Where most teenagers are happy taking “selfies,” Peri Feldstein has a serious passion for photography. But not content with chasing perfect images, she decided to share her passion in a way that connects Jewish teens around the world.
The result is ConnectInAFlash.org, an on-line site she created to enable Jewish teens to share photos, Jewish experiences, and friendship no matter where they live.
At Purim, for example, she invited people to send in pictures of their Jewish role models, to honor the story of Queen Esther. For Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, teens from New Jersey to California to Haifa submitted photos of native flora.
Chabad of Princeton will display entries to its current Shabbat Candle Lighting Writing and Art Project for girls on the site (see sidebar).
“When their photos are uploaded to our website,” Peri wrote, “they will be able to see their images alongside those of our other global followers, and therefore see their world through the lens of other Jewish teens.”
Peri, 17, and heading into her senior year at Princeton Day School, comes from a Princeton family with an appetite for challenges.
Her mother, Lori, is a member of the national council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the family attends the annual AIPAC policy conference each year. Her father, Michael, is president of the central New Jersey region of the American Jewish Committee. The family belongs to The Jewish Center in Princeton.
Encouraged by her father, Peri took photography at her school, “where the photography department lives up to any photographer’s dreams,” she said. “I got into learning the technical aspect and really understanding how to make your photos good.”
She started working with Mike Schwartz, a local professional who let her take pictures at events he was covering. She started doing some on her own, and then began entering competitions and selling her pictures.
“I learned to totally love and respect the art,” she said. “I am a fan of portraiture, but I’ll photograph anything I see.”
Her initial intention with Connect In A Flash was to link Jewish-American teens with their counterparts in Cuba. “We ran into some issues regarding Cuban access to certain media outlets,” she said, “so we opened it up to the world.”
It was the largest undertaking of her young life. “My family has a rather large interest in innovation,” she said. “My father and his father hold more patents than I know of for their chemical company. We are avid watchers of Shark Tank” — the business-themed TV show on ABC — “which is all about innovation.”
Michael is president and director of innovation at Surface Technology in Trenton. “I am very proud that Peri has found a way to bring together so many of her passions to create Connect In A Flash,” he said. “It is an expression of her interests in photography, Judaism, and her sense of community on a local and global level. It’s been an enriching experience for her to develop the IP, social media, and following of fellow Jewish teens.”
He sees it as a template for other groups to use photography as a means of connection.
Peri is getting support from the Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks as well as local synagogues, and she plans to involve day schools too. “It’s been very hard to do outreach because I’m only a high schooler,” she admitted. “But when I do get people to listen, they love the idea.”