Cool clothes for chilly weather


Class has been in session for a while now, but that doesn’t mean your back-to-school shopping is over. Outfit your daughter for fall with some of these snuggly suggestions. Just remember, moms: Sweater sets are so passé. 

Your child will look fierce in the handmade felt LUXE LION COAT ($170) with a removable lion’s mane hood and sassy tail. Lined with cotton sherpa, this classic toggle coat is fun and functional. ” target=”_blank”>dkny.com

” target=”_blank”>ralphlauren.com

” target=”_blank”>store.americanapparel.net

” target=”_blank”>saksfifthavenue.com

Shopping: Only by Israel


Dive into all things Israeli this month in support of the country’s 63rd birthday. From the unique and creative beauty of Israeli fashion designers’ lines to Israel-based organizations that have made it their mission to help the less fortunate, these pieces reflect the Jewish state’s enduring and innovative spirit.


Israeli designer Yigal Azrouël embraces the breeziness of spring while honoring his trademark shabby-chic style in his line of women’s and men’s clothing and accessories. His pink Metal Taffeta Skirt ($515) accentuates a slender physique with its crinkly texture and body-hugging fit. yigal-azrouel.com


The NU Campaign believes in making people human billboards for various causes such as Jewish Heart for Africa, an organization that provides rural African villages with sustainable Israeli technologies such as solar energy panels. This T-shirt ($19), like all other NU shirts, has the “human story” printed on the inside so that the wearer always carries the message. All NU Campaign shirts are manufactured and printed in Israel. nucampaign.org


Leave it to an Israeli to twist together harsh metals and chains and somehow make the result look soft and feminine. From her studio in Israel, Nava Glazer handcrafted her Gold Plated Satin Finish Flexible Cuff ($108) starting with an urban-bohemian brass bracelet and adding 24-karat gold plating. Her consistently trendy pieces have drawn in celebrities like Sharon Stone, who has been photographed wearing Glazer’s combination bracelet/necklaces. navaglazer.erayo.com


Enjoying the lush hints of currants in the 2006 Tzora Shoresh ($37) will go beyond pleasing your palate — the Jewish National Fund has partnered with Tzora Vineyards to donate $1 of every bottle sold in the United States to helping the people of Sderot, victims of ongoing rocket attacks from nearby Gaza. israeliwinedirect.com


The sharp angles and modern aesthetic of the black fabric Kisim Babushka Bag ($142) spices up a traditional favorite with a nod to Russian bubbes. The bold look shows exactly why designer and Kisim founder Yael Rosen attracted attention when her handbags appeared in “Sex and the City.” raincollection.com


AHAVA’s Hope Blossoms bath salts ($22) provide the skin-soothing, muscle-relaxing benefits of Dead Sea salt, and the Israeli company is doing even more for the body by donating part of the proceeds of all sales of this item to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. ahava.com

 

Israeli designers works on display in Milan


An exhibition showcasing the work of 45 Israeli designers will be featured at the International Furniture Salon trade fair in Milan.

Called “Promisedesign 2011—New Design from Israel,” the exhibition, which runs through April 17, features more than 65 innovative design projects ranging from furniture to light fixtures to technological products to automobile parts.

Curators Vanni Pasca and Ely Rozenberg said the aim was to “present the multiple faces of design in Israel,” a reality they said had been dubbed “the best-kept secret in the world of design.”

After Milan, the exhibit will be shown in other European countries, including France. The curators said its display in June will mark the first time an Israeli design exhibit is shown in Paris.

7 Days in the Arts


Saturday the 5th

Buying vintage helps the disadvantaged when you shop at the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles Thrift Stores. This weekend they launch their new flagship store on the Westside, in an airy, former Pier One space. A “Best of the Best” sale goes on Aug. 4-6 in honor of their grand opening weekend, featuring designer clothing, accessories, shoes, furniture and antiques. Council Thrift stores provide more than 60 percent of the NCJW/LA programmatic budget, helping to fund numerous social service programs for the community.


Aug. 4-6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 10960 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 477-9601.

