In the Sheinfeld section of Beit Shemesh sits Yad Leah’s gown gemach dedicated to the memory of Joy Rochwarger and Ahuva Prage. The word gemach is the common abbreviation for the phrase גמילות חסדים, gemilut chasadim, meaning “acts of kindness.” Throughout Jewish history, the gemach has traditionally been a free loan society where community members can receive interest free loans or borrow household items, equipment, books or services free of charge.
Our Beit Shemesh gemach embodies the traditional idea of perpetuating acts of kindness with a modern twist. Every family looks forward to celebrating significant milestones. However, those celebrations invariably come with unbearable expenses. Together with Yad Leah, Beit Shemesh residents Elyssa Aftel and Mimi Rochwarger, realized they could ease part of the financial burden and still allow for beautiful celebrations by lending gowns to the celebrating family. Now just a few years later, these women have built a gemach that functions as a boutique. They carefully and meticulously bring donated gowns back to life by cleaning, pressing, and neatly hanging each one. They maintain an inventory of over 400 contemporary, stylish gowns ranging in size from infant through adult in a donated decorated basement. They are open 20 hours a week by appointment only. When a family makes an appointment, they are greeted by a volunteer staff member who assists them in finding their perfect outfit that they can borrow for their special celebration.
Beit Shemesh in most recent years has become internationally known for its ongoing friction between Jew and Jew. Yet, remarkably it is here in our Beit Shemesh gemach, where fences fall and bridges of love are built. Women and girls from all across the religious spectrum shop, schmooze and share in each other’s joy and excitement of celebrating a wedding or a bar/bat mitzvah and taking home a perfect dress that makes them feel special and beautiful.