Sundara founder Erin Zaikis to speak at this year’s Girlfriend Connection, May 18th


Women’s Division Director


Last fall, several Jacksonville women attended the International Lion of Judah Conference in Washington, D.C., hearing a mix of engaging and moving presentations and lectures. A few though, stood out from the rest and that’s why the Women’s Division is excited to bring one of those extraordinary women to Northeast Florida for the annual Girlfriend Connection, Thursday, May 18th at 6 p.m., inside the Jacksonville Jewish Center.


Erin Zaikis is the founder of Sundara, an organization that recycles hotel soap for across India, Uganda and Myanmar. They hire widows, victims of domestic violence and single mothers, employing them at a fair wage and training them to become community hygiene ambassadors in the process. The hospitality industry throws away billions of bars of gently used soap into landfills every single year, but Sundara takes those bars before they hit the trash, cleaning and sanitizing them so they are pathogen-free and cannot transmit disease, making them fit for use again. Sundara employs a holistic approach to soap recycling, relying on community members for leadership, giving dignified jobs to underprivileged women and focusing on intensive hygiene education in a sustainable movement to reduce preventable hygiene related death and disease.


Zaikis has been recognized by the Huffington Post, ONE, CNN and the Clean India campaign, and as a ‘36 Under 36' in the Jewish Week. She has also spoken at universities and conferences across the US and Canada, including a TEDx talk. 

"I'm so excited to visit​ Jacksonville and the strong Jewish community in May.,” Zaikis said in advance of her visit. “It is so important for me to speak about my story and the work that Sundara is doing to improve hygiene education and women's livelihood across the world and it's a pleasure to be hosted by the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville,” she added. “I'm hoping to meet as many people as possible and I really hope readers can join us for the event.”


This year, Girlfriend Connection is co-chaired by Risa Herman and Jenn Neuman. Along with an incredible committee of women, they are working hard to make this evening special, educational and fun for everyone. This event is an annual fundraiser for the Federation. Tickets to attend are $45 for a guest, $100 for patron level or $250 for a benefactor. All guests are required to contribute to the 2017 Federation Annual Campaign to attend this event, where a kosher meat meal will be served. Glatt kosher meals are available upon request.


Guests will also have the opportunity to partake in a hands-on soap making project, then dinner and a presentation from Zaikis will follow. The soap that is made at the event will be donated to Jewish Family & Community Services and Hubbard House.

"After having been involved in the planning of many of the Girlfriend Connection events in years past, I am extremely excited about our program for this year,” co-chair Risa Herman explained.  “What Erin Zaikis has been able to accomplish through her Sundara organization is nothing short of extraordinary and I can't wait to hear her story as well as participate in a small way by making actual soap that will be donated here in Jacksonville."

"Likewise, I am honored to be co-chairing this year's Girlfriend Connection with Risa,” fellow co-chair Jenn Neuman added. “It is a great opportunity to unite with girlfriends and learn more about how women are impacting our world because Erin Zaikis has certainly empowered many women around the world,” she added. “The annual Girlfriend Connection is ‘our time’ as we come together on common ground yet walk with something different.”



This event is made possible in part by a substantial sponsorship by TD Bank and the Federation Women’s Division is incredibly grateful for its support and generosity. To RSVP, go to or call 904-448-5000, ext. 1209. The deadline to register for the event is May 10. For more information about this program, contact Erin Cohen, or via 904-448-5000, ext. 1205.