Aleeza Ben Shalom, the host of the new Netflix Series Jewish Matchmaking – a programme where Jewish singles employ the help of Aleeza to help them find a partner – appeared on the most recent episode of Podcast Against Antisemitism where she spoke about the role that antisemitism played in the show, and urged people to take action against Jew-hatred.
Cindy, one of the women on the show, revealed that one of the motivating factors behind why she wants to marry someone Jewish is because of the antisemitism that her family has had to endure. She went on to say that her grandfather had survived the Holocaust and that her great-grandmother fled Libya with gold in her bra in order to preserve her Judaism.
Ms Ben Shalom said on the podcast that it was “tremendous” that Cindy was willing to speak candidly about her family’s experiences with antisemitism. However, Ms Ben Shalom noted that she was not surprised that these were motivating factors for Cindy, as she has come across similar sentiments throughout her career.
The matchmaker said: “I work with people from all over the world, so I will often hear things like ‘Of course I need a Jewish partner. Around here, who else is going to marry you? I’m not in a place where it’s safe to even marry outside of being Jewish. I have to.’”
Speaking on how the rise in antisemitism has impacted Jewish singles’ dating preferences, Ms Ben Shalom noted: “I think now people have an awareness of ‘I may not be accepted by somebody else’s family because I’m Jewish, and so it’s probably going to be easier for me, instead of walking into another culture or another background, and trying to explain myself and why it’s okay and why it’s okay that our kids are going to also be Jewish…’ People have all of these thoughts.”
Recent statistics have shown that, in the United States, antisemitism is at the highest that it has been in over 40 years.
Ms Ben Shalom said: “40 years ago, it was at a high point. Now, again, it’s at a high point. I think there was a middle lull where, ‘Eh, we’re not super concerned, it doesn’t matter.’ Now, we’re in the ‘Oh my gosh, I either have to hide my Judaism again or I have to make sure to marry within the faith, or else this relationship isn’t going to sustain the larger family I’m marrying into.’”
Jewish Matchmaking also challenged viewers on their perceptions of Jews by introducing them to Nakysha, a Jewish woman with Black ancestry who raised questions of what a Jew is “supposed to look like”.
“We have people that are born Jewish that are Black, or of any origin or background. As you know, Jews are in almost every country in the world, we’re all over the place,” Ms Ben Shalom said. “I think there’s a stereotypical ‘Jewish picture’ of what a Jew looks like and I think, if anything, this show said ‘No, actually you’re wrong. There is no stereotypical Jew. We look different, we sound different, sometimes we speak many different languages. If you’re Jewish, you’re Jewish, and none of those other things matter.”
“We haven’t seen that enough in the media to realise how diverse we are in the people,” she said, before imploring Jews to “Stand proud and stand tall.”
Ms Ben Shalom went on to encourage people to stand up against antisemitism.
She stated: “Get educated. What is the battle that we’re fighting? Why are we fighting it? And how can we overcome the challenges that are in front of us? When we activate our curiosity about something, we learn something, and then we do something. My advice is to get curious and learn.
“Activate your knowledge and then activate your body, your hands, your feet, and make an impact in the world, by doing something, by saying something. Support those who are fighting antisemitism, but do something with the wisdom you have once you have it. Listen and do. Listen, learn, find out what you need to know, do something, make an act in the world. In this world, we need action, immediately, as fast as possible.”
Podcast Against Antisemitism, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, talks to a different guest about antisemitism each week. It streams every Thursday and is available through all major podcast apps and YouTube. You can also subscribe to have new episodes sent straight to your inbox.
Image credit: Netflix