Arrivals: Multi-tasker mom

Elisheva Harris reinvented herself to accommodate her lifestyle, giving her more time to be home with her family.

Elisheva Harris 521 (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Elisheva Harris 521
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Working in two completely different careers – one in advertising and marketing and the other in art therapy – and with four small children in the bargain, one could say that Elisheva Harris is a very busy woman. And as if that wasn’t enough, every two months she types the Esra magazine, a high-quality glossy community publication that appears five times a year and is read by an estimated 20,000 readers.
“Sometimes I feel I live in two totally different worlds,” says Harris, 37, who made aliya with her husband, Grant, in 2003. Or possibly three, since in one job she might be dealing with high-powered business executives discussing marketing strategy, in another treating youth at risk through art therapy and after the working day taking care of her brood of youngsters and making sure she is always there for them.
“If I’d stayed in England I probably wouldn’t have done so many things,” she says. “There’s something about Israel that makes you entrepreneurial and you have to work hard.”
She met Grant, who is originally from South Africa, when they were both Bnei Akiva youth group counselors and they married in 1998. She chose advertising as a career, having been attracted by the combination of creativity and commercialism. “I’ve always been very creative and I paint. My mother (who is Israeli) is an artist and I steered away from that, wanting to paint just for my own enjoyment.”
Her first degree at Leeds University was in history and history of art, and later she moved to London University to do postgraduate studies in advertising and copy-writing. She worked in a graduate training plan at a large advertising agency in London, eventually changing over to planning.
“When you get to that stage, you do all the strategy and the thinking behind,” she explains. Among the products she was helping to sell were Mars bars and Maltesers chocolates; later she worked in a pharmaceutical company, selling less fun but more essential products.
Several other good jobs followed, since she and Grant had always planned to make aliya, they both felt they had had enough experience in their fields to ensure good jobs in Israel and that they had better go before they got to a stage where they were both entrenched in good jobs and it would be harder to leave.
“Also, my daughter was then 20 months old and all my friends were beginning to talk about what schools they were going to send their children to,” she recalls. “We realized then that we didn’t want our children to grow up in England.”
Making aliya was an uncomplicated process and they moved into her parents’ apartment in Jerusalem for the first six months. With an Israeli mother and a doctor father who had spent a year working in an Israeli hospital when she was nine, living in Israel was not strange to her. She already spoke Hebrew and they quickly settled in.
“There are about 10 big advertising networks in the world and most of them have offices in Israel,” she says, “so I kind of knew they would know where I came from.”
Sure enough, she quickly got a job and the family moved to Ra’anana. “It was a random choice,” she says, “but we love it there. When you don’t have family nearby, friends are very important, and we made wonderful friends.”
The first job was as a planner in the Strauss company, and Harris stayed there a few years. “I really jumped into the deep end, as the work was in Hebrew and it was very hard at the beginning – but I persevered.” Later she was head-hunted to a company whose target market was a strange mix of Arab, Russian and haredi.
“It was a very interesting experience and gave an insight into Israeli culture. But after a year, and by now with three small children at home, I decided I just couldn’t do that lifestyle any more and I decided to freelance,” she says. “It was a real risk but it worked out well.”
With Grant away very often in his work in innovative marketing techniques, she decided she needed to study something else that would allow more time at home, especially when the children returned from school early.
“I’ve always been interested in art therapy and I enrolled in a three-year course at the Seminar Hakibbutzim [Kibbutzim College of Education Technology and Arts] to qualify in that field,” she says. “It’s true that I get a buzz from advertising, but I also wanted to be doing something more meaningful.”
To gain her qualification she had to do 800 hours of therapy, which she did in health clinics in the area. She qualified after three years, finishing only a year and a half ago. Today she works three mornings a week at a non-profit for children and youth at risk.
She loves the art therapy and enjoys the contrast with the hi-tech world of advertising, which she still does for several private clients.
Shabbat in Ra’anana is a time to leave all the work frenzy behind and relax with good friends, she says. “It’s a great community.”