Vintage empowerment

The secondhand store Haboydem doubles as a social business that provides transitional employment for people with mental illness.

The secondhand store Haboydem doubles as a social business that provides transitional employment for people with mental illness. (photo credit: ELAD LIFSCHITZ)
The secondhand store Haboydem doubles as a social business that provides transitional employment for people with mental illness.
(photo credit: ELAD LIFSCHITZ)
The age of the trendy thrift shop is beginning to dawn in Israel. And just as there is still some stigma attached to secondhand clothing, there is also a stigma attached to people with mental illness.
Jerusalem’s newest thrift shop, Haboydem (The Boydem), tackles both stigmas at once.
Haboydem (Yiddish for “attic” or “storage space”) doubles as a social business that provides transitional employment for clients of Shaf Yativ, a nonprofit organization that finds new ways to integrate people with mental illness into society.
For now, the shop is staffed by two men and six women from Shaf Yativ, working in three-hour shifts under the supervision of a manager and social worker. The plan is to accommodate about 35 clients in the first years, each for about six to nine months, until they are ready to move into permanent employment elsewhere.
Shaf Yativ co-founder Rabbi Guy Avihod, a Jerusalem father of five, explains that some 350 Jewish and Arab men and women participate in Shaf Yativ’s community integration programs in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, including a beit midrash program for religious male clients. Last year, Shaf Yativ founded Botanica, a garden store in Jerusalem’s First Station complex, to answer the need for transitional employment.
“We saw that a lot of our clients want to get into the workforce but don’t have the tools,” says Avihod, speaking also on behalf of co-founder Udi Marili.
“Many have been out of the workforce for years – or never were in the workforce – because of mental illness. So they haven’t learned how to listen to a boss and accept orders, and they don’t believe in themselves and can’t present themselves as employees, even though they may be talented and completely stable,” he explains.
Botanica’s staff helped several clients prepare for the mainstream workplace, but the store was not as successful from a business standpoint and has gone on hiatus for the sabbatical year.
“We looked for new avenues for rehabilitation incorporating real work experience,” says Avihod. “The idea of secondhand clothing stores is really becoming popular here as it has been for years in the US and Europe. This is a perfect vehicle for us because the more people come in, the more rehabilitation happens as our workers interact with them.”
The grand opening of Haboydem took place on September 16 at its spacious store in Talpiot, around the corner from the Hadar Mall. Shaf Yativ and its funders chose to invest in the services of a professional industrial designer, Dror Zunz, who also suggested the name of the store.
“The design is 50 percent of the rehabilitation,” says Avihod. “I loved the wow factor at our grand opening.”
Zunz made the shop look inviting enough to lure in even those who intend to just drop off donations and leave.
“People think they will not buy anything, but then they see we have great dresses, great pants, great quality. Last week I got a Giorgio Armani shirt for NIS 20,” says Avihod.
Shaf Yativ distributed flyers in Jerusalem’s well-to-do neighborhoods, emailed synagogues throughout the city and spread the word across the country via Facebook.
“People have given us tens of thousands of articles of clothing. One young girl in Yavne collected clothes for us for her bat mitzva project, and she continued to collect tons of clothes afterward,” says Avihod.
He has been encouraged to see community support for the social enterprise. At the Hadar Mall several months ago, Avihod struck up a conversation with Baruch Riner, owner of the Tamnoon clothing-store chain. Riner was so taken with the idea of Haboydem that he donated racks, shelves and hangers, and offered advice on running the store.
“Baruch’s operations manager, who runs 82 stores and is opening three more, came to our store five times,” says Avihod. “It’s really amazing. That is the kind of heartwarming hug from the community that we have seen from individuals, groups and shuls.”
He adds, “People are excited about the social entrepreneurship model; they see that giving clothes to us is the highest form of tzedaka because the money goes to the people working here and gives them a place to learn how to support themselves.”
It is hoped that the business itself will eventually be selfsupporting.
The seed money came from longtime Shaf Yativ supporters such as Elie and Hindy Lederman of Ra’anana and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
The Ledermans have also been active in the development of business strategies for the enterprise, such as sourcing partners in the broader community and via social networks.
“We love the idea of a social enterprise that can empower the community to help people help themselves in an innovative business that can sustain itself over time,” says Elie Lederman.
Shaf Yativ is also supported by the Health Ministry and the National Insurance Institute.
“They are very enthusiastic about our work,” says Avihod. “Taking people out of institutions and full-time care saves the government millions of shekels.”
Avihod sees Haboydem as “part of the rehab continuum, another way to give people a chance.”
Even sorting donations is part of the rehab process, as the ability to make decisions is empowering.
“Things that are stained or torn or old we sell to a recycling company to make into rags for industry,” says Avihod. “The good clothes get hung on the racks and tagged. Our workers do all these tasks and also help customers and stand at the register. It’s a big thing for someone to process a credit card.
That’s a skill they can take anywhere.”
He notes the warm support of Jerusalem City Council members, especially those of the Hitorerut B’Yerushalayim party.
“They really go out of their way to help this business make a go of it. They see a business plan that is worth investing in.
We’re talking to them about employing dozens of people with disabilities to process the clothing donations in bins around Jerusalem,” he says.
Councilman Hanan Rubin says Haboydem exemplifies “something in the atmosphere in Jerusalem” that makes entrepreneurs aim not only to make money but also to make a social change.
“Guy is one of these people, and The Boydem is a great cause that we are happy to support,” Rubin says. “It’s green, it’s social, it makes us – the residents – better people. And it’s profitable. What more can you ask for?”
15 Tzeret Street, Talpiot
Tel: 579-8567
Open Sunday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.