is Jewish, and the other one might not be very religious and completely living in a very different world.
So, for me, the types of people that I was meeting that was very normal. All of those people were typical clients that I might have or that might already exist in my database. And the process for me was very organic. I personally grew up secular, and then I became observant in my 20s, so I know the secular world, and I also know the religious world. So, for me, it’s very easy to relate to both, which is why I have clients in all different places.
Also, in terms of locations, my business has always been international. So, I used to live in Philadelphia. I moved to Israel, and it didn’t matter because I just switched my working hours to two o’clock in the morning now, so I can still reach the East Coast and West Coast.
I just had people from all over. It just was very normal for me to be working with people like this.
TML: But how did this cast sign up?
ABS: So, there was a casting call for Jewish singles around the world, and they had people apply, and they had hundreds of applications come in, and then everything got filtered down, and then there’s like the top 50, and then there’s the top 10, and the top 30, so we went through all of those. And Netflix, the production company, and I, myself, had input on who we would want to see on the show, and for me, it was who do I want to work with? Whom do I think I could help?
TML: Who is your audience? Looking at the market, Netflix is a secular market. Who is really watching?
ABS: So, I think really the secular marketplace is really the marketplace, and I would say also not necessarily the Jewish marketplace because we’re such a small population. If we’re going for that target market, we’re not hitting so many people. So, I really think that non-Jewish people around the world who are curious and want to take a deep dive into Jewish matchmaking will say, “Oh! That’s fascinating! Let me learn a little bit more about these people, their culture, what they do, and this ancient art of matchmaking.”
TML: What kind of response are you getting?
ABS: We have gotten a tremendously positive response. I was prepped to hear anything because as Jews, we receive a lot of anti-Semitism and a lot of challenges as we face the world. I was prepped to expect death threats and all sorts of crazy things. I told my husband that I didn’t know what was going to happen, but you have to be the guardian of our family and of our home. And we have had, I would say, an outpouring of love and blessings. And people are so warm and so receptive. They love the show. They love the people. They love, for me, that I’m nonjudgmental. I love and accept everybody I meet, and I work hard to find what they’re looking for. They’re fascinated by it. They think it’s fun; they think it’s playful. It’s been a tremendous reception for us.
TML: You, as a person, make the show, in a way. I think it’s not just your laugh that everyone’s come to know. It’s your persona. How has that changed you?
ABS: What’s interesting is that I am me, I always was me, and I have a healthy sense of self-esteem. I love myself, I appreciate who I am, and I’ve worked hard to become who I am. And it’s so nice to be doing what you love, and then other people get to see that and go, “Wow! That’s also great! We are so supportive of that.”
So, it’s everything that I’ve worked so hard to do, and then to get the support from lots, or millions, of other people that say, “Wow, we really love that,” it’s very satisfying. It’s everything that I always wanted to do, I’m doing, and then other people are going, “Yeah, you’re good at that. Stick with it; don’t change.”
TML: You have a family, five children, and there’s a lot of travel. How have they adapted?
ABS: They have been slowly getting used to the system. I’ve been away for two or three weeks, but no more than a month at a time. The month [I was away] was really hard. We kind of put boundaries around the travel and around when I am home, and we’re working really hard to integrate family life with work life. When I come home, I’m still also backed up with clients and meetings, and so it’s been a real transition for us because my husband went from being the one working full time and me being home, and slowly, over the years, we went 50-50, and now we’ve totally switched, he’s at home, and I’m out.
I think that there’s been an adjustment but we’re a very adaptable family, and we do things sometimes one-on-one; we’ll take out the kids, we’ll go out to dinner, we’ll go and get them whatever school uniforms they need, and I think that we’ve adapted gracefully. And I would say this is in large part due to my husband, who has been a solid foundation for us at home, and making sure that everything is running smoothly.
TML: The conception of families, in general, was that the husband is the breadwinner [and] the wife is the homemaker. And boy has that changed! It’s 2023, and you barely can make a living if you don’t have both spouses working, and women are vying for top jobs. So, how does that change when you are looking for a partner in life? And fitting that all in, what are the complexities that you’ve seen evolve over the years when you’re doing this?
ABS: We are talking with, or I am talking with my clients about, “Are you looking for a traditional family or a partnership model?” OK, traditional means the wife is staying home and the husband is going to work, or a partnership model [where] we’re both working out, and we’re both working in, whether it’s 50-50, 60-40, who knows what. We split all the chores, all the jobs, and the financial responsibilities.
