There was an old lady who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
So goes the age-old nursery rhyme about a large family who could not make ends meet. It compares their home to a shoe — perhaps in that it was something that they had far outgrown but were still sardined into.
“With the New Shoes For Kids Drive, which takes place twice a year, before the new school year and before Pesach, we have the opportunity to provide struggling Crown Heights families with new shoes for their growing children,” says founder Rochie Orimland of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Rochie founded this organization following the sudden passing of her longtime friend Rashi Minkowicz, a shlucha in Alpharetta, Georgia, who passed away at the age of 37, three years ago on the 10th of Adar.
“Rashi loved shoes,” says Rabbi Hirshy Minkowicz, Rashi’s husband. “She loved buying herself shoes and loved buying shoes for our children before the new school year and before holidays.”
For this reason, Rochie runs a shoe drive in Rashi’s memory every six months to provide new shoes to children of families living on a shoestring budget in Crown Heights. She partnered with Mrs. Devorah Scheiner who distributes food to families living in Crown Heights with limited financial means.
With donations made in increments of $40, which covers one pair of new shoes, Mrs. Scheiner distributes vouchers to families according to their level of need, with priority given to orphans. Through this fundraiser, those who do not have money to buy their children shoes as often as they need them, such as families struggling with a sick parent, are outfitted with new shoes with their dignity intact.
“Kids grow fast. Every 3-6 months they outgrow their shoes. So buying new shoes becomes a basic necessity,” says Rochie. “During the winter time, children need warm shoes. If a child’s shoes are too tight then the child won’t be comfortable. And that affects everything. Why should a child be embarrassed to go to shul in tattered shoes on Pesach when all of his friends have shiny brand new shoes?”
Having worked for the Minkowicz family for a year on shlichus, Rochie picked up on Rashi’s shoe obsession.
“Rashi always wore gorgeous shoes,” Rochie says. “She knew that as a shlucha she was a role model, so she made sure that she and her brood of eight young kids were always well dressed — clean, neat, and adorably outfitted. She loved to buy herself new shoes and her kids always had cute shoes. She used to make lots of orders from Zappos. There were always those white and blue boxes at her front door,” Rochie laughs.
The Very Highest Form of Charity
This mitzvah is performed with the highest level of confidentiality and dignity. Beneficiaries bring their children to a specific shoe store — which offers a special rate to the shoe drive fundraisers — to be professionally fitted and to choose a pair of new shoes. They never learn who donated the shoes they receive. This is considered the highest level of tzedaka.
“I noticed that one of my students was coming to school in tattered shoes,” notes Morah Chaya of a local Crown Heights school. “I immediately told Rochie about it, who spoke with Mrs. Scheiner. The process was done in such a dignified way that the family was happy to receive the shoe voucher. The very next day, my student came to school wearing brand new shoes that fit perfectly.”
Marking Rashi’s Yartzeit
This week’s anniversary marks three years since my wife’s passing,” remarks Rabbi Hirshy. “This year is a significant one for our family. The number three according to Torah represents a sort of permanence.”
“My family maintains a strong optimism, strength, and enthusiasm for life. The kids embody that in a big way,” Rabbi Hirshy continues. “Undoubtedly, it’s still a struggle not having their mother, but they are resilient, have adapted to the situation, and continue to move forward.”
Rabbi Hirshy says that he receives his strength from the many relatives and friends who reach out constantly, offering words of encouragement and assistance at every level. “I cannot thank them enough.”
“It gives me great pride to see that a cause that would surely have been so close to her heart provides children in need with shoes for the holiday,” Rabbi Hirshy concludes.
Success in Numbers
This past September, many friends of Rashi, community members, and the staff of her much loved Camp Gan Israel helped to sponsor over 100 pairs of shoes for children of the Crown Heights community.
The need is now greater than ever. It is the hope of the founders that they will soon be able to establish a fund to distribute even more aid and support to the growing number of people who reach out to them for assistance.
To donate to the New Shoes For Kids Drive in Rashi’s memory, please visit