For Elisa Heiligman-Recht, wife of Jewish rock star Rick Recht, a simple “Hello Elisa” greeting carries its own unique and frequent form, “Oh hi! You must be Rick’s wife!”
“[Being greeted as Rick’s wife] doesn’t even bother me. I love it when people say that because I couldn’t be prouder,” Elisa said, “Being married to a Jewish rock star is the best thing ever.”
Despite the reaction people have when greeting her, Elisa finds it easy to keep her own identity separate from that of her husband’s. She sees both Rick and herself as educators in different ways – Rick through his music and Elisa through teaching. Elisa has a strong passion for informal Jewish education, which she gets to explore as a Shaare Emeth religious school teacher. She also has recently become the Special Programming Coordinator for Temple Emanuel.
Elisa was born in St. Louis but grew up in Kansas City and was always involved in youth groups such as USY (United Synagogue Youth) and BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization). Elisa enjoyed working with kids whether it was babysitting or at Camp Ramot Amoona, the Jewish camp at Congregation B’nai Amoona.
“She is a ‘people person’ and her ability to communicate well with people of all different ages and backgrounds is a huge asset in juggling all the demands of a working mom,” said her friend, Marsha Weisel.
Fifteen years ago, music brought Elisa and Rick together. Elisa was searching for a Jewish song leader for Camp Ramot Amoona while at the same time hoping to find a guitar teacher for herself. A friend suggested she take guitar lessons from Rick. Realizing Rick was Jewish, Elisa asked him if he would take the song leader position. At first, Rick felt there was no way; he didn’t know Hebrew, Jewish songs, or how to work with kids. Elisa continued asking until one day Rick called her back.
Elisa now works with Rick at their company, Jewish World Productions, which works to create events for Jewish music artists. Her job there involves connecting with synagogues and youth groups, writing curriculum to accompany music and booking events for another Jewish musician, Sheldon Low.
“The best part of my job is participating in the creation of new and inspiring Jewish music and watching it move people, change lives and help maintain positive Jewish identities,” Elisa said.
In addition to her career, Elisa is the mother of two boys: 8-year-old Kobi, and 5-year-old Tal Benjamin (Tal B). Kobi and Tal B each have a strong passion for music and Judaism.
“My boys are delicious, sweet, hilarious and have great personalities,” Elisa said. “I especially love my time in the car with the boys; I think it’s a really special time to connect. For me schlepping is actually a total pleasure.”
When it comes to balancing time among her roles as a mom, wife and employee, Elisa takes things step-by-step. She looks at the balancing act as a work in progress.
“I always look at situations that are challenging as an opportunity to figure things out…I always try to make things as positive as possible. I’m a glass not half full kind of girl, I’m a glass overflowing kind of girl,” Elisa said.
Optimism helps Elisa cope with the difficulties that come along with her husband’s long work hours and busy weekend schedule. She feels bad for her kids who miss their dad and for Rick, who often cannot make it to a baseball or soccer games. However, the family makes up for these challenges with their own special routines such as celebrating Shabbat together every Thursday night because Rick is gone on Friday nights. This gives the Rechts a special bonding time each week.
“Elisa embraces everything fully and the rock star lifestyle is no exception. She is incredibly supportive of Rick and encourages him to reach new heights. It isn’t just about being a rock star, Elisa and Rick are true partners who work together to help Jewish youth have something they can be a part of,” said Stefanie Williams, a friend of Elisa. “Elisa is a dugma, a role model. Elisa, Kobi, Tal, and Rick show their support of each other and the importance of family.”
Elisa says that in reality she feels no different from any other mother or wife. She hangs out with her friends, has dinner with her family every night and ‘schleps’ her boys around.
“I’m just a normal mom,” she said, “My husband just has a unique job.”