At Temple Rodef Shalom, a big, happy social project

Karen Ram and her son Isaac. Photo by Florence Kittiver

More than 700 area kids shopped for holiday gifts for their loved ones by the time doors closed on Sunday, raising thousands for charity. This was made possible by Judy’s Place, an annual holiday shop hosted by Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, where children can shop safely and with help from adults.

“It’s a safe place for them. Parents can drop them off and they don’t have to worry about the mall,” said Jackie Rockman, co-vice president of fundraising for the Women of Temple Rodef Shalom.

Each year Rockman and a team of volunteers spend hours buying gifts to stock the shop, wrap the gifts and help children discover the joy in shopping for and giving to the people they care about.

At the wrapping party are, from left, Valerie Houchin, Liz Allen and Jackie Rockman. Photo by Florence Kittiver

In the end, more than 2,000 gifts are prepared for the shop each year. The volunteers team up to throw “wrapping parties.”

“Everybody brings a snack, a dish, something. We spend so many hours together, they love talking and eating. It’s great. I love the project because I’m super social and it brings everybody from the whole temple in,” Rockman said.

All of the funds raised by the shop go to support charity. While that’s one important part of the fundraiser, it also gives the synagogue community a boost.

“The kids have the best time,” Rockman said. “They’re so excited they can give their parents wrapped gifts. The community comes, even people that aren’t Jewish. I love that it’s this big, happy social project.”

Judy’s Place was originally called the “Children’s Holiday Shop” when it was founded in 1985 by member Judy Goldstein. It was renamed Judy’s Place after her death in 1997.

Rockman said that because grownups aren’t omniscient, she relies on her own children, ages 5, 10 and 13, to stay ahead of trends and inform her about what other children are looking to get as gifts.

“This year it was Squishmallows, that was the big one,” Rockman said, referring the line of collectible plush animal toys.

Rick Skigen with his sons Evan and Max. Photo by Florence Kittiver

Other popular items this year included air hockey tables, binoculars and a TikTok cookbook. But, it’s not all commercial. The temple supports families in need with gift certificates and doesn’t worry too much if one or two children go a little over budget. According to Rockman, the importance of the shop is in its connection to the community and teaching children.

“We like to give them change, even if they went a little over budget,” Rockman said, explaining that having change helps the kids learn about responsibility and money, which is another function of Judy’s Place.

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For more on Judy’s Place, see here and here.

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