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Not all heroes wear capes, some wear pretty clothes

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Of all the life-and-death issues to consider during wartime, personal styling has plummeted to the bottom of the list.

Or has it?

Amidst the shock from the horrors that have befallen our nation, citizens are leaping into action to contribute in whatever way they can. Chomi (Nechama) Shklar is one such heroine.

Chomi Shklar, boutique owner in her boutique
Chomi, in her boutique

Chomi has her own eponymous Jerusalem boutique. She stocks local Israeli brands as well as her own line, established during Covid because the other brands refused to send her merchandise, disbelieving that she could sell it. (Spoiler alert: She proved them wrong.)

Last week, when Chomi learned about the families from the Gaza area that had been displaced, she wondered how she could help. Her idea? Pop-up "boutiques" with free, brand-new clothes donated to the women who needed to evacuate their homes at a moment's notice.

Many families ran for their lives with just the clothes on their backs. These people are currently being hosted by hotels around the country, as they begin to recover from the unimaginable trauma they've just suffered, and wait out the end of the war.

two women at a rack of clothes
Stylist Orit Cohen (on the right) and one of the evacuees, happy to have found new clothes!

Realizing she could bring some light into these women’s lives in the form of brand new clothes (never underestimate the power of clothes!), Chomi asked other boutique owners, local Israeli designers and importers to donate new clothing. She insisted that the evacuees receive never-before-worn clothing, not someone else’s castoffs, however generously donated. Chomi also sent personal stylists to each pop-up, to help these women find outfits to flatter them and make them feel supported, nurtured and cared for.

“These women are the backbones of their families, keeping everything and everyone together,” Chomi said. “They have just been through an incomprehensible trauma. I want to serve them. I want them to know that they are important. And I want to help them feel more like themselves through these clothes, so they can return to being women, wives and mothers.”

To date, Chomi has organized nine different pop-up "boutiques" at hotels in the Jerusalem area, the Dead Sea and Netanya, among other places, distributing an estimated 150,000 shekels worth of new clothes. Hotels are now reaching out to Chomi and asking her to set up pop-up "boutiques" at their establishments and to send personal stylists as they "help calm the souls and the minds" of these women. The personal attention has been therapeutic for these women dealing with untold trauma.

woman at a rack of clothes
At the pop-up "boutique" at the Stay Inn hotel in Jerusalem.

I had the privilege of volunteering at one such pop-up "boutique" yesterday, and will be at another one tomorrow. As I helped women with the clothes, they shared their experiences, detailing what they and their families had suffered, along with the residual effects of the trauma. Even now, safe in Jerusalem, some of these women were too scared to leave the hotel.

One woman had no time to grab anything before leaving home. She left with two bagfuls of new clothes (including some styles she'd never tried before!) and tears in her eyes. She gave me a big hug and told me how she felt so cared for.

In addition to the personal stylists manning the temporary "boutiques", Chomi has amassed an army of volunteers to collect the donated clothes from the designers, transport them to and from hotels, and sort through the items: modest clothing for religious women and a broader selection for others. Her right hand woman is Shani, a medical student who has been dedicating entire days to coordinating this project.

As we head into winter, this initiative faces another challenge: Israeli designers haven’t yet received their winter collections. Chomi is asking for help from anyone in the fashion industry to provide her new winter clothes to distribute.

If you can help "Operation Chomi", contact Chomi via WhatsApp: +972-50-7856857, or Shani: +972-053-7229997.

If you'd like to donate to this initiative, Israelis can donate via Paybox.

Outside of Israel, donations can be made via PayPal.

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