Sunday the 6th

Our booming downtown is finally a primetime player, and the Downtown Center Business Improvement District hosts its second annual Walk-In Movie Series of free al fresco screenings to thank new residents for making downtown their home. All are welcome, however, so take advantage and head east to see tonight’s film. “Strange Fruit” explores the history behind the song about lynchings in the South, made famous by Billie Holiday.

8 p.m. Free. California Plaza, 350 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 624-2146.” TARGET=”_blank”>www.sonypictures.com/movies/talladeganights

Tuesday the 8th

More outdoor films run Tuesdays at the Santa Monica Pier this summer. Santa Monica Drive-In at the Pier is a picnic and movie-under-the-stars weekly event benefiting the Cancer Relief Fund. Tickets are free, but must be picked up in advance. And you can help them raise money by renting a chair or purchasing raffle tickets. Tonight, bring the family to see the classic “The Muppet Movie,” or if you’re too late to get tickets, grab some for next week’s “Madagascar.”

Tuesdays in August and September. 7 p.m. (gates open); Screening starts at sunset. Tickets may be picked up the Wednesday prior to the show at three Santa Monica locations.

” TARGET=”_blank”>www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

Thursday the 10th

Coming off the accolades of his last movie, “Match Point,” Woody Allen strikes next with “Scoop,” again featuring muse Scarlett Johansson. This time, dear Scarlett is an American journalist in London, investigating a series of murders with the help of American magician Sid Waterman (a.k.a. Splendini), played by Allen. The comedy/thriller is in theaters now.

Coffee Co-op Brews Mugs of Peace


In his three decades at the helm of the Thanksgiving Coffee Co. in Fort Bragg, California, Paul Katzeff has pioneered the process of buying coffee beans directly from Third World growers and funneling money back to them after sales to promote economic self-sufficiency and social justice.

But Katzeff had never helped Jewish coffee farmers, who don’t usually figure in the ranks of those growers.

That changed with the recent release of Mirembe Kawomera, or “Delicious Peace,” a Fair Trade — and kosher — coffee produced by a new cooperative of Jewish, Muslim and Christian coffee farmers from the Mbale region of Uganda.

“We think this coalition is unique in all of Africa,” said coffee farmer J. J. Keki, leader of the 700-member Abayudaya Ugandan Jewish community that is at the core of the project.

It started 18 months ago when Katzeff got a phone call from Laura Wetzler, the Uganda coordinator for Kulanu, a Washington-based Jewish charity that promotes community-empowerment projects around the world. Wetzler travels to Uganda every January to help the community maintain its projects.

She asked Katzeff if he would be interested in buying five sacks of coffee from a group of local growers that she was trying to help.

“I rolled my eyes and said to myself, ‘Oh, here’s another young person touched by the poverty,'” said Katzeff, a Bronx native who cut his organizing teeth in the 1960s working with the East Harlem Tenants Council and organizing black workers in Mississippi.

“Then she said, ‘I’m from Kulanu, and I’m working with a group of Jewish coffee farmers here,'” Katzeff continued. “I said, ‘Come on, you’re kidding,’ and she said, ‘No.'”

Katzeff thought Wetzler must have called him because he, too, is Jewish, but she said she was just working her way through coffee companies and his was 41st on the list.

Then she told him she represented a cooperative of 400 coffee farmers organized by Keki, who was going door-to-door asking his Muslim and Christian neighbors to join the Abayudaya Jews to improve their general lot. The co-op was trying to circumvent price gouging by local middlemen and was looking for a foreign market.

Wetzler told Katzeff about the Abayudaya, descendants of a Ugandan general who adopted Judaism in the early 20th century. Today the Abayudaya are helped by various foreign Jewish organizations; they have a school, a synagogue and several small-scale economic projects and the community raises money through Jewish tourism and selling crafts and CDs of its music.

Katzeff was intrigued.

“I said, ‘OK, I’ll buy all you’ve got, every single bit,'” said Katzeff, who had changed his own business practices following a 1985 trip to Nicaragua, when he realized “that the coffee industry was living off the sweat and blood of the coffee farmers.”

