(New York Jewish Week) — Aleeza Ben Shalom, star of the Netflix hit “Jewish Matchmaking,” stood in the middle of a tight circle of fans — both men and women, young and old — doling out dating advice. Maintaining the same warmth she displays on her TV show, Ben Shalom spoke to as many people as she could as mothers pushed their daughters to the front of the line, single women hung on her every word and superfans asked for hugs and selfies.
Ben Shalom, who lives in Israel, was in New York on Wednesday night to make an appearance at a promotional, sold-out event for the series as well as her book, “Get Real, Get Married.” Some 200 people filled the auditorium at The Town School on the Upper East Side, having paid $54 for a ticket (or $72 if they wanted to attend the VIP meet-and-greet beforehand).
“Thanks everybody for watching the show — you watched the show right? We can’t get a season two unless you watched all the episodes,” Ben Shalom quipped as she greeted the crowd from the auditorium’s stage.
A dating reality show, “Jewish Matchmaking” premiered on Netflix on May 3 to much fanfare. Created by the same team behind the streaming service’s hit “Indian Matchmaking,” “Jewish Matchmaking” spotlights a diverse group of Jews who are looking for love in Israel and across the United States. Viewers watch as Ben Shalom tries to set folks up with their bashert — soulmate — and explains Yiddish/Hebrew words and Jewish customs while doling out gentle, sensible dating advice.
As for the reason for the show’s success, “There’s everything from the girl that doesn’t want to marry someone that eats bacon, to someone like me who wants someone that prays three times a day in shul,” Brooklynite Fay Brezel, one of the show’s Orthodox stars, told the New York Jewish Week. “I think that’s what people really love about the show: It makes everybody proud to be Jewish no matter where you are with it.”
On Wednesday, Ben Shalom and Brezel were joined onstage by several other members of the cast, including Shaya Rosenberg, whom Brezel briefly dated on the show, as well as Miami resident and eyebrow expert Dani Bergman; Sephardic event organizer David Behar of Miami; Los Angeles-based “unicorn” Harmonie Krieger; outdoorsy Noah Dreyfus of Denver (and Jackson Hole) and Chicago musician Stuart Chaseman.
As for the audience, it skewed female — though like the cast of the show, they represented a diverse cross-section of Jews, including Sephardic, Israeli and Ashkenazi, as well as Reform, haredi Orthodox and everything in between.
Attendees’ reasons for buying a ticket to the event were just as varied. One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she came to the event because the show moved her so much. “I am not a reality TV person at all,” she said. “I just felt so inspired by the show. Aleeza was such a warm, positive presence to see on Netflix, and she gave me so much hope for myself that I’ll be able to find someone and so much hope for the Jewish people.”
And yet the woman, who lives in New York, said she also hoped to ask Ben Shalom for dating advice.
Others came to meet and praise their favorite cast members. “I have never felt more validated in my life,” one viewer gushed to Bergman. (Bergman, for her part, told the New York Jewish Week that hearing such sentiments has been the best and most unexpected part of the show.)
More than a few single women were sent to the event at the behest of their worried Jewish parents. “I’m young, I’m 24, I have a lot of great things going on in my life,” said Yael Chanukov, a Manhattan-based actress who recently appeared in two episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. “But my parents are so concerned about me finding someone. They bought me the ticket, sent me the email confirmation and said I had to ask Aleeza for advice.”
Chanukov came solo, though she said she would have brought her roommate if she had been in town. “I really loved the show, so I am happy to be here regardless,” she added.
Another woman who wished to remain anonymous said that her parents in Long Island watched the show and immediately bought her tickets to the event, telling her she had to talk to Ben Shalom about her dating life. “I had nothing going on tonight and I live nearby. I’m single, so I figured, why not?” she shrugged. “Anything could help.”
As for the advice Ben Shalom gave her? “She told me to stay open and stay hopeful,” the woman said.
Sacha-Aviva Sellam, 30, came because she was inspired by the diversity of Jewish experiences on the show. “I loved the show and found it very relatable,” Selam, who is of North African descent, told the New York Jewish Week. “[Ben Shalom] had a sensibility for all Jews, and Netflix was careful to include and uplift everyone — not just the ultra-Orthodox or the stereotypical ‘bagels and lox’ Jewish experience, which is not me.”
“I’m not here specifically because I’m single, but would I like it very much if I happened to meet someone here somehow? Of course,” she joked.
During the event, guests got to hear from the cast about their favorite parts of the show — for Brezel, it has been messages to her that people have become more observant after watching. “When was the last time that you heard somebody say that they are going to be more careful with mitzvot after watching something on Netflix?” she said. “I don’t think that’s ever happened.”
Behind-the-scenes details that weren’t filmed or didn’t make the final cut were also shared — like Krieger’s vulnerable, late-night calls with Ben Shalom; Dreyfus taking Ben Shalom on a six-mile hike in Jackson Hole; Brezel’s mother baking the production team cookies in Brooklyn, and Ben Shalom helping Bergman hang a mezuzah on the doorpost of her Miami home.
During a Q&A session, everything was on the table. One man jokingly asked Bergman to rate his eyebrows — she gave him a solid 7.5. A young woman of Orthodox background asked Brezel how to be more vulnerable with matchmakers. The answer? It’s not necessary, Brezel responded, unless they are someone with whom you have a genuine connection — like Ben Shalom.
Of course, Ben Shalom delivered on what had brought so many there that evening: She shared her best dating tips, including that connection starts the moment you walk in the room — so present your best self inside and outside. She even brought some audience members on the stage for live matchmaking. Four volunteers from the audience — all women — were invited on stage; other audience members asked questions about their lives and dating preferences. After a few rounds of questions, Ben Shalom asked if anyone in the room knew of a good match — and, Jewish geography being what it is, four women headed into the evening with the contact information of three or four potential dates.
“I didn’t think I’d have so much fun during this experience — I feel like I’m more of like a type-A personality but [“Jewish Matchmaking”] really brought out my fun side,” Brezel, who brought friends and family friends to the event, told the New York Jewish Week. “Everywhere I go people are stopping me and asking for selfies. It’s such a crazy experience.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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