(Jewish News)

Author: Mala Blomquist

Matchmaking is an ancient tradition in Jewish culture, first recorded in the Torah. On May 3, Netflix turned the spotlight onto that tradition, known as shidduch in the Orthodox world, with the premier of “Jewish Matchmaking.”

The show follows matchmaker Aleeza Ben Shalom as she modifies the Orthodox model to help Jewish singles — Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, as well as secular — find their forever partner. Over the past 15 years, Ben Shalom has successfully led more than 200 Jewish singles to engagement.

Scottsdale sisters Ophir and Tav Gross, willing to try things the “old-fashioned way,” appear in episodes six and eight, respectively, of the new reality show.

The Gross family are members of Congregation Beth Tefillah in Scottsdale and Ophir, 30, attended the Phoenix Hebrew Academy and the now-closed Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School. Tav, 24, went to Pardes Jewish Day School in Scottsdale and then graduated from Chaparral High School. She just completed her master’s and, after an internship and passing a board exam, will become a registered dietitian in 2024.

Their Israeli mother, Avital (Tali) Gross, also known as Morah Tali, has been a Hebrew teacher at Pardes Jewish Day School for 20 years. “I feel like she’s probably taught half of the community’s children at one point,” joked Ophir. “We’re so rooted in the community.”

In March 2022, Ophir was on a Facebook singles group page when she saw a post that the new Netflix show was accepting casting applications. After researching whether the person who created the post and the company she worked for were legitimate, Ophir applied.

“They asked a few questions, asked for a bio and asked me to submit some pictures and my social media profiles,” she said. “So, I did all that and about a month went by and I didn’t hear anything.”

A real estate agent (Ophir writes a monthly column for Jewish News’ Home Services special section), Ophir saw a California number come through on her phone and, thinking it was from a listing agent, she answered. Instead, it was a call from the casting company.

That phone interview lasted for over an hour; she made it to round two and an additional phone interview. After that, she did a video interview “to make sure I was suitable for TV,” she said.

The show called her back and informed her she had made it back to the final round and she would need to do a psychological screening. “I did that. and they were like, ‘You’re approved, everything looks good.’” said Ophir. “They told me, ‘We’re probably going to be filming in the summertime. We’ll keep you updated.’”

The sisters were in Israel, where they go most summers to visit family in Afula, when Ophir received an email telling her that they were getting close to starting filming and wanted her to connect with the matchmaker.

Through correspondence with Ben Shalom, Ophir discovered that she was only a 30-minute car ride from where her home is in Israel, so instead of doing a video call they agreed to meet at the matchmaker’s house.

“I decided to bring my mother and my two sisters with me to her house because it’s not every day that you meet a matchmaker,” said Ophir. “She was so sweet, welcoming and warm. We were talking a little bit and then she turned to my two sisters and said, ‘How would you two like to be on the show also?’”

Roni, the middle sister, immediately declined the offer.

“Ophir is the most extroverted. She is made for this kind of stuff. She is the oldest, the protector and the go getter and Roni and I are a little shyer,” said Tav. “I was nervous but thinking, ‘What are the odds that Hashem would bring us in this situation and this opportunity?’ So, I said yes.”

Three weeks after that meeting, Tav was filming her segment in Tel Aviv; Ophir followed in August 2022, filming in Miami. At the time of this interview, neither was free to discuss the show’s outcome.

Both the sisters shared that they had never been in a relationship where they felt the guy could be “the one” and they talked about what they were looking for in a partner.

“Tav and I grew up very traditional and Israeli,” said Ophir, “So, both of us would prefer to be with someone who’s also a little bit more traditional and does Shabbat dinner.”

“I would say we are very deep in the culture and the tradition — and Israel in general,” added Tav.

Ben Shalom matched Tav with Noah Del Monte, 25, an Israeli army veteran and diplomat’s son from Italy who now lives in Israel.

Tav and Del Monte’s first date took place at Ben Shalom’s home and their second date was at a restaurant/bar. She was surprised by how genuine and authentic the whole experience was.

This article originally appeared on the Jewish News. To read more, please click HERE.

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