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ONE ON ONE WITH CINDY ANTEBI

By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

“I am blessed to be living in a community where we take care of each other and we have so much opportunity. You never lose by giving - it’s a no-brainer.”

Who is Cindy Antebi?  Within thirty minutes of meeting Cindy, I realized she is a positive, energetic, spiritual, and humble person who leads a full and multi-faceted life.

Cindy is a wife, a mother, the owner of Sylvia’s Sweet and Stationery Shoppe (“Sylvia’s Candy”), Deal’s iconic candy, toy, and stationery store, and she is an Executive Board member of The Tawil Family Jersey Shore Branch of Sephardic Bikur Holim (SBH).

Cindy was born in Brooklyn and moved to Deal at the age of four.  Her parents, Eileen and Marty Mizrahi, are both of Syrian descent and are native New Yorkers.  Cindy’s sister, Kay Robyn Ashkenazi, is two-and-a- half years younger. The sisters are very close, and Cindy is in awe of Kay Robyn’s commitment to helping people. Cindy refers to her sister as a humble superwoman.

Cindy is proud of her education at Hillel Yeshiva, where she studied from kindergarten through high school.  After high school, Cindy took classes at Brookdale College, but also wanted to start working.

Her first job was with Video Magic, created by her uncle, Sonny Mizrahi, A”H.  Sonny was a pioneer in video production in the 80s. Cindy moved up to the role of production editor.  At Video Magic Cindy loved feeling like she was part of people’s semachot. Her uncle was killed tragically in a car accident a few years later, and his business was sold.  Heartbroken over her uncle’s death, Cindy found part-time work at Sylvia’s. She enjoyed using her creative skills andworking with the owner, Sylvia Cohen, andwith the customers.  Cindy also took an administrative part-time position at Congregation Magen David (CMD).  When CMD opened their new building, Cindy was offered a full-time job and left Sylvia’s.

Cindy was 22 when she married her husband, Albert. Cindy stopped working and a year later gave birth to her son, Jesse, soon after to be joined by Vera and Marty. Cindy was a happy and busy stay at home mom for close to twenty years.  Cindy loved raising her children (Jesse is now 23, Vera 21, and Marty 18) and driving them to and from school (Hillel, the same yeshiva that Cindy attended), play dates, and extra-curricular activities.  She especially enjoyed going to parent-teacher conferences and hearing about her children’s middot, how they respected their teachers, and helped other children who were having a hard time.  “I must be doing something right. My children are independent and so careful not to hurt other people.”

What Makes Cindy Tick?

Let’s get back to Cindy as a person. What is her spark, that essence that drives and defines her?

When asked to describe herself, Cindy puts honesty at the top of her list: “I will not lie, I cannot lie.”  She is extremely ethical and prides herself on leading a life based on integrity, believing that Hashem is always watching her.  Cindy also shared that she is loyal, trustworthy, and can keep secrets. She is not shy to voice her opinions.  Cindy is fiercely determined when she commits to a project. Cindy’s practice to always follow through propels her to be a leader and run many worthwhile events.

Cindy’s passions and values are what define her.  After taking care of her husband and children, her #1 pleasure is hosting guests at her home, hachnasat orchim.  Cindy always has a full house with extended family and friends.  She knows why Hashem gave her and Albert their house. “It’s not really ours. Hashem gave it to us for this purpose, to host others and use it for semachot and fundraisers.”

Cindy revealed that she wishes she could be a philanthropist and give and give. “You never run out if you give more to those who need it.”

Cindy’s second passion is volunteering.  Cindy started to volunteer at 14. She recalls, “As a young adult, I found my true passion in life was volunteering, and arranging events for good causes.”  Her first cousin, Joey Ashkenazi, A”H, was killed at 16 by a drunken driver. The family was heartbroken. Cindy was asked to join the Board of the Deal Sephardic Youth Center, which is named in Joey’s memory. She was only a teenager when she worked alongside the adult members of the Board to create this meaningful tribute.  She also led other events as a young volunteer for SBH Youth and Young Magen David Youth Program including visit-a-thons, challah bakes, and Friday visits to seniors.

