Racheli Finkelstein of Teaneck has the perfect answer. Finkelstein, age 16, is a junior at Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth and has seven siblings. Purim was always a fun-filled holiday for the family as they decided on a theme and then went searching for 10 costumes, with Abba and Ima joining in the fun. Over the years, they happily wore some really cool costumes!
Last Purim, Finkelstein decided to create a gemach for Purim costumes, called the “Teaneck Costume Gemach.” Finkelstein explained, “Since we have a lot of children in our family, over the years we have collected many Purim costumes that we have outgrown. I realized that we can be using the costumes to help other people, rather than having them accumulate dust in the attic. As a family, we also decided to dedicate the gemach in memory of our uncle who recently passed away and we would donate any money collected to a charity established in his memory.” The gemach is run and organized by Finkelstein, with the help of her sister, Elisheva.
Every gemach (gmilut chassadim—meaning acts of kindness) works differently. “This gemach acts as an aid to the Bergen County community to help ease the pre-Purim costume hunt,” as Finkelstein explained. “Everyone wants to have a fun time on Purim, and dress up in costumes, but the reality is that they (the costumes) can be very expensive.”
This year, the Teaneck Costume Gemach is open from Rosh Chodesh Adar I, Tuesday, February 6, until Purim, Thursday, March 21, and people can borrow a costume during this time. All costumes must be returned 14 days after Purim, this year on April 4, and are washed upon return. The suggested donation of $10 upon borrowing a costume is used for the upkeep of the gemach, with all proceeds donated to tzedaka. It’s easy to return a costume. Just leave it in the bin outside of Finkelstein’s house; the address can be obtained on the gemach’s website.
The Purim Teaneck Costume Gemach currently has hundreds of costumes ranging in size from infant to adult, for men, women and children. With the help and creativity of Finkelstein’s friends at Bruriah High School for Girls, a spectacular, colorful website was created with a distinctive logo. The website—www.teaneckcostumes.wixsite.com/gemach—provides a complete inventory of the gemach, which is updated on a regular basis when new costumes are added to the collection. Look in the “About us” section for information about the gemach, view the available hours, the address and directions. In the “book online” feature, one can book an appointment through the website. Selected costumes can be picked up at any time, where they will be waiting in the bin.
With the original inventory being composed of costumes collected over the years from Finkelstein’s own family, with the help of donations from the community and from families as far away as Brooklyn, the current collection has grown tremendously. Finkelstein told The Jewish Link, “The amazing thing about costumes is that they almost never go out of style, so they can continue to be reused! I encourage people to donate costumes even if they are not 100 percent complete and I will try to to supply a missing piece or fix a problem. For example, a fireman costume was donated missing a hat, so I bought one. You never know what your costume can do for someone else.”
It’s an uplifting experience to hear about teenage creativity and the drive to “do good” for others. Finkelstein shared that she enjoys projects, both big and small. “When this presented itself as an opportunity for me, I realized that it would be something that I would enjoy doing, and it is. The gemach provides an outlet for me and I see that I can do things that are beyond myself and, just like everyone else, I can make a difference in the world.”
For further information, please go to the website listed above or call or text Racheli Finkelstein at 551-243-2253 or email [email protected].
By Yvette Finkelstein