Elissa Felder is the founder of Core Connects RI, a new organization whose goal is to support, educate and inspire Jewish women. Felder of Providence, gave details about the group and its mission in the following interview.
How did Core Connects RI evolve?
Core Connects RI is an organization that was started formally just a few months ago. It evolved after many years of hosting Shabbat and holiday meals in my home and gathering women together for learning, conversation and connection.
In the summer of 2016, I was honored to be one of the leaders chaperoning a group of local women on an inspirational trip to Israel with an international organization called Momentum. I have continued to be a community leader bringing local women on that trip every summer since then. After each phenomenal experience in Israel, I have worked to keep the relationships with the participants alive and thriving.
Last June, I started hosting Rosh Hodesh dinners for local women and putting together other inspiring, fun and meaningful gatherings. The response has been overwhelming, and women of all ages and affiliations have enjoyed getting together in these various ways.
The obvious next steps were to become a nonprofit organization, to create a board, and to develop a website, thereby providing a “home” for the variety of programs we were offering.
What is the mission of Core Connects RI?
Core Connects RI is a grassroots community whose aim is to inspire, connect, empower and honor Jewish women of all ages and affiliations.
What is the goal of Core Connects?
Our goal is to deepen women’s connections to one another, to Jewish wisdom and values, and to empower each other to find greater meaning, purpose and possibilities in life by cultivating unity without uniformity.
How did you come up with the name?
Core Connects RI is loosely affiliated with an international organization called “Core,” which also looks to empower and strengthen Jewish communities by engaging the women.
However, Core Connects RI is an independent organization [that seeks] to connect women with each other in meaningful, inspiring and joyful ways.
We believe that the “core” of the Jewish people is the women. Our voice is unique and we are committed to strengthening and empowering women so they can shine.
What are some of the events that you sponsor?
So far, since we formally began, we have hosted a wide array of programs, including:
Rosh Hodesh dinners with inspiring programs; a conversation about the use and power of the mikveh, with an opportunity for women to experience going themselves; a spa night with hand treatments, chair massages, reflexology, yoga, jewelry-making and more; and a glass-blowing demonstration and Kabbalistic teachings by an artist from Tzefat, Israel.
Also, presentations on becoming your best self; on being resilient; on using portrait photography to tell personal stories of people struggling with mental-health challenges; on how the current pandemic is affecting the Jews in Cuba, Israel and the former Soviet Union; and on how to cope with loss in these trying times.
Also, book group gatherings, discussing books including those authored by Brene Brown, Rabbi Naomi Levy, Sara Hurwitz, Devorah Feldman and Dr. Edith Ever Eger.
We also put together this year’s Great Pink RI Challah Bake, with breast-cancer screenings before the main event.
We are continually looking to find new ways to engage and bring Jewish women together.
What things do you do in the community?
We were excited to use some of our extra money to provide dinners and seder plates for those celebrating Passover alone this year.
How do people get involved?
Women stay in touch through our Facebook page, our website, www.CoreConnectsRI.com, and by being on our email list. We have more than 200 FB members and close to 300 on our email list.
Do you have to be a member, and is there a cost?
There is no [formal] membership. We ask for payment for select events to cover our costs: for Rosh Hodesh dinners, for art projects, for spa services, for challah-bake expenses, speakers, hall rentals, etc. Our goal is connection. We don’t want money to be an issue for anyone. Donations are always welcome and sponsorships are always available.
What feedback are you hearing from those involved?
The feedback we are receiving is phenomenal and empowering. Women of all ages are loving what we are offering.
Currently, we have moved all our programs to Zoom, though not ideal, is keeping us and our programming alive and thriving.
What makes this organization unique?
We are always looking to redefine ourselves and what we can be. I believe that we are [also] unique in that our goal is to provide a “home” for those looking for ways to interact, socialize, converse and enjoy women from all parts of the Jewish world. We are thrilled that many of our programs have in attendance women who identify as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated. In addition, we have enjoyed the fact that our programs attract all ages: young women in high school, women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and even in their 80s. We recognize the wisdom and life experience of all who choose to join us.
In addition, the fact that we are not synagogue-based is attractive and has the potential for us to reach a huge swath of the R.I. Jewish world.
Why does this have so much meaning to you personally?
I love bringing women together, and the fact that we were able to create a community which encompasses everyone, independent of age, Jewish affiliation and knowledge level, shows that there is a need for an organization like Core Connects RI. I’m excited for the future and how it will evolve moving forward.
What is your vision for the next five years?
I would love to bring women on a Core Connects RI trip to Poland and Israel. I would love for our numbers, and reach, to grow and for there to be Core Connects RI subgroups around the state that are tailored for the needs and demographics of their local members. I would like to have a physical place, a home, for our programs that is not located in a synagogue.
I would love to be able to devote myself full time to empowering other Jewish women to take up leadership roles and start their own Core Connects RI groups in other parts of the state.
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is a media host, coach and award-winning radio producer and business owner. She has served on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.