Category Archives: Charity / Tzedakah

Something Borrowed: Gemachs Cut Wedding Costs

A gemach? What’s a gemach?

A gemach (sometimes written “g’mach”) is the Jewish community’s name for a special collection of items that can be borrowed at no cost or for a small fee for a short period of time. The term is an abbreviation of the words “gemilus chasadim”, acts of kindness.

Gemachs are usually started by one or a few people who see a need and get organized. A gemach might be in a private home, synagogue, or community center. You can find gemachs that focus on practically any type of items, like toys, wheelchairs, or clothing patterns. I just got an email announcing a GPS gemach. But the most popular kind of gemach by far is the kind that offers items for weddings.

The gemach is an idea that’s centuries old, but gemachs are being rediscovered by couples planning their weddings. Gemachs cut wedding costs – and they also serve the larger goal of cutting consumption.

Whether or not you borrow anything from a gemach for your celebration, consider donating items from your wedding to a gemach near you.

The kind of things you can often borrow from a gemach or that gemach organizers are looking for are:

  • Wedding dress
  • Veil
  • Clothes for the bridal party and mother of the bride
  • Folding tables
  • Folding chairs
  • Table linens
  • Centerpieces
  • Benchers (Prayerbooks with “Grace After Meals”)

Most gemachs won’t be found online. To find one in your area, contact a few local synagogues or a Jewish community center.

Ode to a Gemach
Something old,
Something new,
Something borrowed,
Colors subject to availability.


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Filed under Charity / Tzedakah, Green and Just Weddings, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Wedding Reception

Kosher Cupcakes for a Stronger Community

Non-Profit Bakery in Gaithersburg, MD Provides Job Training for People with Disabilities
Kosher Bakery, MarylandOne of our blog themes is making wedding purchases that strengthen the community. Our local neighbors in and around Gaithersburg, Maryland now have the opportunity to support job training for members of the community who have developmental and other disabilities by buying their wedding cake, cupcakes, or other wedding delectables from Sunflower Bakery.

The non-profit bakery gives its participants on-the-job training to learn skills that they can use to obtain paid employment. Participants learn from a professional pastry chef and a team of skilled volunteers.

Sunflower Kosher BakerySunflower Bakery’s cupcakes, sheetcakes, whoopie pies, and other baked treats are bought by businesses, organizations, and individuals. The program was started in June 2008 and became an official non-profit bake shop in 2009.

The baked goods are kosher pareve and certified by the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington.

The pastry shop has a waiting list for participants, so your support can really help the bakery expand its funding. When you are thinking about spending your wedding money, consider this tasty way to build your community.

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Filed under Catering, Charity / Tzedakah, Wedding Cakes, Wedding Reception, Wedding Vendors

Beyond Green Weddings: Green and Just Weddings

Jews United for Justice Celebration Buying GuideJews United for Justice (JUFJ) in Washington, DC held its annual award dinner last week, which makes this a good time to give a shout out for JUFJ’s event planning guide, Green & Just Celebrations. The guide goes beyond the basic buy-local green wedding tips. JUFJ helps you dig deep, so that your once-in-a-lifetime wedding purchases can be as green and just as you can make them. Among the topics covered are buying rings and negotiating the venue contract.

Most of the vendors in the buying guide are local to the Washington, DC area, but some are national organizations that you can find online. And the ideas work where ever in the world you raise your huppah.

By the way, at the award dinner, JUFJ honored four Washington, DC and Maryland area activists:

  • David Cohen, co-founder of the Advocacy Institute.
  • Carla Furstenberg Cohen, civil rights activist and founder of the independent Washington, DC bookstore Politics and Prose. Carla passed away a couple of weeks before the award ceremony.
  • Gustavo Torres, founder of CASA de Maryland.
  • Elissa Froman, legislative associate for the National Council of Jewish Women. As a student at The George Washington University founded the GW Jewish Progressive Political Association.

See our list of unique Jewish wedding vendors in the Washington, DC / Silver Spring area.

You might also like:
green lavender wedding tzedakah placecard Free Printable Templates for Tzedakah (Charity) Favor Cards

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Filed under Charity / Tzedakah, Green and Just Weddings, Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Wedding Reception

DIY a Better World: Wedding Table Tzedakah Centerpieces

wedding table centerpiece charityThe idea for this simple DIY centerpiece was inspired by Neilah, who is becoming a Bat Mitzvah this coming Shabbat. Essentially, instead of spending money on traditional centerpieces, you donate money to your favorite charity and announce it with cards placed on the tables. It’s not a traditional centerpiece – it’s a different kind of beautiful.

Although we developed this idea for a Bat Mitzvah celebration, it would be great for a wedding or other celebration where the hosts want to share their joy by making the world around them a bit better.

For her Bat Mitzvah theme, Neilah chose “Tzedakah Around the World” (tzedakah, of course, means charity). From this choice alone, you can tell that Neilah is pretty cool. Her mom asked me to design the decorations for the kiddush and party. Inspired by Neilah, I suggested that her parents use a portion of the funds they had set aside for the decorations and donate it to charity. They chose three charities that are close to their hearts; a mix of local and international causes.

We made tent cards explaining the donations to place on the tables. We used good quality 8.5″ x 11″ paper, folded in half. The cards list the family’s chosen charities with descriptions, and we added images of Neilah and flowers to make them pretty and personal.

The top of the cards read:

“In keeping with Neilah’s Bat Mitzvah theme of “Tzedakah Around the World”, instead of purchasing centerpieces, we have made donations in honor of our guests to three charities.”

Three placards for each eight-person table — positioned close to the place settings rather than in the middle of the table — should enable everyone to see them and appreciate Neilah’s idea and her family’s donations. (Having fewer than one card for every two people at the table not only saves resources, it also should encourage conversation.)

Congratulations, Neilah, and thank you for bringing your generous, independent spirit to the world. Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov: Your Bat Mitzvah is a good sign and good fortune for all of us!

You might also like:
green lavender wedding tzedakah placecard Free Printable Templates for Tzedakah (Charity) Favor Cards


Filed under Charity / Tzedakah, Wedding DIY, Wedding Reception