The six-month interruption in the distribution of clothing and other essentials to the poor communities in Israel through Yad Leah was devastating.
In the words of founder and director Jessica Katz, “Over the past half year, the poor in Israel just got poorer. Unable to profit from the income generated from the tourist industry at this time as well as being impacted by the severe downturn in all areas of the economy, Israel’s poor communities are
suffering. Their children are outgrowing their clothing and are not receiving affordable replacements. Our efforts on their behalf came to a sad standstill in mid-March and rendered us helpless. We were not able to collect and receive donations of clothing and our shipments stopped. But the requests from over 23 communities in Israel have not ceased. Therefore, we are looking forward to our upcoming grand New Jersey Drive-By Clothing Drive to be held on Monday, August 3, from 4 to 6 p.m., at Yeshivat He’Atid. We hope that you will partner with us in returning to our mission of empowering underprivileged families in Israel by providing them with new and gently used clothing for school, work and meeting everyday needs.”
Yad Leah was established in 2003 in response to a call for new and gently used clothing from communities in the United States to be shipped to over 23 communities in Israel to alleviate their financial burdens. The website notes: “Modern and attractive clothing goes a long way to provide adults and children with a sense of pride and dignity. Clothing is transformative, giving the wearer confidence to play ball on the playground, socialize with peers, negotiate and build relationships and succeed in school and work.”
Before the pandemic, Yad Leah was shipping over 7,000 boxes annually from the U.S., totaling over $4 million in clothing from infant to adult sizes. Shipments also included outerwear, hats, linens, towels, tablecloths, handbags, school bags and cosmetics. Recipients who number over 10,000 included olim from North America, the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Bnei Menashe from India and Jews from Peru. Yad Leah distribution centers have been set up across the country including in Jerusalem, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Beit Shemesh, Itamar, Elon Moreh, Beit El, Tapuach, Maaleh Levonah, Kiryat Arba, Maaleh Chever, Tekoah, Tzfat, Nave, Yad Binyamin, Mitzpe Yericho, Ahava Youth Village and Ofakim. The shops are inviting and very well maintained by local volunteers who service the customers respectfully and maintain their pride and dignity as they purchase the items at a suggested token cost. The income from the branches is used to maintain the shops.
Yad Leah has organized an extensive volunteer community in the U.S. Headquartered in a massive warehouse in the industrial area of Passaic, Katz has hosted hundreds of groups over the last 16 years who come to Yad Leah for a 1 1/2 hour packing session, which provides them with a sense of accomplishment and gratification. Groups have been organized to implement bar/bat mitzvah chesed projects, to mark family celebrations such as milestone birthdays and anniversaries and to host sisterhood events, school field trips, corporate groups and even singles events. Katz, a talented photographer, captures these events through numerous photographs that she shares with the participants.
In light of the present restrictions, the August 3 Drive-By Clothing Drive will adhere to all precautions. All clothing donations should be placed in plastic bags, tied up and placed in the trunk of your vehicle. Volunteers in face coverings, stationed at proper social distances outside of Yeshivat He’Atid at 1500 Queen Anne Road, will remove the bags from your vehicle. A suggested minimum donation of $36 can be made on your phone, by check or credit card as your bags are removed from your car.
Yad Leah is also conducting a two-week crowdfunding campaign one week before and one week following the August 3 event. To sponsor clothing for the upcoming Yomim Tovim, go to yadleah.org and follow the link to crowdfunding campaign. Sponsorships of all denominations are available toward shipping from one to 50 boxes.