NPR found this 20-year-old T-shirt in Kenya. The Internet found the original owner

A t-shirt from a bat mitzvah 20 years ago made its way to Africa.
A t-shirt from a bat mitzvah 20 years ago made its way to Africa. /Quoctrung Bui

NPR recently published a story about how used clothes that get donated in the U.S. often wind up for sale in markets in Africa. As part of the story, NPR published some photos of used T-shirts they found in a couple of markets in Kenya.

One shirt in particular caught their eye:

The shirt had a name inside it (Rachel Williams) and a bat mitzvah date (Nov. 20, 1993). NPR wanted to close the loop — to find Rachel Williams, and Jennifer of "Dancing with the Toons" fame. So Tuesday, they threw up the Internet bat signal and asked for help tracking down Rachel and Jennifer.

Adam Soclof of JTA, a Jewish news service, saw a post about the search and set out to find Rachel Williams. He used Facebook Graph Search to look for people named Rachel Williams who had a friend named Jennifer, who would have been about 13 in 1993, and with whom he shared common Facebook friends.

The first Rachel he tried was not the Rachel NPR was looking for. But he found the right Rachel on the second try:

Rachel, super random, but recognize this bat mitzvah shirt? Let me know...

It is my shirt! Williams is my maiden name. The bat mitzvah girl is Jennifer Slaim, she is married now. That picture is crazy!

(Read Adam's full post here. It includes his conversations with both Rachel and Jennifer.)

NPR saw Adam's post and followed up with Rachel this morning (her last name is now Aaronson, by the way). She told NPR she had a bunch of bat mitzvah T-shirts that spent years sitting in the basement of her parents' house, in the Detroit area. This one had her name in it because she took it to summer camp. About five years ago, she said, her mother gave the shirts away to a charity called Purple Heart.

She told NPR she's happy that the shirt will have a second life in Kenya. "I would love for the shirt to continue to be worn, to continue to be used," she said. "I hope whoever's wearing it is wearing it in good health and happiness."

Rachel also put NPR in touch with Jennifer, who said that this was, indeed, the shirt she gave away at her bat mitzvah, which was held 20 years ago at a Somerset Inn in Troy, Michigan. She even sent NPR pictures.

Jennifer was into cartoons at the time, especially Betty Boop. Hence the theme. When she saw the picture of her shirt yesterday, she said, "I couldn't stop laughing. It's crazy. ... Twenty years later, who would think that my shirt would make it to Africa?"

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