Wedding First, Love Later: New Doc Explores Jewish Arranged Marriages

Should compatibility come first and love come later? The new CBC documentary Kosher Love explores the ancient tradition of arranged marriages in the Orthodox Jewish world

A new documentary Kosher Love (airing Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. on CBC's Firsthand) explores the pursuit of arranged marriages in Jewish communities

Rabbi Yisroel Bernath, a.k.a., the “Love Rabbi” (Photo: Bill Stone)

Dating is 2017 is effing crazy. From apps where you can swipe your way to a hook-up as easily as you can click “add to cart” to the oft-terrifying pickup artist industry, it’s hardly surprising that some people are opting to either stop dating altogether or go old school with their approach to finding The One. Case in point: the continued popularity of ancient marriage rituals in Orthodox Jewish communities.

A new documentary Kosher Love (airing Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. on CBC’s Firsthand) explores the pursuit of arranged marriages in Jewish communities in Montreal, Brooklyn and beyond, through a few charming players. We meet Rabbi Yisroel Bernath, a.k.a. the “Love Rabbi,” a rabbinical matchmaker who sets up Jewish singles, as he brokers new unions. We get to know YoNatan, a 30-something aspiring rapper with big dreams of hip-hop fame and an even bigger list of wife requirements, as his hilarious family pressures him to find a mate. And we follow Miriam and Michael, a young Hasidic couple who became engaged just three weeks after meeting, as Miriam, a former secular Jew with plenty of dating experience in her twenties, ponders the principle of marriage now, love later.

A new documentary Kosher Love (airing Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. on CBC's Firsthand) explores the pursuit of arranged marriages in Jewish communities

Miriam and Michael, married more than three years, with their two-year-old daughter. (Photo: Frederic Bohbot)

The film by Frederic Bohbot, the Academy Award-winning executive producer of the 2014 short documentary The Lady in Number 6, cleverly highlights the tensions of pursuing an old-school arranged marriage—wherein compatibility comes first and love comes later—in a thoroughly modern world; we learn about the tradition of potential matches undergoing genetic tests to see if they are compatible while Rabbi Bernath talks on an iPhone and tells an advisee their match is waiting for their text. What results is a fascinatingly quirky, thought-provoking examination of the meaning of love, the concept of soulmates, how passion fits into all of this, and the realization that whether you meet through a rabbinical matchmaker or a mobile app, dating is bonkers and love is complicated.

Watch Kosher Love on CBC’s Firsthand right here.

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