When Orthodox fashion designer’s husband suddenly died, online supporters raised $1 million for her family


(JTA) — A few months back, Simi Polonsky was posting photos of herself on Instagram dressed in colorful modest-chic outfits — the kind of fashionable clothing that nonetheless adheres to Orthodox Jewish dress standards. Polonsky is a co-founder of The Frock NYC, a fashion label created in 2010 that has built substantial buzz as the industry incorporates more demure and religious styles into its mainstream.

These days, The Frock’s Instagram page is far more somber. Polonsky’s husband Shua passed away on Nov. 9 from a condition he had contracted only weeks before.

She has written openly on the company’s Instagram page about her struggles, religious and non-, to cope with his condition and his eventual death. A week before his passing, she wrote that she thought she would have to shut The Frock down.

Part 1/3: INTEGRATION I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to get back to regular Frock Programming with the dramatic shift in my life that Hashem has thrown my way. In fact, even on a general level I keep trying to imagine how I’m going to get back to regular life programming on a day to day basis. Creating a ‘new normal’ is what I’ve been told will help, and that I WILL get used to and get regain strength from the ‘new normal’ to push through. That’s what I’m currently mediating on. The day after I heard the news of Shua’s situation I was stuck between desperate hope and panic mode. I told Chaya that The Frock had to be shut down. The mere thought of having to manage both made me feel like I was drowning. But faith, patience, and the strength and love that I have been receiving from around, and drawing from within is teaching me otherwise, allowing me to BE in the “new normal”. The Frock will go on. I need it to. My new normal NEEDS to have the Frock in it, so I can share with you, receive from you, and use this power to support me every day.

A post shared by Chaya & Simi (@thefrocknyc) on

She also posted multiple family photos on the account, and in one chronicled how a doctor gave Shua his grim diagnosis.

DON’T LET THE LIGHT GO OUT, IT’S LASTED FOR SO MANY YEARS. The past four weeks have left a burn so deep within me, I can feel it in every cell of my body, down to the innermost depths of my soul. A burn that will remain imprinted on my heart and become a part of who I am forever. On the first night of Shiva, the first week of the Jewish mourning period, a woman came over to me and said that everyone who comes to pay their respects will leave a message that will help you move forward, a hug Shua is sending to remind you to put one foot in front of the other. I’ve done a lot of reflecting these past few days. I keep meditating on what the souls mission is on this world. I keep telling myself that G-d didn’t put Shua into my life, into this world, to then steal him away from me, long before his time. Before Shua was born, when his Neshama was in heaven, the angels must have fought hard over his soul. Many of them no doubt argued that he is too pure to come down to this lowly world as it will tarnish his soul. The others claimed that his soul was so strong and powerful; the world needed its light to nurture and thrive. I believe G-d made a compromise. He gave Shua 31 years, a beautiful marriage, 2 beautiful girls, and a baby on the way. On the first night when Shua went to the hospital, the Dr’s gave us the scariest report. They used lots of statistics and Shua’s rate of survival was not the most hopeful. Shua needed to be transferred and they said it would be a miracle if he made it from the ER room in Brooklyn, to the hospital in Manhatten, alive. As I sat in the front of the ambulance, peering back to my husband, I just knew there were three angels holding the ambulance, guiding Yehoshua safely to the destination. But I had faith, and Shua fought hard. He made it to the hospital alive. Over the next few days and first week we were in the hospital with Shua, the onslaught of grim reports didn’t stop. But we didn’t stop believing; you didn’t stop praying, dancing and singing because you too believed. Shua fought harder and gave us an extra three weeks.

A post shared by Chaya & Simi (@thefrocknyc) on

As difficult as the time has been for Simi and her two young children, one big consolation has been the popularity of a fundraising campaign at the crowdsourcing site Charidy, which as of Wednesday has raised over $1 million from nearly 9,000 donations.

A description on the Charidy page notes that Polonsky is pregnant with a third child.

Polonsky and her co-founder and sister Chaya Chanin are both native Australians. They founded The Frock NYC in 2010 to “coolify being modest,” as Polonsky told the New York Post earlier this year. Some in the Orthodox community complain that any nod to modernity is too much, although the line has been a small-scale success.

Shua Polonsky, who was raised in Cleveland and trained as a therapist, was 31 when he died.

“I know no one will be able to heal my broken heart, but at the times when I feel like I just cannot keep my arms raised any longer, your love and support are the rocks that hold them for me,” Simi wrote on Instagram Tuesday.

There are moments when I feel numb, moments when I feel like I can’t go on, and moments when I just don’t want to go on. The thought of a life without my best friend and soul mate, without date night, without “Daddy” is unbearable. But then I am surrounded by love. Love for my children, love from my family, love from my friends, love from you and love from the world. Love from others who have loved and lost, and who are rebuilding. So I know I have to rebuild. When my paternal grandfather was 15, he watched the Germans take his parents, brothers and sisters to their death. As he watched his entire family, walk into cattle cars,he could have given up. But here I am today. When my maternal grandfather was 6 he buried his mother in the snow, somewhere in Siberia. Until this day he has not found where she was buried. He could have given up. But here I am today. My life does feel like it has been hit by my own personal holocaust. But what I do know is that I carry with me a legacy of strength, courage and the ability to rebuild from even the darkest valley’s of death, whether I am able to accept it right now or not. So I will. A woman at the end of the week of Shiva came over to me and left me with this story: When Moses was fighting the war of Amalek, he would raise his hands to pray to G-d for his people’s victory. When his arms were raised, the Jewish Nation was victorious, but there were times when he was just not able to keep them raised and so the nation fell with his hands. Yehoshua, the prophet came to his aid and placed rocks under his arms, so that Moses could keep them raised. Yehoshua helped support Moses, when alone, when he was not able. I know no one will be able to heal my broken heart, but at the times when I feel like I just cannot keep my arms raised any longer, your love and support are the rocks that hold them for me. My mind boggles, when I think about the unstoppable love that ushers unto my family on a minute to minute basis. I am pained, and I am humbled. And I will place one foot in front of the other. For my children, and for myself. But most of all, for my Shua. The flame may be minimal now, but it will burn forever.

A post shared by Chaya & Simi (@thefrocknyc) on


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