When considering fashion capitals, you might think about New York. Paris. Milan. But Israel?
Perhaps. Next week, the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs will kick off the first-ever fashion trip to Israel with 35 style mavens from around the world. They’ll travel from Safed to the Dead Sea and the Judaean Desert on a mission to strengthen their Jewish identities and explore the country’s fashion culture, meeting with boutique owners, designers and entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The hope is that these travelers will return home with a refreshed sense of Jewish values and engagement, plus plenty of networking opportunities. Such trips have been going on since 2009, focusing on Jewish mothers from 29 countries. Participants commit to getting involved in activities like Jewish education and community events when they return home. This is the first fashion-focused outing, however.
Framingham’s Michelle Roseman was picked as the sole Boston representative. The mom of two had a high-flying career in fashion at spots like Van Heusen in New York City and at Marshall Field’s in the Midwest, where she headed up the kids’ clothing line as a product merchandiser. Later, she worked at the May Company as a children’s designer; she then moved to TJX in Boston, working on private label kids’ clothes from “dresses to sweater sets to boxers,” she recalls.
She was there for 10 years. Like so many middle-aged parents, though, she gradually found herself at a crossroads. She was working 80 hours per week and needed more time with her two pre-teen kids, Zachary and Chava. She and her husband were divorcing, and she felt lost at sea. And so she left her job to re-center herself.
Part of that re-acclimating, Roseman says, involved reconnecting with Judaism. She’s a member of Temple Israel of Natick and her kids attend Hebrew school, but she was looking for something deeper.
“I wasn’t doing as much Judaism as I had growing up. Shabbat dinner is hard to make for three people. I have to fight my kids just to sit with me!” she says with a laugh. “It felt like I was doing some soul-searching. I was looking for an answer to all the challenges I was facing. I wanted to bring Judaism back into my home, the way I grew up.”
She stumbled upon a call for applications for the Israel journey, and she decided to apply. As luck would have it, she had friends in common with her interviewer. More than 300 people applied; 35 were selected. She leaves next week.
Roseman hopes the trip gives her a fresh outlook on fashion—and life.
“I’m hoping to meet other Jewish moms, learn about Israeli fashions, but also get some spiritual uplift,” she says. She’s also looking forward to forming a sense of community abroad and once she returns home.
“Getting divorced, you sometimes lose friends. That’s what happens,” she says candidly. “I’m looking forward to connecting with single moms and bringing Judaism back into my family, whether that’s through my temple or CJP. There are many people in my position. Some people have it easier and some have it harder. I think turning to the spiritual and praying and having that community is an opportunity to feel like you have an extended family.”
And now for the important stuff: back-to-school fashion. Roseman says that leggings for girls will remain as popular as ever for fall, plus button-down plaids, flowers and crochet styles paired with tank tops and suede boots. “It’s a little bit country with a flash of bohemian,” she says. Boys can be tougher to shop for, but comfy active-wear never goes out of style—most boys, she says, dislike zippers and buttons. (I can attest to this.) Look for critters and “industrial rebel” black-and-white with flesh-tone pinks, too.