Make me a match

Meet the matchmaker

“They keep swiping until they find the perfect look. Nine out of 10 are not what they look like," says Jewish matchmaker Toby Lieder.

Photo: SBS
Photo: SBS

“Matchmaker matchmaker make me a match” – that is the premise of this new SBS documentary The Matchmakers, whose first episode aired on Valentine’s Day. Capitalising on the success of other hit matchmaking shows such as Netflix’s Jewish Matchmaking and Indian Matchmaking, the documentary follows matchmakers in Australia from the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu communities as they try to find love for their singles who are eager to marry within their faith.

The show covers the whole dating journey from interviews with the matchmaker to establish what they are looking for, to awkward first dates and sensitive negotiations as relationships progress. It is also interesting to see the similarities and differences between the approaches to matchmaking in the different communities.

Regarding matchmaking in the Jewish community, the documentary follows Orthodox Sydney Jewish matchmaker Toby Lieder, who has made over 100 matches, resulting in over 400 children. Lieder is well known in Sydney as the leading matchmaker or shadchan, and has been married for over 46 years, and has 14 children and over 40 grandchildren.

In this documentary, Lieder’s warmth and patience is displayed as she searches for matches for Becki, who are traditionally Jewish, but not Orthodox.

Speaking to The AJN, Lieder said that today matchmaking is no longer just in the realm of the Orthodox community, and that it has become “more popular” with people from traditional and secular Jewish backgrounds.

She believes interest in matchmaking has increased because many people feel that the dating apps are not real, that they “are superficial and not safe”. Lieder believes many are fed up with dating apps because many people on the apps “are often looking for fun and not for mar- riage”, while noting that matchmaking is about getting married.

In the show, Lieder said she suspects that dating apps are the reason why there are so many singles today, “They keep swiping until they find the perfect look. Nine out of 10 are not what they look like.” She notes that 20 years ago nobody saw a photo when matching and that it is “so much better that way”, because “How can you tell from a photo? How can you feel from a photo?”

The frustration with dating apps is also felt by Jewish doctor Becki, who at 30 is looking to find love within the community. She said in the program, “I think it is very important to marry within the community. Being a Jewish woman even if I do marry a non-Jew, my children will still be Jewish and that’s important to me, but I do want to raise them Jewish, and I feel that would be easier with a Jewish partner.”

In the first episode, Becki said she found it hard to date in the Jewish community having attended a non-Jewish school, feeling that she was an “outsider” and that the community could be “cliquey”. Regarding Jewish dating app JSwipe, she said, “There’s just not that many people on it.” She also laments the ways in which people have become quick to judge in modern dating, commenting, “People are very much like ‘I didn’t feel we clicked’ after an hour. And I’m like, ‘how do you know?’ Sometimes it takes me an hour to decide what to eat for dinner.”

Photo: SBS

Lieder believes the secret to effective dating is having clarity as to what you are looking for, and being prepared to have “five deal-breakers”. For her clients, Lieder conducts a two-hour interview to ascertain their five deal-breakers.

Moreover, her advice to one of the matches before her first date with a match is good advice for anyone dating, she tells her, “Be vulnerable, take down all the walls,” and “Try to imagine this could be a possible match” while noting the main motto should be “What have I got to lose?”

Lieder is not only a matchmaker but also offers coaching for dating and relationships. She told The AJN that the secret to a happy relationship is “respect for each other” in public and private, and having a “union of two forgivers” being able to forgive easily.

The Matchmakers also offers a window into the cultural traditions of each community. Lieder is often eloquently explaining Jewish customs and speaks of the importance of making matches for Jewish continuity. It films her hosting a meal for her large family, and a visit to her daughter’s wig salon to have her sheitel adjusted.

The show explains that for Lieder, matchmaking is much more than dating; it is about making sure the Jewish com- munity thrives. Lieder said, “The beginning of the Torah … says be fruitful and multiply, that’s one of the command- ments of the Jewish people. So that’s our mission getting married and having children, and as many as we are able.”

She believes that matchmaking is a way to serve God. Lieder said in the first episode, “I’m telling you that God is my partner … Who could wish for a better boss and partner than God? Because he puts the ideas in my head.”

The other matchmakers in this documentary are Sheikh Alaa Elzokm, who facilitates marriages in Melbourne’s Muslim community; and Preeti and Heena, who match couples from Indian families.

The documentary looks at this ‘traditional’ form of dating, and asks, in light of high divorce rates and fatigue with online dating apps, can more be learned from this traditional approach that places weight on values rather than leaving love to chance?

The Matchmakers is heartwarming and entertaining, allowing us a front row seat into the private world of matchmaking, providing insight into love, marriage and culture in contemporary Australia.

All three episodes of The Matchmakers are available to stream free on SBS on Demand, with episodes airing weekly at 8.40pm on SBS. 

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