Ellen Geller Kamaras
“After I got married, we spent 23 summers in Bar Harbor, Maine, the gateway to Acadia National Park. The park is the first sight of the sunrise in the U.S. for half of the year. When you see the birds, nature’s colors and variations, and how the world is organized, you know it all comes from Hashem.” ~~ Sherryl ~~
Please meet Sherryl Bouganim (formerly Sherryl Betesh), a positive, spiritual, creative, warm, strong, and vibrant woman. She is as an outdoor enthusiast who loves to garden and appreciates all things about nature.
Sherryl is easy to talk to. We connected immediately and a friendship was born. Sherryl’s positive energy and warm-heartedness is contagious.
Sherryl, the daughter of Claire and Morris E. Harary, grew up in Bensonhurst and Flatbush. Of Syrian descent on both sides, Sherryl’s parents were born in the United States. She is grateful for the close-knit bonds she has with her two sisters and brother.
Her family’s love of Torah can be traced to her Syrian grandparents, especially to her paternal grandfather who had smicha and was a learning partner of Chief Rabbi Jacob Kassin, zt”l, and Hacham Baruch Ben Haim, zt”l. One of Sherryl’s fondest memories is walking to shul on 67th Street at the age of nine to meet her grandmother, Sarah Menaged. Sherryl treasured Shabbat and holidays with her grandparents and Grandma Sarah taught Sherryl how to cook.
Sherryl was an enthusiastic student and even skipped a grade. She was friendly even as a child, a true people person. Sherryl’s best subjects were science, English, art, and sports. She was honored with a National Junior Science award. A natural athlete, Sherryl was on the JCH swim team and earned a junior lifeguard certificate. At Madison High School she joined the gymnastics team and completed on the balance beam statewide.
Sherryl’s creative bent sparked at a young age and in high school she excelled in art.
Sherryl’s passion for art took different directions as she journeyed through life. As a child Sherryl began as a dancer (ballet, tap, and jazz). She painted and drew in high school, sang in the Glee Club, and won a post-high school Metropolitan Museum scholarship. Sherryl became a professional makeup artist after high school. She enjoyed gardening as an adult, trained to become a Pilates instructor, enhanced her culinary skills, and appeared on cooking shows with her mom. Moving back to New Jersey, Sherryl harnessed her creativity to become an expert event planner for community fundraising.
The Hararys were inspiring role models and they strongly shaped Sherryl’s values, philosophy, and life perspective. Sherryl also acquired her entrepreneurial spirit and strong work ethic from them. Her dad, Morris, was a mason on civil record and owned collectibles stores. Sherryl’s mother’s retail niche was home accessories. “I was amazed in the summer how mom had the house spiffy and clean, dinner cooked, and got the four of us out to the beach by 11am daily.”
Sherryl worked from the age of eleven, babysitting at a beach cabana. Using her talent for art and fashion, she landed jobs at a jewelry shop, a shoe store in the West Village, and Crazy Eddie’s. Her effortless ability to talk to anyone made her a terrific salesperson.
By the age of twelve, Sherryl’s ballet studies led her to the accomplishment of dancing “en pointe.” She thankfully learned about hesed in a defining moment: her ballet teacher asked if she would give her toe shoes to a girl who could not afford her own.
At fourteen, Sherryl worked in Manhattan after school and took the train to visit museums frequently. Her love of art increased with each visit.
“My parents taught me to be proactive, independent, open-minded, kind, and friendly. I often brought home classmates of different backgrounds. My parents believed that if you want to get things done and you put your mind to it, it can get done. Hashem gives us the innate ability and brains to attain our goals.”
Post High School Metamorphosis
After high school graduation, Sherryl took a job in a cosmetics boutique on Madison Avenue and she became an accomplished makeup artist. Sherryl learned how to apply makeup on celebrities and also taught makeup application. One client was so impressed with Sherryl’s talent that he offered to establish a cosmetics business for her in California.
Imagine that you could be a caterpillar one moment and a butterfly the next. You don’t just wake up and become the butterfly. Growth is a process.
Early on in our interview, Sherryl compared herself to a butterfly. I first thought of a social butterfly, a charming and talkative person who is a good leader and motivates others. Digging deeper, I remembered that a butterfly is one of the most colorful and vivid insects and that it starts out as a caterpillar and changes into a butterfly through metamorphosis.
