Celebrating SUKKOT 5780

Past Articles:

By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

“My secret to success? Being genuine and resilient, and having deep emunah in Hashem.  If I don’t close a deal after working on it for six months and another person sells that house in one month, I know that it wasn’t meant to be…”

I am honored to introduce you to my colleague, Community columnist Karen Behfar of Home is Where the Heart Is.

I was eager to meet Karen.  Her articles are easy to read, not overly technical, and yet are spot on in assisting readers in navigating the rental and buyer’s markets and landscape.

The Early Years

Let’s step back in time to learn about Karen’s roots and get to know Karen as a child, student, and adult.

Karen grew up in the lovely residential Marine Park section of Brooklyn. Her mother, Mazal Halifax, was born in Egypt and at the age of three moved to Israel.  Karen’s father, Yaakov Daklo, is a Sephardic Jew and was born in Israel. His parents are originally from Bulgaria. 

Karen’s parents met and married in Israel.  Her mother and maternal grandfather worked for El Al. Mazal and Yaakov originally came to the U.S. in 1980 to seek business opportunities and then decided to settle in Brooklyn.  Karen and her family prayed at the Sephardic Center in Mill Basin.

Karen has three sisters and a brother, and guess what! She is the oldest triplet, of two sisters and a brother.  She also has two older sisters, one born in Israel and the other in the United States. 

Karen attended Ahi Ezer Yeshiva grade school and Yeshiva Ateret Torah high school.  “I always had a creative bent.  I ran Shabbat programs and creative baking workshops in day camp, throughout high school, and as a young wife.”  She proudly shared that her children study at Ateret Torah, and she was recently invited back to Ahi Ezer to address the students.

After Ateret, Karen entered Bais Yaakov seminary. She expressed how blessed she was to be introduced to her naseeb, Aharon Behfar, by Rabbi David Ozeri only two months after graduation. 

The couple was married in January (almost 17 years ago) and Karen continued with seminary. She then enrolled in Touro College and received a master’s degree in both Psychology and Special Education.

Karen and Aharon have four sons, Eliyahu, Shmuel, Yehonatan, and Elchanan. The family lives in Midwood, and was fortunate to purchase their first home a few years ago.  Shmuel, their second child, was born 13 years ago, a month after Karen completed her graduate degrees at the age of 21.

“Hashem prepared me for my second son’s birth. Shmuel is a special needs child who was born with Down syndrome. Even though I hadn’t worked yet as a Special Education teacher, I was grateful that I had the education required to understand Down syndrome, as well as the special needs world, and to get Shmuel the essential services he needed.” 

Karen stayed home with Shmuel until he was three, and various Early Intervention therapists visited Shmuel at their home.  Karen had to fight to get the therapies Shmuel needed. Aharon also pitched in with Shmuel’s care. “When Shmuel was born, I thought he was the only child in the community with Down syndrome.  I had to create my own support group.  Now parents are more open about their special needs children and there are wonderful organizations such as CARE to support these families and to run events for the parents and siblings.”  Karen attends all of the CARE events.  She half-jokingly said her next degree would be in marketing, as she has a passion for it. 

Karen’s fierce love and pride shine through when she speaks of Shmuel. “I believe he molded me into the person I am today.” My sons pick up on how I treat Shmuel, like a regular kid and they follow my lead.”

Karen’s Special Essence

I asked Karen to list adjectives that best define her. Karen responded that she always had a take charge and assertive personality, “in a good way,” and cultivated her creativity and resourcefulness from a young age. “I enjoy challenges and thinking out of the box.”  Karen’s tenacity and perseverance were present in college and really ramped up when Shmuel was born and she had to make use of these traits to advocate for him.

Her inventiveness is evident in her real estate business and in her support of other business owners, and the community at large.

Karen added that she is not a public person by nature, but she enjoys pushing herself out of her comfort zone.  She now speaks about a different real estate topic every Wednesday at 9pm on a SYNY Radio (Syrian New York Radio) podcast.  At first she was hesitant, but once she nudges herself to try something new, she realizes she’s comfortable.  “Most importantly, I love to help people.  It may be in real estate in finding a bigger house that is within a couple’s means or in working with the parents of special needs children to get the services they are entitled to.”

After meeting with Karen for two hours, I found her to be wise beyond her years, positive, poised, self-aware, and always looking to grow.  She also has a calming presence. Karen’s real estate team says she is determined, positive, resilient, and has incredible emunah.

From SEIT(Special Education Itinerant Teacher) to Real Estate Professional

You must be wondering how Karen went from psychology and Special Ed to real estate.  Karen worked as a SEIT for eight years. Around six years ago, a colleague suggested to Aharon that he become a licensed real estate broker to supplement his income as a rabbi.  Karen, who was pregnant with her youngest son thought to herself, “I love spending time with my husband, and love learning. It’s only a few weeks, why not take the course?  After the class, I realized I could do it.”

What excites Karen about real estate?

“I love helping people find the right house and figure out how they will accomplish the sale of one and purchase of another home.  I get so excited about a new listing.  I also enjoy the knowing and not knowing, what’s going to unfold?”

Karen’s main job was as a SIET and she started doing real estate on the side. She worked for a realty office for two years before she went out on her own.  The Behfar Team, launched in 2015, and specializes in residential sales and rentals in Midwood, Madison, and Marine Park.  Karen uses her psychology skills as a resource in supporting her real estate clients.  “It’s important to do a lot of listening. Husbands and wives aren’t always on the same page and the buyer’s parents also get involved.”

Karen explained that there is a low entry barrier to get into the real estate field but it’s difficult to stay in.  She invested in herself to succeed. 95% of her skills were self-taught.  Karen read a lot, listened to podcasts, and got coached in real estate.  It took her one year to sell her first house.  Karen says having a positive and persistent mindset is also key. 

What is Unique about Karen’s Approach?

Honesty is Karen’s brand, and she stays away from gray areas.  Her tag line is: “Real is all we do.”

“I tell people the truth about renting versus selling.  People say I am genuine.”   Being real is also her secret to success.  “I know that Hashem runs the world and if I don’t get a deal, that’s okay.  I have deep emunah and have worked on my ability to face rejection and bounce back, which is definitely not easy and requires constant focus.”

Balance and Challenges

In the beginning, Karen had to be always available for clients. As she became more experienced, she learned to set boundaries, and she created a better work-life balance. She shuts her cell phone at night in order to devote attention to her family.  Karen values family time and chilling out with her husband and children.  She also loves to read.

Karen developed a tougher skin and resilience, as people do a lot of unethical “shtick” to save money on broker fees. 

Aharon, who has a degree in accounting, runs the Behfar Team operations, a role that Karen describes as crucial.  He’s involved on the back-end, managing the office, dealing with the legal and financial issues, and is impassioned about helping people and learning.  He is my key partner in family and in business.  His positivity and belief in me are amazing.  He is an excellent role model for our children in his middot and values.”

Her advice to aspiring real estate professionals? Invest in yourself and find a mentor. Be patient, resilient, and genuine.  Don’t go into real estate purely for the money. You need to passionate about it!  When Karen interviews brokers for her office, she asks them why they want the job.  If the response is about the money, that person will not be asked to join her team.

If you would like to contact Karen, the best way to reach her is on her cell, 718-309-0439 or

check out her website, https://www.thebehfarteam.com/.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.   Ellen works part-time as an entitlement specialist at Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. She can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).