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
- Clothes for the bridal party and mother of the bride
- Folding tables
- Folding chairs
- Table linens
- 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
Colors subject to availability.
Non-Profit Bakery in Gaithersburg, MD Provides Job Training for People with Disabilities
One 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 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.
Jews 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.
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