He began guaranteeing what has become known as a “Fair Trade price,” which he said is “20 to 40 cents a pound higher” than the usual price coffee farmers receive from the major companies and which doesn’t change with market fluctuations.

The idea that he could use his company to help Jews in Africa — Jews who had joined forces with Muslims and Christians — impressed Katzeff.

“They made a conscious decision to increase the size of their pie and share it for a better life, as opposed to what governments all over the world want them to do,” he said.

Coffee growing is the main income-producing crop of the Abayudaya and their neighbors, Keki noted. But coffee prices had dropped, and the farmers were discouraged.

“I thought, ‘We all do agricultural work, so let’s form a cooperative and sell our coffee together,'” Keki said.

After Keki formed the co-op, Wetzler made the connection with Katzeff and located a nearby cooperative that already had Fair Trade certification. Keki’s group buys from the local farmers and funnels the coffee through that Fair Trade co-op, which processes it and sends it to California.

Katzeff visited Uganda to sign the contract, spending Shabbat with the Abayudaya Jews. He said he was astounded by the primitive equipment the locals worked with. It takes 100 tons of “cherries,” or raw coffee fruit, to yield 37,500 pounds of green beans, the amount the co-op managed to produce this past year.

Keki and Katzeff signed a three-year agreement guaranteeing Fair Trade prices for all the coffee the cooperative can produce. Eighty percent of the money is put in an escrow account to be plowed back into developing the co-op’s infrastructure, with the goal of doubling output by next year. A dollar surcharge on each pound sold will be sent directly to the cooperative — hopefully yielding a further $30,000 this first season.

“I hope it will help us buy food and clothes and send our children to school,” said Keki, who has spoken widely in the United States, and is aware of the significance of his interfaith effort.

“Here we are using religion in the name of peace,” he said. “We hope that wherever our coffee goes in the world, it will promote peace.”

Noting that the cooperative has a Jewish president, a Christian vice president and a Muslim executive secretary — and that one-third of its board is made up of women — Katzeff describes the venture as “a shining light for peace” in the region.

Delicious Peace coffee is available at www.thanksgivingcoffee.com.

 

A ‘Caring Heart’ for Israel’s Forgotten


In the grim underground parking lot of the Rishon LeZion shopping mall in central Israel, hundreds of men and women of all ages are nervously sitting, standing restlessly or milling around, their faces weary, their eyes expectant. Judging from the range of skin tones, clothing styles and head-coverings, there’s an ethnic and religious cross section of the whole state here: Jews of dozens of countries of origin and religious backgrounds, Muslims and Christians.

In one corner, a 60-something woman named Aliza, who came from Ukraine eight years ago and lives in Bat Yam today, efficiently sorts and folds massive heaps of donated clothes. In another corner, Shoshana, who travels here by bus from Tel Aviv every week to volunteer and whose husband and teenage son are narcomenim (drug addicts), is helping to organize parcels of food. Children run around the scattered chairs playing.

It’s a Thursday at Pitchon Lev — Hebrew for The Caring Heart — an organization that helps feed and clothe Israel’s poor. It’s here, in the cavernous underground beneath the shoppers above, that a portion of Israel’s expanding underclass gathers to receive food, clothing, bags of diapers and basic household supplies that they’d otherwise be without.

More than 100,000 people a year are helped by the Pitchon Lev centers in Rishon LeZion and in Carmel, in the north. Thousands of volunteers make sure that no person leaves without crucial supplies and no child goes unfed.

The political and security crises of Israel grab national and international headlines, but the severe social crisis of burgeoning poverty rates rarely receives the attention it deserves.

The unemployment figure hovers at 14 percent and is rising. To worsen matters, said Dr. Shlomo Swirski of the ADVA Policy Institute, the proposed new national budget — called the Economic Defensive Shield — places an even greater burden on those Israelis whose "income falls in the six lowest income brackets."

Among those in the lowest brackets are single mothers, the handicapped and the elderly. Already, 1 million of Israel’s 6 million people live below the poverty line, and 600,000 children go undernourished each day, according to ADVA.

"Each one of these children is an entire world," said Nissim Zioni, the head of Pitchon Lev. Zioni left his successful radio broadcasting career in 1998 to establish the nonprofit organization after discovering responses to his radio appeals for food and clothing for the poor snowballed.

