It’s not very common to be informed on a website purchase that the graphic T-shirt you just ordered has a spiritual meaning. The elongated tank with the screen-printed bold pop design of a woman, and the word Isha moves past its fashion statement and into a power statement. Scroll down and you get the description- “What is an Isha, the Hebrew word for a Woman? How can we describe her? She is strong. Beautiful. Mysterious. Spiritual. Intelligent. Limitless. Fearless. The Bringer of Life. The foundation of every civilization in the world. An Isha is all of these qualities and more that go beyond modern words. So this one's for you, Isha. You are beyond words!” Elisheva Rishon’s brand Eli7 Designs has an assortment of “message” pieces in Hebrew and English, all accompanied by a positive statement that will insure an uplifting piece of clothing. You can even order her ‘Black, Jewish and Fabulous’ hoody.
Elisheva is an unusual and talented millennial as she is a Modern Orthodox Black Woman raised in Crown Heights, New York. She was home schooled or home yeshiva-ed by her parents who are two licensed teachers, much like the other Black Jewish families in her neighborhood. Our conversation before Shabbos was enlightening and disturbing as I listened to a young Black Jewish woman speak of the pain of exclusion and judgment from both sides of the street. Feeling out of place, she found herself not fitting into either box, yet clinging to Hashem with both hands. She was delightful and inspirational when we discussed her purpose and future. I don’t think she realized that she gifted me a great sense of hope for the everchanging world of fashion and perhaps mankind.
As I am true to my brand and mission at The House of Faith and Fashion, I informed her that this article is not about the burden of the politically charged movements of the moment, but about her creativity and her relationship with G-d.
Obviously, fashion helped Elisheva express herself, giving her the vehicle to speak her mind.
Tobi: Do you believe that your talent is G-d given?
Elisheva: Without sounding too arrogant (I hope not), I would like to say I believe that it is. I believe that going through all the many trials I have been through must have been for something, and this must be it. I do believe that Hashem gives everyone a talent and whether or not we choose to pursue it is our choice.
Tobi: Do you think that people place too much faith in their fashion?
Elisheva: It all depends on your definition of “Faith”. I believe that some people don't appreciate the power of fashion and how it can influence the energy around them and within them. It seems to be to me that normally fashion is approached as a materialistic thing rather than a spiritual thing.
Tobi: Do you need faith in yourself to sport one of your message sweats?
Elisheva: People dress how they feel or how they feel the world sees them. Oftentimes that shows how people have little faith in themselves. When people wear something from my brand, I want them to connect to their identity.
Tobi: If your fashion could compose a prayer, what might that sound like?
Elisheva: It would be between these two from Tehillim- Chapter 20: 9: They bend and fall, but we rise and stand firm. Chapter 16: 57: Therefore, my heart rejoices, and my soul exults; my flesh, too, rests secure.
We discussed her future plans that include addressing sensitive issues within the orthodox communities. Elisheva is passionate about her life and her work which makes her delightful and empowering. She also wants to expand her fashion brand with more pieces and product categories, all on her own unique terms.
The answer to my final question told me the most about her.
Tobi: What are you wearing for Mashiach’s arrival?
Elisheva: I always carry extra little embellishments with me daily just in case I need to be a bit fancier (a pretty pair of earrings, special tights, a nice hat, a backup dress) cause honestly-- when Mashiach comes-- I don’t wanna front and be like “I look like Elizabeth Taylor Hollywood glamour 24/7” I just wanna look like me with an extra little addition.
My admiration and respect for her humility, modesty and a bold sense of self leaves me very optimistic. In fact if she is indeed an example of how millennials can overcome adversity, and rearrange it creatively for a better world of understanding each other, then maybe there is hope after all.
Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.