The Sephardic Heritage Museum Explores THE LIFE AND ESCAPE of the JEWS OF SYRIA

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By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

“Try to continue to live by the same set of rules that got you successfully to this milestone and the ones before it.  Don’t look for shortcuts in life; there aren’t any. Never stop learning. Learning is living.”

This was the advice Laurie Mavorah shared at the Kean University Commencement in June of 2016, where she was honored to speak as a Graduate Student with Distinction.  She lives her own life by these guideposts.

Laurie, one of our own vibrant Deal community residents, wears many hats.  Her family is clearly her # 1 priority and her greatest accomplishment.  Laurie is passionate about her husband and children and their wellbeing, and she recognizes the importance and beauty of being a wife and mother and raising children.  She is also an entrepreneur, a marriage and family therapist, a professor, and the founder of a Purim costume gemach which gave out 700 costumes in 2017.

Laurie is invested in her community. She is a popular speaker, and addresses high school students on topics such as entrepreneurship, higher education, and guidance for women who work while raising their families.

How does Laurie keep so many balls in the air and maintain her positive energy? 

The answer can be found in the qualities Laurie uses to describe herself: hard working, tenacious, sincere, and always optimistic. She tops these off with the additional traits of being funny and having the ability to make people laugh.  Laurie recognizes that her ability to make people laugh and to see the humor in life is quite a gift.  Her sincerity, authenticity, and modesty also shine through.

Laurie believes her biggest challenge is that she does not like to do things half way, and she wants to be good at everything.  Therefore, Laurie has to remind herself that she is not perfect and doesn’t have to be perfect.  Laurie states that the challenge is to lower expectations and not forget about yourself.  “I go easy on myself...and try to do lots of self-care,” Laurie says.  Her self-care includes taking moments for herself, a bit of exercise, a hot cup of tea, reading a chapter in a book no matter how busy she is, and taking five minutes for herself in a quiet room.  These practices help to keep Laurie grounded, and prevent her from getting lost in all the multi-tasking.

Special Role Models

Laurie credits several special role models who deeply influenced her.  Her hard working nature stems from her mother, Marlene Goldstein, who raised Laurie by herself from the tender age of 5 months. Although Marlene was a young divorcee who had to quit high school, she managed to send Laurie to SAR Yeshiva and Central Yeshiva High School, and she never took a penny from public assistance. Marlene started her own medical transcription business.  While working to create the best life for Laurie and herself, Marlene completed high school, earned a bachelor’s degree, two Master’s degrees, and received her Therapeutic Recreation at 38 years of age.  Read on to see how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

Marlene is Laurie’s inspiration for her advocacy work in education and college guidance. Laurie encourages young women to further themselves and achieve financial independence. Laurie also believes, however, that “A wife and a mother are extremely important roles. They're important and they're rewarding in and of themselves.” 

Laurie attributes her optimism and appreciation for life to her maternal grandfather, Milton Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz was a holocaust survivor who was a father figure to Laurie when she was growing up.  Mr. Schwartz was determined to make it in the U.S., and maintained a positive and hopeful attitude and work ethic, climbing the ladder to become the director of a major NYC hospital.  He also appreciated how beautiful life was, in spite of all the tragedies he had endured.

Laurie learned about tenacity from her husband of 20 years, Isaac Mavorah, who she calls “remarkable.”  Isaac’s childhood was challenging and harsh.  Both his parents were hearing-impaired. They divorced when he waseight-years-old.  Isaac stepped up to the plate and helped to raise his two younger brothers. He defied all the odds to become a successful businessman, and is now an esteemed member of the Sephardic community.  

Marriage and Career

Laurie led a sheltered Ashkenazi life as an only child in Riverdale. She had never been to Brooklyn nor met a Syrian Jew until she met her husband.  Hashem brought Isaac Mavorah, Laurie’s bashert, into her life when she was 15 years old. Isaac was a mere 10 months older.  They married five years later, first living in Brooklyn, then in Riverdale.  When Laurie was expecting her third child, she and Isaac bought a house in Deal, and they have been there for 15 years.

Although Laurie and Isaac were very young when they met, Laurie says they were much more mature than their peers.  Their respective childhoods caused them to grow up fast.

While Laurie’s mother was building a life for the two of them, there wasn’t much time for cooking and homemaking.  That actually made it easier for Laurie to learn the Sephardic recipes and traditions from Isaac’s aunts when she married him.  Laurie did not have to transition from gefilte fish and cholent to Syrian delicacies such as kibbeh and lachmagine. Instead, when Laurie got married she learned how to cook Syrian style.

As a newlywed, Laurie went to school and started a medical transcription business called Hycare Medical Transcriptions, Inc.

Laurie differentiated herself from her competitors by using digital technology, versus cassette recorders, and she automated her processes.  Hycare became successful so quickly that when Laurie was pregnant with her first child she decided to leave school and devote herself to her family and her business.  Her clients included all the major NYC hospitals.  She was fortunate to work from home, and she maintained a healthy work-life balance for 18 years. 

Approximately seven years ago Laurie recognized that her medical transcription process was going to become obsolete with the federal government’s introduction of the EMR (Electronic Medical Records) software.  Her hospital clients started migrating to this new universal software.  Laurie explained, “I went from being on top of the industry to extinction.”

She did not give up, however.  Laurie’s tenacity and optimism kicked in. She had started a business from scratch before, and believed she could build a new career again.  But how could she reinvent herself, she asked, without a bachelor’s degree?

That question led Laurie into a six year journey at Kean University.  First she completed her bachelor’s degree, and then completed a master’s degree in Psychological Services.  This master’s degree qualified her to become a professor and teach psychology courses at Kean.  She is currently finishing a second master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at Kean. She teaches psychology courses at Kean and sees therapy clients 20 hours a week at a nearby clinic in Montclair, NJ.  Laurie was chosen to address her fellow graduate students at her 2016 Kean University graduation. She spoke in front of approximately 5,000 people, in what Laurie calls her “shining moment” and her second greatest accomplishment (after her family) that she is most proud of.

Why Marriage and Family Therapy?

Going into a helping profession was a natural fit for Laurie.  As far back as high school, Laurie had that “helping” trait. She was the go-to person when people needed advice or were sad. They responded to Laurie’s soothing nature.  Laurie’s best skills were suited to those struggling with marital and family issues. Laurie knew she could help their relationships thrive. “I really have a good understanding of the relationship process and what it takes to nurture relationships,” Laurie said.

Laurie’s Secret to Success

When I asked Laurie what her secret to success was, she responded immediately. “Make yourself special. [Determine] what makes you stand out, what makes you a special business person, student, or friend.” Laurie believes that this is the secret to success in life, business, and all relationships.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career and dating coaching.   Ellen can be contacted at