So many social workers called in requesting help for their clients, and so much produce, clothing and household supplies were donated in response to Zioni’s radio appeals, that he decided to devote himself to combating poverty full time.

Today the organization has a paid staff of 17 and thousands of volunteers, many of whom, like Shoshana, believe that they are "giving back to Pitchon Lev" for "all they have received." Five IDF units, supermarket chains, student unions and youth groups, as well as television and sports celebrities, volunteer their help. As a result of its organizational skills, Pitchon Lev received $475,000 in donations, but managed to distribute over $2.6 million worth of goods.

Zioni, who is at once soft-spoken, charismatic and passionate about his cause, expressed an unwavering determination to maintain the dignity of the needy. Pitchon Lev’s grocery and general goods shops have appealing displays, and the organization charges minimal fees for the food parcels and clothing it distributes.

With a steering committee of leading figures in commerce, communications and education, Zioni plans to establish Pitchon Lev College. It will offer single mothers, street youths and adults basic educational courses, as well as classes aimed at improving their life-organizational skills.

Zioni’s goal is to empower Israel’s needy to break free from the poverty and dependency cycle. He also wants to move from the parking lot and create Pitchon Lev House, which will serve as the national base of operations, a drop-in center and a theater for street youth.

In the works is a Pitchon Lev response to reports that the Ministry of Education expects 400,000 youngsters to start the school year without textbooks and workbooks, as well as other school supplies, because their parents can’t afford to buy them. Though the ministry has created a $1.9 million emergency fund, Pitchon Lev recognized that that allocation won’t meet the needs. In response, it has launched Sefer L’Kol Yeled v’ Yaldah (A Book for Every Boy and Girl).

"To rob a child of a chance to learn is to crush a world," Zioni said.

Donations to Pitchon Lev are fully tax deductible and can be made payable to S.P.E.F. Israel Endowmenet Funds Inc., 317 Madison Ave., Suite 607, New York, N.Y. 10017, (212) 599-1260.

Shopping Bulimia


I enjoy shopping for clothes. I also enjoy returning clothes. Sometimes I like the returning even more than the shopping. Does that sound sick to you? Well, maybe it is. But I don’t think I’m alone. In fact, I’ll bet there are thousands of women out there who ruin the days of salespeople just as often as they make them.

For me, it all started a few years ago, when I moved from Washington, D.C., to a studio apartment in Manhattan. I went on a buying spree of Imelda proportions. Please don’t misunderstand. I didn’t buy indiscriminately; I simply purchased anything and everything I liked.

Within a couple of months, my one-and-a-half closets were about to implode. I began to purge my closets and drawers of all clothes I no longer wore or liked. Most of these rejects were sent to friends in Washington. I felt I was doing a good deed: my rejects were far superior to anything they could purchase within a 20-mile radius.

Meanwhile, I had not stopped buying clothes. I began to discover amazing stores that my fashionista friends had never heard of, and developed intimate relationships with the salespeople and owners. Indeed, my wardrobe had become not just a hobby, but a huge part of my social life. I pored over old fashion magazines with friends, lunched with young designers, and spent hours in my tailor’s loft, redesigning both old and new items.

Not surprisingly, despite weekly boxes to Washington, clothes were still not going out as quickly as they were coming in. Moreover, a debt of $10,000 had somehow accumulated on my credit card.

My morning fittings expanded to two hours. I began to talk to my clothes: "You are fabulous, awesome!" "You, on the other hand, are too gimmicky — you try too hard." The goal was to create art in the mirror. Clothes with even the slightest aesthetic flaw — a waistline a half-inch too long, sleeves a quarter-inch too short — had to leave immediately; their imperfect presence began to bother me.

By this time, I had acquired a reputation among my friends for having an enormous wardrobe — the joke was that no one ever saw me wear the same thing twice. But it often wasn’t a joke. I’d wear something, realize it wasn’t exceptional, and then get rid of it the next day.

