Elianna Mintz Perez didn’t set out to volunteer for what she calls “Etsy for Israeli goods” for an organization run by older Jewish women. After all, she was working as a successful producer for CBS This Morning and on the verge of getting married.
Then when COVID hit, the St. Louis Park native’s outlook began to change.
“I got married in the middle of COVID, and my husband was told that the job he had been expecting to start the following year once we got married, was only able to take him part-time,” she said. “So he suggested ‘Why don’t we travel for the year? You’re not happy with your job. I can only work part-time anyway, let’s just travel.’ So in the middle of COVID, we kind of dropped everything and decided to travel.”
Those travels, and Mintz Perez documenting them on social media, is what connected her to ACHI – American Communities Helping Israel. The founder’s sister reached out to Mintz Perez on Instagram.
“She said ‘I see your skills on social media. And I know that you have a journalist background, and I really think you could help the team,’” Mintz Perez said. “My father is super-Zionistic and has always taught me to support Israel however we can.”
At first, the women who run the organization didn’t know how to best use Mintz Perez’s skillset. Mintz Perez, who went to Torah Academy and Bais Yaakov High School Park growing up in St. Louis Park, said that the recent launch of ACHI Marketplace was a good place to put her social media skills to work, eventually becoming a volunteer PR person.
“I started with social media, just kind of looking through their stuff and giving them some pointers from what I had learned,” she said. “But the big thing is no one knows about this and no one’s going to the website to support Israeli vendors.”
The Marketplace began as COVID began picking up steam. Suzanne Weilgus, started the organization during the second Intifada by bringing Israeli vendors to her communities in the Northeastern United States. When she saw that Israeli businesses were suffering once again – this time from coronavirus keeping the country’s borders closed, she decided to create an online marketplace.
There are 25 different sections in the Marketplace, ranging from children’s items to cosmetics to food and wine. The Marketplace doesn’t sell directly to the consumer, but rather it connects people with Israeli artisans.
“Everyone has always been like, ‘Let’s give money to an organization.’ But here, you get something (tangible) out of it and you’re also still supporting Israel,” she said.