As you read Sherryl’s story, you will see how fitting the butterfly analogy is and how Sherryl grew and developed new skills as she entered different life stages.
Motherhood and Community
Sherryl married at 18, kept her job, and landed an appearance on a TV commercial.
Her husband’s business brought the family to Bar Harbor, Maine for three to six months of the year. Bar Harbor shares borders with Acadia National Park, a stunning national treasure. Sherryl was blessed with three sons and then a daughter. Frederick Betesh, her oldest son, was born in 1983. A determined child, he learned to mountain climb and became a level two climber. He formed the first Jewish young men’s surfing camp on the Jersey shore, “Camp Freedom.” Morris Betesh, affectionately known as “Rabbi Mo B,” is a kindergarten a rebbe, a high school teacher, and he also learns in kollel. Eliot Betesh is a carpenter and also does technical electronic work. He is known for his “golden hands.” Margaux, Sherryl’s youngest, first learned about outreach abroad and in the U.S. and is now an educator for a kiruv group called Meor Manhattan.
Living in Bar Harbor and raising her children in Acadia’s splendor had a profound effect on Sherryl and her children. It enhanced Sherryl’s spirituality, as only Hashem could have created such beauty. This environment, and, of course, Hashem’s hand, fostered Sherryl’s children’s fervor for the outdoors and adventure.
Sherryl would hike in the wee hours of the morning before returning home to feed her children breakfast and get them dressed. Since Sherryl was 17, she has been what she calls “holistic,” practicing natural health, and doing only nutritious cooking. “No white sugar or white flour for my family!”
When her children enrolled in kindergarten, Sherryl stayed in NJ during the school year, returning to Maine for the summers. Back in NJ, Sherryl realized how important friends are. “In our awesome community, friends and family are the same. You can turn anywhere and be involved in something meaningful provided you have the desire to.”
A Volunteer Par Excellence Is Born
In 1998 Sherryl and her husband divorced, and she and her children moved back to New Jersey. Sherryl focused on reconnecting with her childhood friends. Before she knew it, she was volunteering to fundraise. Sherryl first got involved with the Carol Haber Fund Bridal Fund. She composed a heartfelt appeal and collected a substantial amount of donations. This encouraged her to volunteer with other organizations. Since Sherryl is sociable, she was invited to take over the microphone at quite a few events. Learning as she went along, Sherryl began with small events and stretched herself, taking on more responsibility and organizing larger fundraisers.
The first big event she coordinated was a health-focused event called Pure Inspiration for Congregation Shaare Tefilah Bene Moshe of Eatontown. Sherryl saw firsthand that by asking someone if they want to be included in hesed, you are providing them the opportunity to be included in a mitzvah.
“If you ask someone to do something good, Hashem finds a way for you to receive help. For Pure Inspiration, one volunteer specialized in PR and marketing, another obtained 32 health-related product vendors. This allowed me to focus on the creative and fundraising pieces. It was magical. The event led to Bonei Olam making their first event in the community that summer.”
Sherryl was instrumental in opening the NJ Sephardic Bikur Holim Food Pantry. The subsequent collection of food programs included the monthly local yeshivot “Rosh Chodesh Chesed Mitzvah” that ran for a number of years and later turned into the Orange Bag Project. The help and work of many talented women and teachers was crucial to sustaining this program.
Sherryl is also a community advocate on issues that adversely impact our residents’ health and home environment.
The Latest Chapter
In 2013, Sherryl reconnected with and married her childhood friend, Morris Bouganim. Before the pandemic, the couple traveled between Eatontown and Mexico City for seven years. Morris recently moved his business from Mexico to the United States.
Sherryl enjoys dancing, nature, Torah classes, and cherishes being with her family and grandchildren. A “flavorful cook,” Sherryl prepares many ethnic dishes from around the world in addition to her ancestors’ traditional foods.
Sherryl is looking forward to a creative chapter full of color and new things. She is now doing portraits in oil pastel and making semi-precious jewelry for babies.
Please connect with Sherryl at email@example.com or 732-245-9550.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (www.lifecoachellen.com).