Ties that bind: Netflix singles come from SA
When Dani Bergman connected with Shaun Civin on the new Netflix show Jewish Matchmaking, they already had one important thing in common: both their families came from South Africa. This background helped them to hit it off immediately, with Bergman speaking about how “my parents always said, ‘You need a South African man’”, and Civin quipping, “Dani tells me the best biltong in the world is in LA [Los Angeles], not South Africa.”
Biltong aside, “I feel a special connection to the South African Jewish community through my parents and family, and I’m grateful to be a part of it,” Civin told the SA Jewish Report from his current home in Hawaii. “I have extended family in South Africa consisting of aunts and uncles and cousins on both of my parents’ sides. My mom’s grandfather, Max Goodman, was the founder of Greenside Shul and the first Jewish mayor of Johannesburg. My dad’s dad, Zeida Joe Civin, a huge inspiration and mentor to me, was born in 1919 and passed away at the age of 100 in 2019.”
Bergman (27) was born in California. “I grew up on a Cape Dutch-style farm in the suburbs of California,” she told the SA Jewish Report from her home in Miami. “My family owns Diemersfontein wine farm in Wellington [in the Western Cape], and my dad grew up going there in the summers. He always had a dream of re-creating the farm in the States, so when I was about 10 years old, my parents bought a large property and built a replica of the farm.” She owns and operates a social media agency for restaurants and brands.
Both Bergman’s parents were born in Johannesburg and moved to America when they were young. “Coming from this background, we strongly connect with the values and traditions of the South African Jewish culture. We regularly have braais, search for the best biltong, and I have my friends ship me Cadbury Top Deck from South Africa! I spent a year studying abroad at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where I further connected with my roots and made life-long friends. My great uncle, David Sonnenberg, still lives in Wellington.”
Civin (26) grew up in Jupiter, Florida. “I’m a CPA, which I believe is the equivalent of a chartered accountant in South Africa. I’ve spent the past two years working remotely as a finance and accounting consultant. I enjoy travelling to places where I can surf.”
He landed up on the show because just like any other Jewish mother, his mom thought it would be a good way for him to meet a nice Jewish girl. “My mom saw a post on a Jewish moms’ Facebook group, sent me a quick form to fill out, and I was on the show the next month! It all happened super-fast.”
When Bergman first moved to Miami, “I joined a Facebook group called ‘Jews in South Florida’. There was a post that mentioned casting Jewish singles for a dating show on a major streaming platform. About four months later, I randomly got a call from casting. They interviewed me on the spot, and offered me a place on the show.”
The most rewarding part of the show for Civin “has been all the connections from Jewish-geography – family and friends have been calling from all over the world who saw the show and made the connection. People with last names in common have been reaching out about family history. It’s been a lot of fun.”
The most challenging aspect “was probably waiting for the show to come out. We never got to see any sort of preview, and after filming, I heard nothing for almost a year until they announced that the show had been released.”
He believes there’s still a role for matchmakers in a world where everyone’s profile is online. “There’s definitely a need for a personal touch. I was excited to meet Dani because of the South African connection and how much we had in common. Dani is awesome. She’s really fun to be around and made the whole experience something I’ll remember fondly. We’re not romantically involved, but we keep in touch and are friends.”
“Matchmakers teach us to look past the superficial and truly connect with what matters,” says Bergman. “I would definitely recommend this experience. Meeting [matchmaker] Aleeza and learning how to date intentionally was extremely rewarding. Through this experience, I was able to hone in on what I wanted in a partner, notice what didn’t sit right, and act on it. I always knew to never settle, however navigating this experience with Aleeza’s guidance led to an immense amount of self-growth.
“Being able to stand up for yourself in romantic situations can be tough,” she says. “I know from personal experience there are always thoughts that things will change, or he’ll turn around. The truth is, you can move only as fast as the slowest person in the relationship – Aleeza’s saying – and not everyone is for you. That’s okay! It’s our responsibility to know ourselves well enough and have the self-respect to go through life and make the best decisions for our long-term growth.
“Shaun is a great guy – amazing energy, great family, and similar values,” she says. But for all Jewish mothers hoping that Civin is single, he reports, “I’m currently in a happy relationship!”
Since studying at UCT, “I visit [South Africa] once every couple years,” says Bergman. “I haven’t been back since 2019, but need to make my way down for a Cape Town summer soon! When visiting, I spend my time on Clifton Beach, Camps Bay, and going to festivals with friends. My personal favourites are We Love Summer and Wolfkop Weekender.”
Civin visited South Africa almost every summer growing up. “My sister actually had her Batmitzvah at Greenside Shul. Most recently, a few of my friends and I did our college graduation trip to Cape Town. South Africa has a special place in my heart and I hope to be back again soon.”
“Our country is one of the most beautiful in the world, and our people have a depth to them that’s hard to find elsewhere,” says Bergman. “I love you. Stay shining.”