When her children first arrived at Hillel Yeshiva, Cindy volunteered at its PTA programs. She worked her way up to become President of the PTA and a member of the Board of Education, following in her mother’s footsteps.  Albert shares his wife’s commitment to community, remaining on the Hillel Board even after his children graduated. Albert is also the President of Congregation Shaare Tefilah in Eatontown.

Cindy’s Contributions at SBH

Cindy began to volunteer at the Jersey Branch of SBH and took over the tablecloth gemach for ten years.  She recently passed the baton to another amazing person. She says, “Keeping it would have been selfish…” 

When Cindy is running an SBH event, she still keeps family as her first priority and she plans accordingly.

 “In general, it’s not easy to ask people for money -.but when it comes to hesed, I can ask for donations.  I want to give people the opportunity to help others.”

Around two years ago, Cindy combined her business savvy with her inventiveness, and pitched a new hesed project to theTawil Family Jersey Shore Branch of SBH.  At a toy show Cindy had recently seen custom games based on the classic Monopoly board game, with the names of different cities on them, such as Cambridge-Opoly and Hershey Park-Opoly. She thought Deal-Opoly would be a great draw for Deal locals.  Cindy, along with a great team, produced a profitable fundraiser, getting sponsors from the community. Businesses bought spots on the Deal-Opoly game board as well as playing cards.  The Tawil Family Jersey Shore Branch of SBH sold hundreds of Deal-Opoly games that the locals loved!

The Influence of Cindy’s Parents

We often hear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  In Cindy’s case, we can see that the ideals she lives her life by were modeled by her parents. “My mom is selfless and giving, always volunteering, always has an open house, helping my dad with his business.”

Her mother, Eileen, even found the time and energy to form her own natural granola business, Treats by Eileen® Gourmet Granola.  Cindy also credits her mother with teaching her how to treat people, especially her in-laws.

Cindy’s father, Marty, worked hard to support his family, always practicing honesty and impeccable business ethics. Her father has been an active member on the Board of the Deal Synagogue for over 30 years.   Marty’s respect for his own parents was so incredible that he drove them back and forth to and from Florida for many years.

Sylvia’s Candy

Approximately five years ago, although she was busy, Cindy felt that she needed another project to feel fulfilled.  Wanting something flexible, as her family is her #1 priority, Cindy opted for self-employment.  She also desired creative work. Cindy recalled what she adored about working at Sylvia’s, connecting with the customers and crafting baskets.  Hearing that Sylvia might be retiring, Cindy passed by the store a number of times, but kept missing the owner.  One day, Cindy said, “Hashem, I need a sign. Am I right in pursuing this?  If Sylvia walks into the butcher while I am there, I will ask her.” It was hashgachat pratit when Sylvia strolled into the butcher (Cindy had never seen her there before) and Cindy asked Sylvia if she wanted to sell her business and she replied, “I’m ready to sell.”  Sylvia stayed on to help Cindy transition and continues to help out.  Cindy’s ethical values led her to buy an existing business rather than open a competing one.

How does Cindy do it all?  “My household thrives when I plan ahead, buy in bulk, and take other shortcuts.”

Fridays and before hagim are busy times at Sylvia’s Candy. Cindy cooks for Shabbat on Thursday night and buys mazza from the local businesses to make her life easier.  Her family helps her. Vera bakes challah and the boys also pitch in.  Her mantra?  “If you give a busy person a job to do, it gets done.”

Cindy’s Tips

Cindy confided that her secret to success is loving what she does and having a good support system.  Her kids are her taste testers and her husband Albert is her technical support: “I couldn’t run my business without him. HH e helps me when my computer crashes and with tax filings, and so much more.”

Cindy strives to stay ahead of the curve, requesting feedback from her customers (“what kinds of candy and toys do your kids like?”), going to trade shows and Kosherfest, and doing lots of market research on the hottest toys.

Cindy encourages young people to follow their dreams.  She advises, “You can do anything! Believe in yourself, you are worthy of Hashem’s blessing. Work on planning, time management, and being ahead of the game.”

Please connect with Cindy at sylviascandyshoppe@gmail.com or follow her on Instagram@sylviascandy.

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 ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).