Efficiently "getting rid" of items entailed developing a skill that my mother had long ago perfected: I became an expert returner. Which basically means a good liar. Before, each lunch hour was filled with the excitement of new purchases; now, at least half were filled with the anxiety of new confrontations.

I didn’t know much about "designer" consignment shops, having grown up in a culture (suburbia) where wearing "used" clothing was akin to failing to keep a tidy lawn. I soon learned, though, that there are uptown shops and downtown shops, and each affects an attitude that (presumably) reflects the character of the neighborhood. After a couple of weeks of schlepping huge shopping bags from one end of the city to the other, I finally figured out where each of my items belonged.

That turned out to be the easy part. Getting all of my rejects "accepted" turned out to be the real challenge. At one point I had clothes trying to sell themselves in five different consignment shops.

Meanwhile, I was still not content with my wardrobe. Though packed with great items, it lacked, I thought, a certain cohesive style that fit the woman I was (or, at least, wanted to be). Trying to correct this problem became tricky because, well, I saw myself as a different woman each week. When I was in my sleek, jet-setty sophisticate mode, I would toss aside all arty boho things. When I would allow my romantic side some space, all high-tech or minimalist items were dispensed with. Several times I had to sheepishly go back to consignments shops to retrieve clothing that I loved but hadn’t fit the persona of the moment.

Those little trips gave me pause: could I have gotten a little too involved in this process? In hindsight, it was probably the baby blue ’60s jacket that made me realize that aspects of my little hobby may have gotten out of hand. I had excitedly bought the jacket from a flea market vendor. But one day it was decided that the jacket, though extremely funky, lacked sophistication. When I took it to a consignment shop, the owner loved it so much she put it on the floor immediately. Within maybe five minutes, a very sophisticated woman tried it on, looked fabulous, had her gorgeous beau pay for it, and walked out happy as a clam.

Suddenly, I realized that my wardrobe pruning project had gone beyond achieving sartorial perfection. You’ve heard of impulse buys. There are also impulse returns, or more definitively, impulse sells. Call it shopping bulimia if you must.

I can now happily report, though, that I’ve moved my clothes fetish back into the healthier realm of passion. I will never be the type of person who wears clothes merely to live. But I now try to scrutinize purchases before they end up in my apartment. Perhaps more important, I am now devoting myself to learning the fine art of appreciating clothes without having to own them (i.e., window shopping).

The Gift of Thrift


T-shirts $2. Jeans $7. Handwritten signs point to bargains galore at the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles (NCJW/LA) Council Thrift Shop.

More than simply the promise of finding the great find, thrift stores offer their patrons the opportunity to connect with history and community, as well as beauty. The mission statements of Jewish thrift stores are admirable, including assistance to refugees and empowerment of women. Dependent on a community that values philanthropy, Jewish thrift stores look to donations to drive the aid to needy people.

One person’s donation can prove to be another’s treasure. Armed with a $50 budget and mandated to find a fabulous outfit at Jewish thrift stores about town, I began my quest at the Council Thrift on Fairfax near Canter’s Deli. Rummaging through bargain bins and haggling over price are inimical to my sensibilities. I was not confident that I could achieve my mission.

I couldn’t have asked for a better initiation to thrift store shopping than that provided by the Council Thrift. Clothing organized by category would prove to be a luxury that most other thrift stores eschew. A white faux fur coat that Liberace would have envied beckoned me as soon as I walked in, but it was much too early in the game to spend $35, a decision I now regret as I dream about what could have been the funky find of the century.

Because of my limited budget, I passed over lovely pieces, such as a long, black linen dress ($18) and a pair of gray suit slacks ($15). Instead, I opted for bargains that would make up part of the head-to-toe ensemble that I imagined for myself — a pink print skirt ($5) and a pair of black boots ($6). $39 left.

On the flip side of the thrill of finding a unique item is the impossibility of satisfying a friend’s need to buy the same thing. Edith Goodman, who has worked for Council Thrift since 1993, says that some days the young Hollywood hipster comes away empty-handed, and on other days she will walk out with an armload of bargains.

But what is consistent is the presence of beauty.