So, for me professionally, we’re working very hard to understand what somebody wants, and if you’re looking for that traditional model, don’t go looking for a partner who still wants to stay in the workforce if you want them at home or vice versa. So, it’s been a bit of a discussion, and sometimes it’s a little bit of a toss-up like I don’t really want to be the one at home because it’s not my thing. She should be at home, but she also has to work. We’re living in these changing times. It is one of the big topics that we talk about.
TML: “Mystery in your history,” and you’ve heard it. These are your Aleezaisms. They’re amazing! They’re fun! Where did that come from?
ABS: I take all the things I regularly do with my clients, and I turn them into my Aleeza-isms so they are more memorable because I get more out of people when they know what I am talking about. It’s almost like my own language. When everybody speaks my language, we can have a great conversation; we can get to the root of what’s going on.
So, “mystery in your history” is this concept of looking back, either who I have dated, whom I have said I should have dated, or any combination of anyone from my past that exists before today. Can I bring [back] that old relationship and make it new? And I would say that 35% of the people that I work with are able to do that, and they end up marrying somebody that they already knew.
TML: Finding your soulmate is the essence of everything you’re doing.
TML: How many matches have you made? How many shidduchim, as they say, have you made?
ABS: I’ve helped over 200 people to get married, and I am constantly receiving emails and text messages from other people. “Oh, I listen to your podcast. And I took your advice. I didn’t work with you, but I kind of did, and you were in my ear the whole time. And I followed your, ‘Date ‘em till you hate ‘em’ [advice], or ‘When in doubt, don’t go out,’ and all of the things that you told me to do.”
TML: Do you go to all those weddings?
ABS: Not all of them. I wish! In spirit and through my heart, I’m there, but not physically.
TML: Let’s look at the professional career. The books, and what you’re doing, and these dating Zooms. You can’t do it all. So, looking ahead, where is Aleeza heading?
ABS: So, looking ahead, I really do want to help as much of the world as possible, Jewish, or non-Jewish, it doesn’t matter. I like that the concepts I have are made for the world. In terms of matchmaking, if I’m going to set two people up, my matchmaking network is a Jewish base. That’s where I have my foothold, but in terms of the wisdom that I want to share in terms of how to have a happy and healthy relationship, it is through books, it is through more programs, it is through courses.
We have a course coming up soon called 40 Days of Connection, and it’s all about connecting with yourself and this future partner, the one you haven’t met yet, but how to connect that. How to be magnetic. How to bring that energy so that person is drawn to you. So, my long-term goal is to build a high enough awareness that we have enough people choosing to find a partner and live a beautiful life with that partner and that they have all of the tools that they need.
TML: Too many people look at the love aspect, not the like aspect, and why is that?
ABS: That’s a really good point! Love is this overarching feeling that we want to have and need. It is within us when we come into the world as babies. If we don’t receive love, not just like, but love, we start to rock and physically soothe ourselves. It is within us physiologically that we need to be loved, and we need to give love. And so, we need that, but people forget that I must live with you, and living with you means I need to like you.
TML: Back to your toothbrush [analogy].
ABS: Right! So, I need to like you. I need to be connected to you, and even if I love you, but I don’t like you today, OK, so I’ll make it work tomorrow. But there has to be enough like to make it work because we have to live our lives together and it’s not easy to do when I don’t really like you.
TML: Are people coming, like other matchmakers, coming to you who are not Jewish saying I have these same problems in my community, in the Arab community, in the Christian community, and what advice do you have?
ABS: Yes! So, I think that relationships are universal. I think the way that we interact is the same. What our faith-based preferences are, that’s where the nuance is, but we are all facing the same things.
There are groups online that I’m a part of with matchmakers, and when we bring up topics, everybody’s like, “Oh yeah, me too! Me too!” We’re all on the same page. We’re having the same challenges, and I think it’s fascinating because, like, “Oh, is only this a Jewish problem? No, this is everybody’s problem! We can’t find the one.”
There’s a whole world of people, and now I have access to them more than I ever did. And why is it that fewer people get married, and at an older age and not at a younger age? Why is everything backward? We have more options. You would think more options equals more matches, but it’s not true.
TML: How did you meet your own husband?
ABS: We met at a Jewish single’s retreat where we met but didn’t start dating.
TML: It sounds like my story. In a way. In a way.
ABS: We left to meet other people. It didn’t work out with those people, and then we started dating after that.
TML: Can you meet somebody on a first date and know they’re the one?
ABS: Some people can, not many. Maybe 10-15% of people might know that, but a majority of people cannot.
TML: Aleeza Ben Shalom, what fun! I wish you much success! And I definitely want to know if Netflix’s [Season] 2 [of Jewish Matchmaking] is coming out.
ABS: We’re hanging on. I want to know also!
TML: Thank you!
ABS: Thank you!