“Date ’em till you hate ’em!” Aleeza Ben Shalom, the Jewish matchmaker, offers her number one rule of dating repeatedly throughout the 2023 Netflix reality series Jewish Matchmaking. And in modern times, where pickiness and engaging in serial, shallow dating relationships is the norm, this is just one bit of countercultural advice offered by the American-born Orthodox Jew who travels the world helping couples “get to the chuppah.”
Note: A chuppah is the canopy under which a traditional Jewish couple is married, which brings us to point #1 …
MARRIAGE IS THE GOAL
Date with the goal of marriage in mind: “Dating with no intention of marriage is like going into a store without a plan to buy anything — you’re either going to waste your time or take something that’s not yours.” This saying that’s made its way to memes and homilies certainly stands to be repeated, and Jewish Matchmaking infuses such wisdom throughout all its eight shows.
The Israel-based matchmaker Ben Shalom will only work with individuals who are serious about finding a partner in order to get married. Many times throughout the series, she questions a candidate’s commitment to the dating process resulting in marriage; and in several instances, Ben Shalom dissuades certain individuals from continuing.
HAVE AN IDEA, BUT BE OPEN
Write down what you want in a spouse but try to be flexible: While Ben Shalom encourages individuals to write down a list of their “must haves” in a partner — from looks to personality to sharing in certain religious practices — she guides her participants to be flexible, to “give and take,” particularly about temporal, physical qualities in a potential spouse, which often change over time anyway. One only has to watch a few episodes to see the folks who take her advice end up being the most successful.
REACH OUT FOR HELP
Years ago, when online dating first emerged, many people were embarrassed to use it, or to admit to using it. But attitudes have shifted dramatically over time. Now, so many successful marriages can trace their origins to sites like CatholicMatch, and many singles are taking notice. Culturally, Catholics don’t have matchmakers like Ben Shalom, but there seems to be a growing positive attitude about religious matchmaking websites – predicated upon the understanding that folks who use them are committed to finding a spouse and to being a good partner.
Many dioceses or Catholic groups also organize social events where people have a chance to meet and mingle with believers of the opposite sex. Many spouses have met at Theology on Tap talks or at events organized by young adult outreach initiatives like catholicnyc.
INVOLVE YOUR WIDER CIRCLE OF RELATIONSHIPS
While not all the individuals on Jewish Matchmaking involve their families in the dating process, the participants in the show who do involve their families appear to have a deeper, more meaningful experience.
Often, the parents take part in the interview process and help vet potential partners. Ben Shalom certainly encourages such participation: “You don’t marry an individual,” she explains in so many words, “but a whole family.”
Of course, many of us come from broken families or situations where the influence of one’s family is not necessarily welcome. In this case, consider sensible ways you might incorporate close friends or a trusted priest in the dating process — for instance, by sharing a meal together at an appropriate moment.
The key here is understanding the fact that none of us lives in isolation. Rather, the family or community of one’s origin when one begins the dating process will have a direct impact on that relationship.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE ENTIRE HUMAN PERSON
While not all of the ideas expressed in Jewish Matchmaking are worth embracing, the positive far outweighs the negative. For example, a few participants share objectifying attitudes about the opposite sex that don’t keep with Catholic teaching. But Ben Shalom’s own personal testimony of getting to know her husband before they were married harkens to Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. The late Holy Father’s encouragement “to treat each person as an object of love, rather than an object for use” is apparent in Ben Shalom’s description of her courtship in a way that truly sends shivers.
Jewish Matchmaking is rated TV-14 and is available via streaming on Netflix. Season Two will be released in May 2024.
And as always, we welcome you to share your thoughts on the series and its dating lessons in the comments!