Elvia Fisher 521.
(photo credit: A girl with a plan.)
Elvia Fisher spent her first few years in Israel as a nanny, working for
English-speaking families and returning Israelis who wanted to keep up their
“I loved the work, but I realized then how hard it
was to be a nanny in Tel Aviv, as there were no resources, no place to take the
kids for them to play and be with others of their age,” she says.
solved the problem herself by establishing CityKids, an all-in-one educationand
play-space with activities for all age groups from newborn up to age 13. Today,
CityKids, which she founded in December 2010, is a hive of activity, offering
everything from infant massage to art, music, English language classes and a
host of other activities to amuse and preoccupy Tel Aviv’s youngsters. She
employs five highly qualified teachers and assistants with another five on a
With her huge smile and infectious enthusiasm for
everything she does, she is a 26- year-old entrepreneur who took a chance,
invested a great deal of time and money – and succeeded beyond her wildest
“I had to do it,” she says with a grin. “I wanted it up and
running before my own children come along.”
She had visited Israel from
her home in Connecticut a few times and came on a Birthright trip in 2006. The
next year, after completing a degree in psychology and business studies, she set
off on a round-theworld backpacking trip for which Israel was going to be the
“I had no plans – I was just going to let life lead me where
it would,” she recalls. She had the chance to join a cheap subsidized trip that
involved volunteering to help rebuild bomb shelters for two weeks in Kiryat
Shmona. Still with no intention of staying, when the two weeks were up, she
decided to go and spend some time sitting on the beach in Tel Aviv.
stayed for the New Year and all the festivals and I decided that as I was
already here, I’d stay and learn Hebrew,” she says.
The money that had
been meant to support her world travels for a year was becoming seriously
depleted. Getting a job seemed the obvious route and she drew on her experience
working through high school and college as a nanny.
Two jobs later and
now with a serious Israeli boyfriend, she began to mull over the idea of a
opening community center in the heart of Tel Aviv where nannies or mothers could
bring children during the day.
During a visit back to the States to see
her parents and two brothers, the idea began to evolve in her mind and she began
serious research into the question of what a daycare center should
“I traveled around the US and I researched what parents are
looking for and what modern psychology is saying about what kids need at this
age,” she says. “I also looked into brand names of all kinds of puzzles and
games, and I built up a library of 1,500 English children’s books.”
shipment of thousands of games and puzzles followed with art supplies and
highquality washable paint, among other things.
Then it was time to come
back to Israel and set her plan in motion.
The first step was a series of
focus groups in the Tel Aviv Anglo community to establish exactly what parents
were looking for. For many it was a need to meet with other English- speakers as
well as for the center to provide games and toys to amuse their
Within a few weeks, Fisher had found the ideal premises in the
heart of Tel Aviv not far from Rabin Square.
“I went to a real estate
agent and it was only the second place I saw,” she says. Her explanation for the
almost instant success in finding a place – “karma.”
followed – in a previous incarnation the place had been an architect’s office –
and after she had invested a large amount of her own money plus some assistance
from the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, the place had new wooden floors and an
extra classroom and she was in business.
She recruited her staff
initially through announcements on Janglo (an online community for
English-speakers) and through personal connections and accumulated an impressive
list of helpers and teachers, many of them new immigrants like herself with
teaching qualifications – some in art, some in music and one a qualified
Activities are on offer for every age group and even before birth
with the popular childbirth preparation course run by a friend who is a
qualified labor and delivery nurse from New York. Even at the age of three
weeks, a baby can join in the infant massage class; at three months take a
music-and-movement class and at six months do baby yoga.
“Over a thousand
families utilize our services,” says Fisher proudly. “Besides the Anglos, we
have a huge French population, Russians, Indians who come here for the diamond
trade and plenty of sports and other celebrities who use our
Parents seem to appreciate the center as much as their
children do; Friendships are forged and people can come to unload their
frustrations as much as to bring their children to be entertained.
future looks bright – and Fisher plans to expand the center and keep it thriving
so eventually she will be able to send her own children there.
why I built it in the first place,” she says.