A couple years ago I was an excited kallah-bride on a tight budget and was planning my own chassinah-wedding. I did not have parents to help me and if that doesn't sound challenging enough!?! I was still very new to all these traditions having just completed an Orthodox conversion to Judaism the year before! I didn't grow up knowing much more about a Jewish chassinah than what I saw in movies. Just that there is a chuppah and after the vows, the chosson-groom stomps on a glass and then everyone exclaims MAZAL TOV!
But as I was becoming Jewish I realized that there is so much more to it all. So I did my research and started looking for the items needed to fulfill the ceremony's traditions according to my community. That is when I discovered the big mystery of the chuppah itself and of the kallah chair (to name a few). Where does one get these items? Logically I asked friends where they got theirs. Their responses could be summed up like this, "Um, I am not sure where we got ours. Or where we got the ones used for our children. The shul-synagouge hosting your event should have one." Great!, that seemed easy enough. Of course, being the planner that I am, I thought I would just go ahead and double check with the few places I was considering to host the big event. Their summed up response was this, "Oh, we don't have one. People usually just bring them. Maybe check with the florist." You can probably guess by now that the few florists I spoke to barely knew what I was talking about. Now I know, look for a special Jewish florist right?
After sharing my frustration with a few friends, not exactly sure what my next step in this hunt was...
Some friends said, "Ah, just grab a chair and throw a white sheet over it and stick on some flowers." Thanks guys (really gals!, why do we say guys?) but that sounded kinda shabby. I wasn't so excited. Then one friend, Gittel Lazerson, made a suggestion. She said I should look for a white wicker chair then I could adorn it if I wanted to. I thought that was a great idea. Then within a day or two, I got an email from her with a link to a used one for sale locally. It was unexpected and I was just so thrilled to have some help with this! I was especially touched someone was thinking of me. She mentioned that she was happy to do it and had always wanted to have a kallah chair gemach in honor of her daughter, Devorah Leah bas Dovid Boruch, may her neshama-soul have an aliyah-elevation. (Amen.)
I went and bought the chair. Thankfully it was in great shape. Then I gave it a coat of fresh paint but not because it needed it. I looked around for some pillars to set flowers on either side and there we have it! A nice little kallah chair set up if I may say so myself.
The Shul of Bal Harbour, who ended up hosting our event, actually did have a chuppah. It was just a matter in and of itself to find the right person who knew it existed!
Now that I had all this great stuff after the chassinah, what to do with it? I remembered what Gittel had said about her daughter and I had felt very connected to them. Plus, I had thought many times while I was planning all of this that there really needs to be some kind of local gemach here in Miami for these traditional items like there is in other places.
So there you have it, that was the birth of south Florida's Kallah Gemach. Starting with the Devorah Leah bas Dovid Boruch Kallah Chair. We now have big plans and are excited to work next towards a resource page, kallah packages and getting more items to loan at no charge, such as a chuppah, plenty of shtick, head pieces, etc.. etc.. We are looking for people who would like to donate to this fund in honor of a loved one or in the merit of meeting your own bashert, as well as anyone who can provide valuable resources. All in an effort to assist kallahs in FULLY ENJOYING this beautiful and auspicious occasion and meaningful life transition.
I am so grateful for all of the chassinah planning challenges I had encountered, because now I get to have a special part in this great mitzvah!! Adank-thank you Hashem!
In the merit of bringing joy and happiness to the chosson and kallah, may we see the reaffirmation of the bond between G-d Al-mighty (the chosson) and the Jewish people (the kallah) with the coming of our righteous Moshiach imminently in our days!
~Hadassah Rivkah Milsztajn