Gamachim – Chesed Programs @ Lema’an Achai

When I went to the beach yesterday, I took off my glasses to take the plunge. My kids said “Aba, the sea is that big blue thing between the sand and the sky. And you’re heading in the wrong direction!”

I am very short sighted. Therefore, when a tiny screw fell out of my glasses, a few years back, I was rendered totally useless. My solution was a “glasses components gamach”, a chap who had a small collection of bits & pieces of spectacles and, yes, tiny screws and a tiny-screwdriver, specifically for glasses. No charge. And within a few minutes, I was back to a world of clear vision.  

If you look in the local ShemeshPhone telephone directory, you will note a Pink Pages section, called “Gamachim”. It consists of 14 pages of dense type, listing every conceivable “gamach”, from Blood Banks, Matresses and Fans, to Ladders, Cat Traps and Tax Advisors.

“Gamach” is a hard word to translate. An abbreviation of “gemilat chasadim”, acts of kindness, a gamach is normally a self-contained chesed project, usually involving loaning objects or money, or selling items at very low prices (subsidized or at-cost).

A Gamach can consist of a one-guy occasional phone service, to multi-million dollar/shekel projects.

Some businesses also have “gamach” in their names. They started out as a mini-chesed project, and spun off into a fully fledged business.

Within the 30 community programs run by Lema’an Achai, several fit neatly into the category of “Gamach”.

These were all once somebody’s good idea, which was developed and worked on, to turn it into a prospering “gamach” chesed program.


The ShemeShop was started around six years ago by Esther Schwartz and Sharon Schamroth. They approached Baruch Labinsky when he was Executive Director of Lema’an Achai.

Their idea was to open a second hand/thrift shop. Prices would be a bit higher than a ‘regular’ clothes gamach, and the store would supply good quality donated US clothes, and would feel and look as close as possible to a regular store. There should be no stigma – as it was to benefit the whole community. They wanted to make it fun to shop there.  

Financially, the objective would be to at least cover the running costs; and any profits would be used to help fund other chesed programs at Lema’an Achai.

The first ShemeShop was located in a machsan/storage room in the car park beneath “Yesh” supermarket in RBS. The shop attracted hundreds of shoppers, and became an instant “hit” with both needy families, and enthusiastic bargain hunters. This was the case, even though the story was tucked away out of sight, was dark, cramped and lacked basic amenities. The fact was, it was fun to visit and was packed with conveniently sorted and displayed excellent American clothes at ‘bargain basement” (literally!) prices.

Ayalet Wagshal was ‘promoted’ from a volunteer in the store, to be the volunteer store manager around four years ago. 

Two years ago ShemeShop moved from the car park machsan into the Matnas Community Center on Nachal Dolev, RBS.

“The volunteers were ecstatic,” Ayelet explained, “they finally had natural light, plenty of space to work in, AIR!!, and convenient access to running water and a bathroom.

“The ShemeShop is very attractive, convenient, fun and great value for our customers.

“It is 100% volunteer run, which means that the costs are kept low and the benefits are handed on directly to the whole community. It also means we are only be open for limited hours each week, as we’re all busy mums!

“Everyone is welcome to the ShemeShop!”

The ShemeShop is located in The RBS Matnas, on Nahal Dolev, above the library.
Hours: Sunday and Tuesdays 10-12am and Monday and Tuesdays 5-7pm.
(Excluding school vacations).

The Lema’an Achai Loans Gamach

One evening, about nine years ago, I received a phone call from an elderly sounding lady from Toronto. She wanted to give $10,000 to Lema’an Achai, in order to establish a Free Loan Fund. She wished to donate the money anonymously, with no fanfare or even recognition.

Lema’an Achai accepts the generous offer, and the challenge.

Lema’an Achai teamed up with a private Free Loans Fund, run by Shuki Ehrenfeld, who became the first manager together with two other volunteers.

The Lema’an Achai loans gamach has since grown to a fund of over $100,000.

Literally hundreds of RBS families have benefited from the initiative of the anonymous lady from Toronto.

Amatsia Spigler is the current Loans Gamach Manager, and explains that the purpose of the fund is to give loans to local residents who have a temporary need for cash, and who have a clear and practical plan for repaying the loan.  The borrower is required to provide guarantors. The loans are currently up to 10,000 NIS, and this can fluctuate from time to time, according to the availability of funding.

Those who need such a loan, should please call Susan at the Lema’an Achai office: 9991553.
The public is warmly invited to donate, or loan, money to the Lema’an Achai loans gamach. The Chafetz Chaim in his sefer “Ahavat Chesed” recommends that one third of one’s maaser donations should be used for Free Loans.

The Furniture and Appliances Gamach

Esti Zharnest is the Program Manager of Lema’an Achai’s Furniture & Appliances Gamach. 
The program was initiated almost a decade ago by Muli Bar Shai.

Esti  became involved  with the furniture and appliance gemach about 6 months ago after seeing Susan (Lema’an Achai’s Volunteers & Programs Manager) advertise on the local email list for a volunteer to run the furniture gemach.

Esti explains that the gemach works as a matchmaking service matching up donors of used furniture with people requesting furniture or appliances.

“The project does not have a machsan so the volunteers compile an updated spreadsheet with lists of furniture, and as soon as they have a match the volunteers call both parties and make  the 'shidduch". While priority is given to Lmaan Achai clients, anyone in BS/RBS can put in a request for furniture /appliance and if a Lmaan Achai client doesn't need the donated item, the member of the general public can obtain it.

This also addresses the issue of “stigma”. The donor does not know if the ‘customer’ is a needy family, or simply a resident who wants free second hand furniture.

“Our donors come from all sectors of the population and all areas of the city, as do our recipients.

“We have provided furniture to newlyweds, recent divorcees, families with many children…the program has helped hundreds of families.”

All donations of furniture/appliances are welcome. All the details and condition of the appliances/furniture are noted and then matched up with an appropriate recipient.

People interested in either donating or receiving can contact Esti Zharnest at or 999-1988. Email is preferred.

Other Lema’an Achai Gamachs…

The latest Gamach initiative came by chance, when the ShemeShop received a donation of about fifteen boxes of beautiful Wedding Gowns. Rather than simply put them on the racks and sell them for symbolic sums, Lema’an Achai decided to use this as an opportunity to launch a new program, to supply brides with wedding dresses and other needs for their Big Day!

If you have an idea, or even a private Gamach program, and would like to develop it further with Lema’an Achai, or if you would simply like to volunteer to help out with any of Lema’an Achai’s 30 community programs, please contact Susan Hoffman, Volunteers and Programs Director at Lema’an Achai: 9991553 x115.


  1. Know of someone who can help us get something out of a very tall tree??


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