Cindy Seni of Netflix’s ‘Jewish Matchmaking’ says the reality show changed her approach to dating

Cindy Seni
Canadian cast member Cindy Seni, 28, appears in an episode of the Netflix series "Jewish Matchmaking" while out on a first date with Daniel, a Tel Aviv technology sector worker. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix ©2023)

The Canadian star of Netflix’s new Jewish Matchmaking reality TV series, Cindy Seni, isn’t ready to reveal whether she found true love in the first season of the show, which debuted May 3.

But the former Thornhill, Ont. resident is already receiving fan mail from Jewish parents around the world who admire her decision to search for her “bashert” by using the services of the professional Orthodox Jewish matchmaker featured in the show.

“You and every single one of my Jewish friends’ mothers are saying the same thing,” Seni said during our interview from her home in Jerusalem, after I mused half-jokingly that maybe my children should apply to be on the next season.

Jewish Matchmaking follows a cast of diverse Jewish singles, based in Israel and the United States, who try to improve their dating success by abandoning romance apps in favour of asking a traditional religious shadchan to help them.

The producers hired Aleeza Ben Shalom, an American who made aliyah, like Seni did. The matchmaker claims to have arranged 200 successful marriages. Some of her catchphrases include “Date him ‘till you hate him”, and “There’s a mystery in your history.”

Using a matchmaker to find serious candidates

Consulting a matchmaker was not completely foreign to Seni: the 28-year-old social media content creator had tried one several years ago, but didn’t click with the shadchan. At the time, she decided not to proceed beyond the initial interview.

When Netflix reached out to Seni before filming began in the summer of 2022, she had just come out of a three-year-long relationship. It had ended shortly after she and her then-fiancé decided to get engaged. The idea of using a matchmaker was appealing, because they would propose only serious candidates who had been carefully vetted.

“I said to myself, ‘If anyone could find your husband, it’s definitely going to be Netflix’.”

Since moving to Jerusalem from Canada in 2018, Seni has mainly relied on dating apps to meet new people. She describes her experiences with Israeli men as “fun”, in quotation marks, because although she had found plenty of hot guys “with abs” on these sites, most are reluctant to make a commitment.

“That’s one of the main things about being in Israel is that people live each day as if it’s their last,” Seni said. “They just really don’t think about that long term, they’re just thinking about today.”

Cindy Seni
Cindy Seni, originally of Thornhill, Ont., appears in the second episode of the Netflix reality dating show “Jewish Matchmaking”, which premiered on May 3. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix © 2023)

Canadian roots

Seni spoke to The CJN Daily while her adopted country was currently experiencing a few days of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza that have seen hundreds of projectiles launched into southern and central Israel.

She said the tension and imminent threats from the incoming rockets haven’t prevented Jewish Matchmaking from being among the most watched shows on Netflix in Israel, since the eight episodes dropped.

The show was also in the top ten in Canada, which pleases Seni immensely since Netflix cut out anything that identifies her as Canadian, much to her great disappointment.

“It’s funny because a few people messaged me saying, ‘Oh, we can tell by the accent’ so at least there’s that,” Seni said.

The show was filmed in the summer of 2022, during COVID. That certainly played a role in Seni’s on-screen social life, because two of the three men she was supposed to be fixed up with tested positive. The two had to drop out and Seni never saw them or even learned their identities.

She did go out on two dates with an Israeli technology worker: Daniel from Tel Aviv. The 34-year-old took her to an art gallery, but didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. They talked about adoption and other potentially deal-breaker topics. But when Daniel showed up late for their second date, and didn’t give her enough of an explanation for why, she was “#CindyOut”, as she likes to call breaking it off with men.

It didn’t take much for Seni to get used to having her every move captured by a camera crew while out on her dates, or meeting with the matchmaker. She’s comfortable being in the spotlight: in her day job, she produces social media content for Brothers for Life, an Israeli charity that helps injured veterans of the Israel Defense Forces.

She also runs her own private business as an influencer called IsraelwithCindy, where she posts about life since making aliyah. Seni has nearly 20,000 followers on Instagram, including a few thousand who have become fans only since the show debuted.

Netflix showcasing diversity of Jews

Aside from her own journey on the show, Seni feels the Netflix series is playing an important role by introducing viewers to a diverse group of Jewish people, in contrast to the family dramas set in the closed world of the haredi community in previous hit shows like Shtisel or Unorthodox.

