With Yad Batya, Venezia Zakheimis seeks to memorialize her daughter’s joy
Venezia Zakheimis is the founder of Yad Batya l'Kallah, a volunteer-based organization designed to help kallahs reach the chuppah with all of their needs met in a dignified manner
How It Started
My daughter Batya was a vivacious dynamo, the sort of person who spreads good cheer wherever they go. She’d married young, at 19, was expecting her first child, and was overflowing with gratitude for all the good in her life. And that’s when it ended, in a fatal car accident on the way home from school. At the peak of vitality, Batya remained forever a young bride.
We knew we had to do something in her memory. During her previous year in seminary, Batya was always schlepping her friends away from their notes and studying sessions to take them to dance at mitzvah weddings to be mesameiach the kallahs.
After the accident, my husband and I made a vow to our children. We said we’d continue to be happy, and we would make others happy.
We’ve achieved that through Yad Batya L’Kallah, through helping kallahs find that Batya-level joy. It keeps her alive. It keeps her close. It connects the past to the present in a way that makes the pain bearable.
23,000 Happy Kallos
We created an organization to alleviate the burden of families marrying off children.
We provide kallahs with household items that they’ll use for decades (as shown to us by letters we’ve received from recipients who tell us, years later, that they’re still using the items). We provide Farberware pots, Corelle dishes, Mikasa China, two sets of flatware, two sets of linen, quilts, pillows, bath towels, dish towels, toaster oven, food processor, tablecloths, and lots of small kitchen tools and utensils. In addition, we provide a $200 gift certificate to a local lingerie shop, depending on the location of the kallah.
Yad Batya has helped over 23,000 kallahs to date. And all work is done through our incredibly special volunteers.
We have a handful of volunteers for fundraisers and event coordinators (e.g., auction committee) and about 20 volunteers interacting with the applicants’ points of contact (it’s usually not the kallah, as she usually doesn’t know she’s a recipient — someone else will usually reach out on her behalf) and coordinating the deliveries from start to finish. Another three or four volunteers go through the approval process of the applications.
From Sea to Sea
I’m originally from Yerushalayim; I came to the United States after I got married.
When we started Yad Batya L’Kallah in New York, we were only equipped to help kallahs in America.
A few years later, my friend Yaffa decided to start a hachnassas kallah organization in Eretz Yisrael. We started collecting money and hosting tzedakah parties there to buy products for kallahs, and one thing led to another. Now Yad Batya L’Kallah is one of the leading hachnassas kallah organizations in Eretz Yisrael.
Yad Batya prides itself on its confidentiality and making sure the applicants receive their packages with the dignity befitting a bride. Every kallah is assigned an ID number; names are not used within the organization. The only times I know the applicants is on the rare occasion when someone I know approaches me.
Over the years, I’ve received countless thank-you letters, which always makes me feel emotionally connected to the families.
Dollars and Cents
We hold an annual fundraiser to raise the money necessary to keep going. It can get stressful because we are good at giving, and not so good at taking — or asking people for help. It’s always out of our comfort zone to solicit and ask people for their support, but we really can’t do all this without them.
This year, for the first time ever, our annual auction was no longer able to sustain Yad Batya. Due to the pandemic, the number of kallahs in need have grown exponentially, and we ran a crowdfunding campaign. Our goal is to be able to help every single kallah anywhere in the world.
One of our volunteers went to deliver our package to the mother of a kallah. The woman had asked to meet her at her workplace. The volunteer drove up, and the recipient asked her to roll down her car window, thinking it would be a small package.
The volunteer got out of her car and handed one of the packages to the woman, who then started walking away. The volunteer called her back and the woman stood there flabbergasted as the volunteer continued to unload box after box after box of items. I’m not sure who was more moved by the experience, the recipient or the volunteer.
What do you do to relax?
I like to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For me, that’s the best way to relax!
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 804)
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