by: Chana Byrde
Last night I was scrolling through a Crown Heights Facebook group and admiring the beautiful gowns people posted for rent. I was thinking about my good friend who is a shluchah who is coming into town for her brother-in-law’s wedding and who is hurriedly looking for a gown that fits the color scheme – and that won’t tack on the extra hundreds of dollars they certainly can’t afford after paying for airfare for the whole family. It seems that there’s no escaping the high price for family gowns today – even in gmachs. It was so fortuitous to read about the new gmach that has opened in Crown Heights that is truly a gmach, requesting only the absolute minimum to maintain the gowns and purchase new ones, and offering a wide selection of gowns.
After Devora Wilmowsky lost her grandmother, Rochel Kloc, she was determined to carry on her legacy by filling a need in Crown Heights; she opened this gmach. Devora partnered with Chana Seligson, bonding over the loss of their grandmother and mother, respectively, and they took the gmach – now named The Simchas Rochel & Golda Gown Gmach – to the next level, acquiring many more elegant and stylish gowns, altering and cleaning them, finding a space and renovating it, to make it the most comfortable, convenient and pleasant gown-shopping experience for mothers- and sisters-of-the-bride.
The gmach carries the names of two extraordinary women; both courageous holocaust survivors who left behind generations of Torah observers in the chassidish and yeshivish worlds: Rochel Sima Chaya bas Yisroel Oser Kloc, who built her household on emes, emunah and a strong dedication to family and Golda bas Avrohom Moshe Glicksman, who was dedicated to family, used to dispense brochos to whomever she met, and took great delight in the flourishing of Jewish and Chassidic life. The gmach seemed a fitting tribute to them, both of whom were always well-coiffed and impeccably dressed.
Currently there are over one hundred and fifty gowns in the gmach, ranging in size from extra-small to plus size. The only actual fee attached is for a refundable deposit and the cost of the cleaning ($30 at Mr. Clean). There is a suggested donation of $100.
“Generally, the gown gmachs in the New York area charge $100 to 150 per gown. It is the only way they can afford to maintain a collection of stylish and current gowns,” says Chana. “But we are determined not to impose a fee,” adds Devora, “That is why we suggest a donation amount.” “I believe people know how expensive gowns are and so will pay this basic amount. Of course, those who can’t or choose not to, won’t; no questions asked,” continues Chana.
My friend walked into her brother-in-law’s wedding looking like a charming $250-rental-picture, without having to pay at all. May Hashem bless Chana and Devora’s work to be successful, may He bless each of their families and all those who donated to the gmach, for providing such a needed and beautiful chesed, and may the selflessness put into doing kindness – investing time and money to make a real gmach – impress upon Hashem the extraordinary generosity of His people and invoke His mercy for all of klal yisroel.
The Simchas Rochel & Golda Gown Gmach is open Sundays from 1:00 – 5:00 and Wednesdays from 7:30 -9:30 by appointment. Patrons can call or text 347 770 4136 or email [email protected]
All donations of gowns or money will be extraordinarily helpful for the continuing success of the gmach. The gmach will arrange to pick up any donations.