Jewish Matchmaking has a range of cast members including Seni, who describes herself as somewhere between modern Orthodox and traditional; a Reform Jew of colour; and even an Orthodox candidate who had to get permission from a rabbi before participating.

“Like 15 years ago, to have someone like me on the show, someone of a Sephardic heritage, it probably wouldn’t have been done. So, I’m very, very proud of them for that,” she said.

Seni’s family has roots in Tunisia, Italy and in France, where she was born. The shooting in Tunisia that killed worshippers at the ancient El Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba last week hit close to home.

“My family comes from Djerba and has lived for thousands of years in that synagogue.”

Left France for safety in Canada

By 2000, her parents decided they could no longer live openly as Jews in France, because they felt the growing intolerance and antisemitism. The family of six moved to Toronto, when Seni was just six years old.

In Canada, Seni embraced the freedom to live proudly as a Jewish girl. She founded a Jewish student club at Langstaff Secondary School, then a Hillel branch on her university campus.

It was while completing her undergraduate degree in psychology at Glendon, the French-language campus of York University, that Seni took on the anti-Israel protesters and the student newspaper at the larger Keele campus over a controversial mural painted in 2012 in the student centre. It depicts a man wearing a keffiyeh who is holding rocks and looking at a field and a bulldozer. On his back is a Palestinian flag and a map of Israel.

After a stint working in public diplomacy for the Israel Consulate in Toronto, Seni chose to immigrate to Israel in 2018. At first, her parents weren’t keen on the idea.

“My dad told me, ‘If you want to move to Israel, you need either a job, a husband or money.’ I said, ‘Listen, I don’t have any, I’m going anyway’,” Seni tells the matchmaker when they first meet.

It was important to her to join her older sister Shirley, who immigrated first. Their brother David, a lawyer, followed in 2020.

Seni’s parents still live in Thornhill. Her father Pascal, runs a Paris-based fashion house producing women’s accessories. Cindy and her two sisters appear as models for the shoes and handbags on the company website.

Her mother, Missou Ventura Seni, is a retired teacher now working as a writer of children’s books.

Why modern dating is so hard

Seni revealed that her parents’ own love story also began thanks to a matchmaker.

Back in the day when her parents were fixed up, they didn’t have other options and they made a marriage of it and were very happy, Seni said.

She thinks it’s hard for modern young Jewish singles to find Mr. or Mrs. Right because social media and dating apps like Tinder or Jdate give people too much choice.

“This idea that we can always find better,” she explained. “You go on the apps, and you see one guy is hotter than the other. “

Being on the Netflix show and working with the matchmaker changed the way Seni approaches her dating life. The matchmaker felt that Seni was sabotaging her relationships, by breaking it off too quickly. Now, whenever she feels the urge to end things, or she feels bored, or their values simply don’t align, she has to check in with the matchmaker first.

“I have to call her and break up with her first,” Seni said, explaining that she has to rehearse the break up with her matchmaker. “And then we can talk about whether or not it’s a valid reason.”

Only dating Jewish

For her part, Seni has never dated anyone who is not Jewish, and won’t consider it. Partly because her grandfather is a Holocaust survivor, and partly because a great-grandmother fled from Libya “with gold in her bra” to keep her Judaism.

“For me, it’s such a beautiful religion and culture and there’s so much there. I want to be a part of the miracle that continues that,” she said.

Although she lives right across from the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem, Seni has not participated in any of the street protests that have engulfed Israel for the past five months. She declined to reveal whether she supports or opposes the efforts by Israel’s right-wing government to curtail the power of the judiciary.

Saying all the demonstrators look the same to her—both sides carry Israeli flags and they both sing songs, she said—Seni would like a solution found that everyone can live with.

“Whatever side you’re on at the end of the day, we’re Jews and we need to be united,” she said.

Relationship status?

While that debate continues, fans of the show are now obsessing online about whether Seni did wind up meeting someone special in Season 1. While her dates with Daniel didn’t continue, she has been photographed since the show came out with cast member Noah Del Monte, an Italian Jew who also immigrated to Israel.

The pair attended a watch party for the season premiere, and one U.K.-based news outlet ran a story that the two are together.

Seni didn’t confirm or deny it to The CJN, but she has announced in one of her Instagram posts that she is in a relationship and will give more details soon.

With the current hostilities now in Israel, she’s decided to postpone the big reveal for the time being.

“You’ll have to stay tuned.”