Mark your calendars Edmonton! Matchmaker Aleeza Ben Shalom is coming!

By Regan Treewater-Lipes

(AJNews) – Jewish viewers the world over, and secular audiences alike, fell in love with the disarming smile and enchanting nature of Aleeza Ben Shalom after her Netflix series of eight episodes, Jewish Matchmaking, premiered to rave reviews in 2023.  Chatter about the addictive series, and conversations about the best and worst dating behaviors on the show quickly spread from Jewish community events to office water-cooler-gossip.

I first heard about the series from a non-Jewish friend in a middle-of-the-night text message. The next morning, I was hooked! In the past I have been rather critical, and at times a bit dismayed by some Jewish portrayals in popular media, but Aleeza Ben Shalom’s genuine personality, and sincerity were exactly what I had been craving in Jewish television. I was moved by how she approached Jews of all demographics with acceptance and respect. To me, she embodied all the best qualities of Jewish observance, and I was thrilled that this image was finally being projected to a larger audience.

It has been said that one should avoid meeting celebrities or prominent figures that they look up to; what if reality fails to meet expectations, would that not be heartbreaking? Well, at five o’clock on a gloomy Sunday morning, I had the opportunity and pleasure to have a Zoom call with Aleeza in anticipation of her upcoming visit to Edmonton for a community event on April 7, and she is even kinder, gracious, and more uplifting in real-life than on screen – if that is possible.

The tradition of shidduch (matchmaking) in Jewish culture is a sacred one. To bring two Jews together in the union of marriage is a sacred undertaking.  This is a time-honoured tradition with ancient roots. Within Jewish communities the vocation of ‘matchmaker’ is revered and commands respect. In an interview with the Alberta Jewish News, Ben Shalom admitted that even before she officially became a matchmaker, she enjoyed setting people up. The first match she made was between a friend and coworker while at the University of Pittsburgh, and the two are still married to this day. “There is so much more to it than bringing singles together,” she explained. “There is a lot to factor into looking at compatibility.”

Matchmaking seems like it would be so much more difficult in a city like Edmonton though, where the Jewish community is so small. Ben Shalom contends though that “there are eighteen million Jews in the world, and about eighteen million different ways to be Jewish.” She notes that all her events are different: “I always plan based on the community I’m visiting.” Ben Shalom anticipates that for Edmonton, this will mean that she will try to help the community at large learn how to be successful matchmakers themselves. “I want to empower individuals,” she noted humbly.

What is unique about Ben Shalom’s approach is that she serves Jews from a wide spectrum of observance. “At this point in my life I’ve spent almost an equal amount of time in the secular world and the frum world,” she explained. “So, I can understand both.” And if the cast of characters, eccentric and endearing, from her show are any indication, she is absolutely right. “My husband was only the second religious man I dated,” she added. The two now live in Israel, having made Aliyah in 2020, and have been blessed with five children between the ages of ten and twenty. Their oldest currently serves in the IDF as an IT specialist, and the Ben Shaloms could not be prouder. “The IDF is fighting for our home, and matchmakers like me are fighting to make sure there will be Jews to live in that home.”

When asked about how she has managed to build such a tremendously successful career while raising five children and maintaining a household, Ben Shalom commented: “I always knew I wanted to be a wife and mother. I made sure that I built my career around my kids. I would get on calls after their bedtimes and made sure that my work didn’t interfere with their schedules and their needs.” Now her children are older, and with Ben Shalom’s exploding success she is home for a month followed by two weeks on the road. In the last year she has visited fifty-five different cities, while her husband stays home to take care of their kids, their dog, and new puppy.

If you are yet to be convinced that attending this community-wide event on April 7 is a valuable use of your time, remember that this is not just for singles. “We need the married people there,” Ben Shalom declared emphatically. “We need people of all ages.” Reform or frum, young or old, these Jewish teachings for healthy and happy relationships are something to feed the soul.

Baruch Hashem, I have been married for almost fifteen years, my husband and I have three incredible children, and Aleeza’s wisdom still speaks to me. After I would not stop talking about how inspiring it was to speak to Aleeza on that sleepy Sunday morning, my husband and oldest son, Benji, started watching the show. In no time they were yelling at the TV protesting decisions made by potential suitors and declaring their support for others.

Aleeza is a voice that speaks to anyone and everyone; her positivity is infectious, and if you have not yet found your ‘person’ (an Aleeza term) or your bashert, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Email Rebbetzin Rifka Drelich and reserve your ticket today – it will be an event everyone will be talking about, so do not miss out!

Regan Treewater-Lipes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.

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