SARA SCHENIRER: A First-Class Option

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By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

“Each bride is like a daughter to me…I want them to feel like a queen at their wedding… I love being part of my client’s semachot and sharing in their happiness… my clients have become my extended family.”

Meet Raizy Zafarani, an energetic, warm, focused, and vivacious Syrian immigrant who reinvented herself from a shy young wife and mother, to a top tier hair designer and valued friend in our community. Please join me on her journey from Aleppo to Brooklyn.

Raizy’s Roots and Move to New York

Raizy Zafarani was born in Aleppo, Syria to Shella and Refael Sardar. She calls her childhood years “spoiled and pampered.” Raizy’s father was a wealthy businessman. She was the second of five children, with an older brother, two younger sisters, and a younger brother.

Raizy was set up with the love of her life, Joseph Zafarani (“JoJo”) by his brother’s wife Bela.  As was the custom in the 1980’s in Aleppo, Raizy dated JoJo for a short period (three dates!) and married him when she was 16 and JoJo was 21. Before she turned 17, she gave birth to her eldest son, Ezra. 

In 1992, Raizy and her family moved to New York. JoJo’s family lived in NY and Israel. There were approximately 500 Jews in Aleppo then. Although Jews enjoyed a good life in Aleppo, Raizy explained that there was always the undercurrent of fear that the government could start to mistreat the Jews again.  A year earlier, Raizy and her parents had spent a month in Brooklyn with her father’s brothers and some of her best friends who had emigrated.  She loved the beautiful close-knit Jewish community, returned to Aleppo and told her husband, “We have to move to New York.”

When Raizy settled in Brooklyn, her sons were seven (Ezra), five (Ralph) and two (Soly).  Life in NY was very tough. “We came to the U.S. with nothing,” Raizy said.  JoJo secured a job in retail as a sales manager.  Raizy considered working, but there were many obstacles. She had studied English in Syria, however the language was still a challenge.  Raizy had no marketable skills, given her background and that she had married so young. On top of that, she was responsible for three young children. Back in Aleppo, she would have had a housekeeper and a nanny.

Doing homework with her children helped Raizy master English. Although her peers were mostly stay-at-home moms, Raizy decided to look for a job in 1994.  She spoke to a friend in shul, Camille Azrak, who worked for Century 21 Department Store (“Century”) in Manhattan.  Before she knew it, Camille was able to arrange employment for Raizy and she was working at Century three days a week, leaving the house at 6:30am and coming home at 6:00pm.  To this day, Raizy still doesn’t understand how she did it.  Her father took the boys to Ateret Torah, she cooked early in the morning, and stayed up late.  After four months, she couldn’t continue at that stressful pace, and she quit.  Raizy stayed home, became pregnant with her fourth son David, and tried not to think about money.  Raizy clarified what life was like then for immigrants: “Life was difficult, but we were happy, we had fun, there was no pressure. People told us, ‘You are not American yet, you don’t know the pressure.’”

Raizy’s Start as a Hair Stylist

Let’s fast forward to 1998.  Raizy’s sister Vera suggested they get their hair done.  Hair styling was important to the Sardar women.  Shella Sardar had always encouraged her daughters to blow dry their hair and keep it pretty.  From a young age, Raizy enjoyed hair design in Syria.  In Brooklyn, Raizy styled her friend Dalia’s hair every Friday when she went for coffee.  Dalia’s sister-in-law Rena told her, “You have to be a hairdresser, you have golden hands, you will make a lot of money.”  Raizy responded in the negative. “It’s not a profession for me.”

The two sisters got their hair styled and Vera started to push Raizy, “You are so good with a brush, you can do this.”    Raizy was still shy, and was reluctant to go to people’s homes to work.  Vera, a year younger but strong-willed, was relentless.  Raizy finally succumbed and made phone calls telling people, “I’m doing hair.”   Women started to book Raizy, and she was elated to have earned $80 on her first day, charging $8 a blowout.  She then came home tired, to a messy house, and cried!  Something however propelled her to continue, and the second week, a Syrian woman reserved Raizy for a weekly appointment every Thursday.  There were no cells phones or email; this was all word of mouth. This client told her sisters about Raizy, her sisters spread the word, and more women wanted Raizy to do their hair.

From Brooklyn to Deal, From Hair to Makeup

One Brooklyn client asked Raizy to travel to her daughter’s engagement party in Deal, offering to pay her $300 for the day.  Raizy had never driven to Deal, let alone on a highway, but the money was tempting.

The following year, Raizy’s sister Lena bought a house in Deal and connected her with Egyptian women who wanted their hair done before attending parties.  Initially, Raizy was reluctant to drive so far - but Lena convinced her it would eventually be worth her while. Lena was right – Raizy became well known and well liked in Deal, and spent two days a week there in the summer of 2003. Her Deal clients continued to seek out Raizy during the year in Brooklyn.

One client admired Raizy’s makeup and asked her to do her makeup for a party.  Raizy said, “I don’t do makeup” and the woman replied, “Do it like yours.”  Always striving to provide the best service, Raizy enrolled in school, received her license in makeup application, and offered hair and makeup amenities to her clients.

Turning Point

A turning point in Raizy’s career occurred seven years ago when she was asked to fly to Cannes for a destination wedding. This client did not pay for Raizy’s airfare, but got her a hotel room and promised her it would be lucrative – she would style hair for all the women on both sides of the family.

That trip set Raizy on a new path. “I started getting big clients.”  She became close with one of the Brooklyn guests. That guest hired her the following year as the hairstylist at her son’s bar mitzvah in Florence.  Raizy is now one of her close friends.  Raizy stopped doing makeup and focused exclusively on hair design for weddings and other semachot (including wigs).  She has an assistant who performs administrative tasks and blow dries.


Raizy’s sons are her cherished accomplishments.  Three are married with children and she adores their wives. “They are my daughters,” Raizy exclaims. And Raizy is crazy about her grandchildren.  Raizy and her husband work very hard, and are gratified that their sons picked up their strong work ethic. Her husband has always been a vital and loving supporter of her business and her passions.  Her mother, children, and daughters-in-law are also big fans.

Raizy is extremely proud of Hair_by_Raizyand its growth.  It’s been 21 years! She went from the “blow dry girl” to one of the exclusive bride hair designers in the community.

Raizy confided that her secret to success is organization. With all the balls she juggles, her family (with a 16-year-old at home), clients, traveling abroad, and cooking for Shabbat, it is crucial for her to plan and to be very organized.

Passions and Hobbies

Raizy’s number one passion and priority is her family.  She wakes up at 4:00 am every Friday morning to cook for them.  Shabbat is very special for Raizy, starting with candle lighting, thanking Hashem, and praying for her loved ones. Her ultimate joy is having her children and grandchildren enjoy Shabbat lunch with her.  On Shabbat afternoon before Arbit, she and her sisters visit their mother and have coffee with her, remaining there until the men join them after Shabbat.

Raizy is also impassioned about her clients, who she calls her extended family, and the brides, her daughters.

Her hobby or one indulgence is to take a little time for herself and savor a cup of coffee and read on Friday nights.

What’s Next?

Raizy believes in change and growth.  That’s why she attends hair design workshops in Manhattan, and is always learning about new methods and styles.  Her dream is to study hair design in Europe.

Raizy focuses on staying healthy so that she can work forever and make people happy.

Raizy’s Advice

Raizy’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be aggressive and to keep believing in yourself and your dreams and you will grow and succeed!

Raizy thanks the community women for welcoming her into their homes and hearts and for always supporting her.

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