Judith standing inside Esra's Closet

Judith Nowak was boarding a flight to the U.K. As she got situated in her seat, she peered over to the seat next to hers. An elegant pair of dress shoes on the feet of her seatmate caught her attention. Those shoes belonged to Esra Bennathan. The two introduced themselves and continued to chat for the duration of the plane trip. After the flight, Judith and Esra started seeing each other, and then eventually decided to share their lives with each other. Esra passed away in 2016, but the memories of her late husband are still fresh in her mind.

Esra was born in Berlin, Germany in 1923. When he was 13 years old, his mother sent him to live with his father in the British mandate of Palestine to escape the Nazi persecution of the Jews. He joined the British Army to fight the Nazis and, when WWII ended, he emigrated to England. In England, Esra became a professor of economics at Bristol University. He also worked for the World Bank.

Esra Bennathan
Esra Bennathan


Throughout his career, and during retirement, Esra had the opportunity to mentor young students and professionals as they pursued new goals and transitioned to new stages in their lives.

When Esra passed away, he left a collection of elegant shirts, ties, and suits. After going through this wardrobe, it was clear to Judith how she could continue his legacy- by equipping young people with the professional clothes they need for job interviews and other important moments in their lives.

Through a generous gift to LAYC, our staff partnered with her to transform an office down the hall from our GED classrooms into a chic space filled with high-end clothes donated by individuals throughout the community. 

Today, Esra’s Closet serves as a resource for youth in all of our programs. To date, we have connected several dozens of youth with professional clothing from the closet.

This past summer, a young person named Devonte stopped by the closet to find clothes for an upcoming job interview. “I’m glad that I had the opportunity to have some interview clothes that I needed because I didn’t have any. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to look presentable,” he said. After selecting his new outfit, Devonte went into his interview and successfully secured the job.

Are you interested in donating high quality professional/elegant clothing for the closet? Contact Rosemary Ferreira: rosemary@layc-dc.org.


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