There is little challenge in spotting some designer’s idea of what is desirable, marketed and hermetically sealed in pretty packaging at department stores. But such as in life, there is a special society of people who search for, and find, beauty in its myriad incarnations in the less obvious places in the world. “Last week I found a brand-new designer jacket,” said one shopper with obvious pride. “My friend couldn’t believe it.”

The strength of community ties is apparent at Council Thrift. Many seniors come to spend time engaged in an inexpensive form of entertainment, as well as healthy competition over finding treasure more fantastic than the one before.

The effort to build strong community is an important mission of the NCJW/LA.

I met a woman at Council Thrift who had picked out a navy suit, a black skirt and cream-colored ruffled blouse for a job interview. She told me about a program that provides free clothing to people in need. Called Women Helping Women Services (WHWS), a nonsectarian community service of the NCJW/LA, this organization works to empower women to improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their children. The WHWS Emergency Survival Fund provides food and clothing vouchers. While the woman declined to be named for the article, she said, “I am thankful for it.”

There is a similar program at the Hadassah Thrift Store in Santa Monica, which provides needy people with clothing. It is a small shop, but one that is lovingly kept by Nena Reyes and Tita Aspiras.

I spent a good two hours trying on clothes that I couldn’t believe were donated: a little black cocktail dress, a floral summer dress, a sexy knit sweater. Perhaps my eyes had sharpened to finding nice things. More likely, it was the magic of Nena and Tita who pulled things off racks for me to try that I never would have picked out for myself. Their enthusiasm and dirt-cheap prices were able to make this conservative person tread outside her fashion comfort zone and go on an adventure. I felt like Mick Jagger’s little sister trying on satin pajama pants and a suede jacket worthy of a rock star.

These thrift stores are treasure troves for those who have the appreciation for things beyond superficial beauty — the connection to humanity, the appreciation of the many definitions of art, the desire for community, the heart for philanthropy. In these shops, beauty is transcendent, defined by no one person, neither by price nor by season. It belongs to all who search for it and see it wherever they look.

When something is beautiful, it calls out from among the ranks and inspires people to act.

Rhoda Weisman, chief creative officer of Hillel International and avid thrift shop patron, said, “How one lives one’s life is an art, and it should be beautiful.” Inspired by her new Vermeer print in gold frame ($20) and old-fashioned tea table etched with Victorian flowers ($5), Weisman rearranged her bedroom at midnight.

Beauty moves us in truly wondrous ways.


Should you wish to donate, please contact:

National Council of Jewish Women/Los
Angeles

543 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

(323) 651-2930

For free pickup seven days a week, call

(323) 655-3111 or (800) 400-NCJW (toll free)

NCJW/LA Council Thrift Shop

Locations/Donation Centers

11571 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

(310) 477-9613

455 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles (323) 651-2080

1052 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles (323) 938-8122

7818 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

(323) 654-8516

18511 Sherman Way, Reseda (818) 609-7618

14526 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys (818) 997-8980

Women Helping Women Services

(323) 655-3807

(877) 655-3807 (toll free)

Hadassah Southern California

1452 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica

(310) 395-3824 (store)

(310) 479-3200 (main office)

Toy Vey!


Monica Garcia had her daughter-to-be in mind when she designed a modest line of Barbie clothing while she was pregnant last year.

“Barbie is a slut,” she says. Some people “want a doll that’s dressed appropriately.”

Garcia, who converted to Judaism four years ago, started the line of handsewn, brightly colored clothing when she was pregnant last year.

The clothes move Barbie from flirty to frummy.

Unlike much of the standard Barbie line, most of the clothes are loose fitting and made out of cotton and satin. The clothes often have details such as bows or buttons.

“I didn’t like the way Barbie was dressed,” says Garcia, who has about 100 customers — equally split between Jews and Christians.

Garcia, who currently works as a longshoreman in Los Angeles by day, hopes to add a line of accessories such as hats and purses — and maybe one day create her own doll.

When asked what that doll would look like, Garcia said, “She would not be blond. She would be a brunette with nice brown eyes.”

Garcia’s clothes are available at $19.95 at “>www.heroicproductions.com as
well as at “>www.jewishsource.com.