About Yad Leah
Yad Leah is a volunteer based organization whose staff and supporters share a collective dream of alleviating poverty in Israel. We do this by collecting new and gently used clothing in the United States and sending that clothing to communities throughout Israel to be distributed to needy families.
Started back in 2003 with the goal of serving just one town, today, Yad Leah has expanded into a growing distribution network providing clothing to over 30 communities throughout Israel. Through working with a network of volunteers and cutting costs to a minimum, Yad Leah leverages every dollar to achieve its maximum impact. Thus, for just $70,000 dollars a year, Yad Leah provides upwards of $4 million dollars worth of clothing bringing warmth and joy to thousands of people.
Yad Leahs mission is to alleviate the impact of poverty in Israel by providing high quality, new and lightly used clothes to low income families in a wide range of Jewish communities in a manner that preserves the individuals self-respect. Collected by volunteers in the United States, the clothing is sold for a fraction of its true value in a store-like environment in Israel. By providing families with an opportunity to shop for affordable clothing, Yad Leah treats its customers with the dignity that is due all human beings.
What We Do
- Collect an entire range of excellent quality clothing for children and adults
- Send clothing to over 30 communities throughout Israel
- Establish inviting and dignified distribution centers in the form of community based shops.
- Enable needy to obtain excellent quality clothing for themselves and their families
- Reach out to diverse communities across the religious and political spectrum
- Bring comfort and stability to homes plagued by poverty and terror
How it all started
In 2003, Karen (nee’ Milch) Thaler, raised in Teaneck, NJ and currently a resident of Beitar Illit, Israel was back home with her young family visiting her parents, Jerry and Anita Milch. There was some closet cleaning going on during the visit and Karen thought the clothing might be useful to some of her neighbors in Israel. So, she gave up some of her own shopping space and filled her suitcase with used clothing.
When she returned to Israel and began to distribute the clothing, she was surprised at the response. People were accepting and wearing the clothing, and asking for more. She suddenly realized that the need was even greater than she had originally anticipated.
On her next trip, Karen was visiting her Teaneck childhood friend, Jessica (nee’ Sosland) Katz, and they spoke about the project Karen that had embarked on. It was clear that the need was larger than what could be provided for by occasional trips to the US and back. Jessica thought that a clothing drive might help the situation. So Jessica did what anyone in search of needed items does, she posted on a local Internet message board. After posting a few messages and hanging up a few flyers, bags of clothing piled up on the Katz’s front porch, and Yad Leah was born.
Today: The American Branch
Today, six years later Yad Leah has become an organization with a mission to help address the numerous affects of poverty by providing excellent quality, new and lightly used clothing and personal items to lower income communities. Sadly, 24% of Israelis live below the poverty line. Through individual donations, schools, synagogues, UJA Federation, and community center clothing drives, Yad Leah collects a range of clothing for infants, children, men, women and maternity. We also collect jackets, hair accessories, hats, linens, towels, tablecloths, handbags, school bags, and cosmetics.
Once gathered, each and every item is sorted for quality and style and packed into boxes. The boxes are then shipped by container to Yad Leah’s growing system of community based clothing thrift shops in Israel.
The success of the program lies in Yad Leah’s partnerships with Israeli communities, and working with individual community representatives. These representatives convey to Yad Leah’s volunteers in the US exactly what the community needs. Through this system, each box is customized to meet the specific needs of the particular community. When the Israeli community representatives receive each box they are then able to organize the distribution of the clothing in a way that ensures that the most needy receive the goods.
The Israeli Branch
In accordance with traditional Jewish values of self help and enhancing the pride and dignity of all people, Yad Leah operates through establishing shops where people pay a very nominal fee for each item. Its free-standing stores, staffed by volunteers, provide clothing to hundreds of people including terror victims, the elderly, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, and single parent families who are struggling with poverty.
One of the shops, in the community of Beitar, features a bridal room and a layette department where brides can obtain linens and items to set up their households and mothers are relieved of the fear of not having clothing and essential supplies for their newborns. Yad Leah shops make it possible for low income, large families to clothe their growing children with seasonably appropriate and attractive apparel.
Yad Leah has also established a distribution network that serves as a lifeline, bringing clothing to Israeli towns and communities in distress. This network has enabled us to target areas of greatest needs and we have distributed clothing to Gaza evacuees, and terror victims’ families in hard hit towns such as Itamar. We also regularly distribute clothing to people in need in Elon Moreh, Tapuach, Yizhar, Beit El, Har Choma, Maaleh Levona, Nahriya, Kiryat Arba, Kiryat Gat and Ramat Beit Shemesh, , Beit Shemesh, Shilo, and Jerusalem. Through establishing these networks in small towns we have been able both to impact upon whole communites as well as individual families.
As Yad Leah has grown and reached out to numerous communities across the Israeli map, it has also become blind to the artificial lines that divide Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel. Yad Leah endeavors to help all Jewish people who are in need regardless of religious or political affiliation.
Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh. Every Jew is responsible, one to the other. Indeed, we are one family.