Rivkie’s Closet held another event on February 22nd at Chabad of Sherman Oaks. It was an enormous success. This chesed program was started 6 years ago by Penny Brenner and Rebbetzin Shternie Lipskier from Chabad of Sherman Oaks. They wanted to honor the memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkie Holtzberg, Chabad emissaries to Mumbai, India, who were tragically murdered by terrorists back in November 2008. For some months these two friends were thinking what they could create.
Brenner had been donating to Global Kindness on Pico, an organization who collect housewares, old cars, electronics, clothes and cash donations for 1,000 needy families in Los Angeles. Brenner explained, “Global Kindness works for people in the city, but what about families in the Valley? When finances are limited, a trip to Pico is impractical. I wanted to set up a San Fernando Valley distribution center and I thought this could be the right program to tackle.”
In the meantime, Lipskier had heard that Rabbi Holtzberg would pray with a minyan at the other synagogue in Mumbai, India, before returning to Chabad House for Kabbalat Shabbat. During monsoon weather, the Shabbat guests would walk with him, but they would all be drenched by the time they arrived. Rebbetzin Holtzberg would then take everything from her husband’s closet and her own and would distribute dry clothing to the guests so they could still enjoy Shabbat. “The story is so beautiful; I knew that we would be paying homage to the Holtzberg’s by calling this charity, Rivkie’s Closet.”
Rivkie’s Closet holds events 3 times a year, before Pesach, Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah. Donations of lightly used clothing, toys, housewares and baby clothes are made available to anyone who visits Chabad of Sherman Oaks on the Sunday afternoon when the event is held. There is no charge and no limit to the amount of items anyone can take. Brenner remembers, “In the beginning, we would hold the event from 1 – 3pm but word has got out. At this last event we had people lining up before the doors opened and we had distributed everything by 1:40pm!”
Rebbetzin Lipskier explained her joy at seeing the program reach people of all denominations, many of whom are repeat customers. “At the last event there were 80 or so shoppers and we ran out faster than we could have anticipated. There was nothing left to give; these days the need is high and families are so appreciative. A woman who visited at this last event told me this was the first time she could remember owning two pairs of shoes.”
Rivkie’s Closet announces the event through Tomchei Shabbos and SOVA Food Pantry and leaflets are posted in the local kosher supermarkets. It takes more than three months to collect enough donations to prepare for each event. Brenner stores everything in her garage, however, once again, before Rosh Hashanah, she will sort out the donations with her daughter’s help and make sure the items are clean and presentable. “In fact,” she laughed, “I have to accept that we’ve found a larger clientele. For the Rosh Hashanah event, we will need to bring a few more local teenagers to help!”
If you have donations for Rivkie’s Closet, or if you know people who would like to attend, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Global Kindness, visit: myglobalkindness.org