When Elisheva Perlman was a design and marketing student at Parsons, she never would have guessed that years later, she would be using her creative talents to inspire thousands of Jewish women across the globe. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Elisheva was always the creative type. She immigrated to Brooklyn with her family at the age of nine. “I was never an artist, but I was always into thinking creatively,” says Elisheva. “Even when I was young, I remember thinking about how things coordinate. I was very into themes.” No surprise, then, that Purim is her favorite holiday. Elisheva became observant in high school, went on to study at seminary in Israel, and after receiving an education degree from Brooklyn College, became a teacher at Be’er Hagolah Institutes, a kiruv high school.
Her creativity came to the fore in school, where she assisted her students in arranging events, chagigos and plays. Eventually, the school’s executive director asked her to assist the school with marketing and fundraising. Soon enough, NCSY snagged her as its program coordinator to run Shabbatonim, special events and Chinese auctions. “I never saw it as a career,” she says. “I always saw it as something I loved to do. But [there was] that ‘aha’ moment when I realized that I could channel this into something more than just a hobby.” Elisheva decided to go back to school for marketing and business, with a concentration in design and PR.
While in school, Elisheva was living in Flatbush with two roommates, both of whom were also involved in some sort of chesed, chinuch or kiruv. Their apartment was filled with guests every Shabbos. One of Elisheva’s roommates, Daphne Hanson, was inspired to start an organization for girls needing a place to connect after returning from seminary. She approached Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, a beloved mechanech, who brainstormed with her to create what would become a phenomenon in Jewish women’s education—Ohr Naava.
By default, Elisheva started assisting with marketing and promotion of Ohr Naava’s events, and within a year the organization boomed. “It was an oil gusher that just exploded,” she recalls. When she graduated from her program, Rabbi Wallerstein hired her as Ohr Naava’s full-time director of marketing and communications. Ten years later, she’s still there. In the beginning, Elisheva designed and created all the fliers and press materials for Ohr Naava, and she also coordinated all of its events. She has since become the creative director for everything under the Ohr Naava umbrella. One of Elisheva’s brainchildren was the wildly successful “Day to Disconnect,” which inspired over 400,000 people to disconnect from technology for one day. Along with her team of dedicated volunteers, she also came up with the idea for the Brooklyn Market, where 80 vendors from across the US gathered under one roof to provide women with a unique shopping experience, with proceeds going to Ohr Naava.
Elisheva still gets comment about an auction in which the grand prize was a horse (yes, a horse). “People asked me, ‘Why do you need a horse? What are people going to do with the horse?’” she remembers, laughing. “But it wasn’t about the horse; it was the buzz we got from having a horse. It made the event unforgettable.” Individuals, companies and other organizations began approaching Elisheva for help with branding and creative strategies. As a result, she started Anelis Design, a boutique marketing agency she runs alongside her work for Ohr Naava.
So how does she manage to balance it all, while raising two daughters? “I pray!” Elisheva says with a laugh. “I became very close with a parenting guru in Eretz Yisrael, Rebbetzin Sima Spetner, who keeps me in check in terms of my priorities as a wife and mother. It’s a challenge. Sometimes you can be in the middle of a really important project; you need to make sure that every i is dotted and every t is crossed. But at a certain point you have to say, ‘Stop!’ and pick up the next day.” Elisheva says that the support of her husband, Eli, a couples therapist, is crucial in enabling her to accomplish all she does.Keeping her spiritual tank filled, Elisheva says, is the key to maintaining top performance in every other aspect of her life. “When I go to a parenting course, I come back a better wife, a better mother, a better employee. Everyone needs that person of inspiration who helps you reconnect.
Because when you reconnect on a certain level, it flows over into every area of your life.” It can be argued, though, that when you work for an organization like Ohr Naava— and for a boss like Rabbi Wallerstein—you don’t have to travel far for spiritual inspiration. “It’s very, very inspiring to work under someone who is all about ein od milvado and gam zu l’tovah,” Elisheva explains. “Emunah is in the fiber of the walls of the organization because that is Rabbi Wallerstein’s mantra. He plays a big part in my spiritual development.”
Elisheva Perlman is the perfect example of someone taking the talents that Hashem has given her and using them to inspire others—an opportunity she doesn’t take for granted. “I love the work that I do. I thank Hashem all the time that I’m able to take my kochos and channel them in creative ways to help klal Yisrael… When I stand at an Avinu Malkeinu event, which has grown to 12 locations worldwide, where thousands of women gather together with one goal— to be inspired and grow—I think, ‘Mi k’amcha Yisrael.’ Look at this hall, filled with busy women, pausing for a couple of hours just because they want to be better wives, better friends, better mothers, better people… It’s a tremendous zechus to be a part of creating events like that.” And on the day after these events, Elisheva has a foolproof way to recover. “I turn off my phone and I take my kids and I smush them up all day long. There’s nothing like my two little girls. I’m obsessed with them. They’re like my own Ohr Naava division.”