CALLED THE CLOSET, A SECOND-HAND CLOTHING SHOP RUN BY VOLUNTEERS SELLS BOTH NEW AND GENTLY USED CLOTHES AT LOW COST TO THE COMMUNITY, AND ALL OF THE BOUTIQUE’S PROFITS ARE DONATED TO LOCAL JEWISH CHARITIES.
By Evan Berkowitz
2015 marks the fifth anniversary of a very unique charitable organization that started in the North Miami Beach/Skylake neighborhood and is now known in the
Called The Closet, this second-hand clothing shop functions like a Jewish Goodwill, run by volunteers and donating all profits to local Jewish charities including Jewish Community Services, Kosher Food Bank, the Yeshivas Doresh learning center and the Skylake Synagogue hardship fund.
The Closet store is located in a property owned by the Skylake Synagogue at 1850 NE 183rd Street in North Miami Beach, in a residential home next door, formerly occupied by a rabbi. The house has been renovated on the inside to look and feel like a boutique clothing shop.
The idea for The Closet was born in tragedy. The home of the former rebbetzin of the Skylake Synagogue, Hindy Rosenberg, burned down in 2010. In her time of extreme need and hardship, many friends and people in general from the broader Jewish community came forward with help, including a great deal of gently used clothing.
“I was just overwhelmed by the amount of clothes that people from all sides of South Florida were collecting for us and I realized that people just like to give and they wanted to give so I felt that The Closet could be a perfect meeting spot and middle ground between those that want to give and those that have large families who for whatever reason clothing is expensive for them,” Rosenberg told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2014. The rebbetzin herself is the mother of nine children.
Rosenberg asked her two friends, Dana Tangir and Karina Chocron, to spearhead The Closet project knowing that these two women had the right skills and ability to do the job; they became the project’s managers.
Tangir and Chocron are lifelong friends, both from Caracas, Venezuela and both eventually moved to South Florida in 2004. “You have the chance to do good,” is what the Rabbi’s wife told Tangir, and she felt a responsibility to become involved.
The house they ended up using for The Closet was in bad shape five years ago and the inside needed a great deal of renovation. Among other things, it needed a new floor. Tangir said that over the course of three months they were able to raise ten thousand dollars from friends and community members to help renovate the space to look and feel like a proper clothing store.
Word about The Closet has been spread by synagogues, schools, postcards and the Jewish Community Services organization, which has been making the charity known to customers and to people who want to donate.
The women maintain a high quality of merchandise for the store. Donated clothes cannot be dirty, stained or ripped. They say that Jewish holidays are a very busy time for them, with customers wanting formal wear for shul or perhaps a costume for Purim. They help dress children for school and because of their many Orthodox Jewish clientele; they sell a lot of maternity clothes, long skirts are popular. Prices are between one and fifteen dollars, and according to their website, most items are only one to three dollars.
“It has been beautiful in the community,” said Karina Chocron, “each day we reach more families in need.” She said that in the past five years they have likely doubled the number of volunteers that work with them. “It has been an unbelievable expansion, even outside of the country they have heard of our place,” she said, noting that customers and clients from Israel, Canada and Argentina have been in the store. This past April, to celebrate The Closet’s fifth anniversary, a luncheon was held in honor of founder Hindy Rosenberg. It was held at the Skylake Synagogue and a bazaar was held outside to help raise money for the rebbetzin who is still trying to repair her damaged house. Dana Tangir said close to a hundred people were there.
Today, The Closet even has its own website at www.skylakecommunitycloset.com, spreading the word that supporting this project and its expansion will in turn build better and stronger communities, or as Dana Tangir puts it, “In the future, every Jewish community should have a community Closet.”