Wednesday, March 29, 2023

When people think of a bat mitzvah, they usually relate it to a fancy dress, gourmet food and constant dancing. However, when Ella Ashendorf looks back on her bat mitzvah, she will remember her contribution to ensuring the success of the sixth annual Teaneck Children’s Clothing Drive.

In preparing for her upcoming bat mitzvah, Ella wanted to take on a bat mitzvah project because she felt that one can get caught up in the festivities that usually are associated with bat mitzvahs. She wanted to focus on helping others during this milestone, while appreciating the spiritual aspect and putting less emphasis on the materialistic side. Ella’s mother, Rachel Ashendorf, part of the Jewish Link sales team, noted that bat mitzvahs are “not just about making a party” and that Ella wanted to make hers meaningful.

In the past few years, Rachel and Ella have collected and dropped off clothing for this annual clothing drive. So when Ella chose this project, it was not a brand new idea to her. When asked why she specifically chose this clothing drive as her bat mitzvah project, Ella told The Jewish Link: “Shopping is one of my favorite things to do,” thereby making her a perfect candidate for sorting through clothing and assisting others to “buy” the clothes they need.

The clothing drive was started six years ago, when Dalia Stelzer and Chana Shields saw a need for a clothing gemach in Teaneck. The drive primarily collects children’s clothing, but also accepts adult clothing, shoes, accessories and baby clothes. One of the goals of the drive is to communicate the feeling that anyone can donate and make a difference.

The clothing drive has always taken place in Congregation Keter Torah’s ballroom during the three weeks, since there are no smachot such as weddings or bar/bat mitzvahs during that time. The space is ideal as the organizers need a large space to hold all of the clothing they receive. “When a community like Teaneck empties their closets, there is going to be a lot of clothing,” said Joy Sklar, a regular volunteer at the drive.

The clothing drive has three parts: drop-off, organizing and shopping. Drop-offs took place on Sunday, July 9, through Wednesday, July 12. Ella (along with other volunteers) stayed longer after the morning drop-off hours to help organize. Volunteers returned for the following few days to help those coming to shop at the gemach. The shopping took place on Wednesday, July 12, through Wednesday, July 19, and was open to anyone who needed clothing. Even people who donated their own clothes were able to shop for clothes for themselves. Shoppers were also offered the options to shop anonymously and for free, although there was a suggested donation amount of one dollar, with all proceeds going to Yad Leah to help send the leftover clothing to gemachs in Israel.

Ella assisted with unpacking and sorting clothing (by gender and size), and helping shoppers find the clothes they were looking for. Additionally, Sklar shared that Ella had spent two full hours sorting and separating tangled hangers! After the shopping part of the clothing drive finished, Ella also assisted in packing up hangers and tables for next year’s drive.

Not only did Ella volunteer at the drive itself, but she even returned one night along with the other girls of Girls Night Out, a program started and run by girls Ella’s age who are home for the summer and looking for nightly activities. For more information on Girls Night Out, please see Mairav Linzer’s article, “RYNJ Seventh Graders Enjoy Summertime Girls Nights Out,” on page 18.

Although it was not an easy job, Ella greatly enjoyed helping out at the clothing drive. Anyone who is inspired by Ella and wishes to volunteer or contribute to next year’s clothing drive, please contact [email protected]

By Chani Shulman

 Chani Shulman, a rising sophomore at Manhattan High School for girls, is a summer intern at The Jewish Link.


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