Ellen Geller Kamaras
“I’m passionate about volunteering – it’s in my genes. I am creative and love planning happy occasions.” ~ Brenda ~
What a joy to meet Brenda Saka Antebi, granddaughter of the late Charles Saka, a”h. He was a beloved humanitarian and philanthropist, and his greatest legacy was his dedication to hesed and community that has already impacted three generations. Brenda says his hand was in everything. He lived his life performing acts of kindness to others and taught his family to do the same.
Brenda is the daughter of Margie Levy and Sammy Saka, both of Syrian descent. She was born in NJ and educated at Hillel Yeshiva. Brenda is the oldest of five children, and has three brothers and a sister. “Toward the end of high school, I became much more outgoing, and realized that my creativity and my bubbly personality were my greatest assets.” Brenda always liked participating in community work and enjoyed volunteering for charity causes at a young age. “I was brought up that way and it was ingrained in me to be involved.” At the Shabbat table, discussions centered around the community’s needs and how they could best be addressed. Input from everyone was encouraged, no matter how young.
Brenda describes herself as creative, hardworking, persistent, dedicated, optimistic, and kind. When she talks about her family, the community projects she’s engaged in, and her event planning, the excitement in her voice is palpable. “I like to wear a lot of hats. It energizes me!”
Brenda is passionate about everything she does. Taking on community and hesed endeavors and hosting came naturally to her, due in great part to the strong female role models in her life. Her grandmother Brenda Saka showed by example how to quietly do hesed and never seek recognition. Grandma Sara Levy taught her authentic Syrian recipes and their importance in keeping community tradition. From her mother Brenda learned the importance of being present for her children and always putting family first. Her mother-in-law, Shelly Antebi, modeled how to entertain with ease, and is always available for advice about business whenever Brenda needs.
Brenda loves evolving and growing. With every event, she learns new skills and strategies.
College and Career Path
Given her creative bent, Brenda always intended to make use of her special talents. After high school, she enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology and majored in Accessories Design.
“I knew a conventional four-year college wasn’t for me. At the age of 15, I took a class and built my own portfolio of handbags.” Brenda’s cousin, Barbara Saka, introduced her to Jennifer Siletski, who helped her prepare a portfolio for her FIT application. The dual curriculum at Hillel Yeshiva prepared Brenda for the rigorous program at FIT, providing her with a strong work ethic. Brenda’s FIT schedule was very demanding, with her classes ending late at night.
“I was immersed in making handbags and shoes, creating patterns, sourcing fabrics and hardware, cutting the fabric, and sewing the bags.”
During Passover of her second year at FIT in 2011, Brenda met her naseeb, Elliot Antebi. It turns out she had known him since childhood. The couple married in the summer of 2012 and lived in Manhattan for two years. Brenda became pregnant when she was graduating FIT, received her bachelor’s degree, and moved back to Deal in 2014. She gave birth to their first daughter, Shelly, in March 2015.
Becoming a mother stirred Brenda to exercise her creativity. She followed her desire to put her FIT education into use. “When Shelly was born, I started making hair bows for her, and launched my own company, Habit and Hyde Bows. I designed a collection, sourced fabrics, and hired an assistant, Marcelle Sasson. I loved helping people find the right match for outfits and connecting with my customers.”
Shelly’s sister Margie was born in 2017 and the Antebi’s moved into their own home. Their third daughter, Florence was born in 2019. Brenda enjoyed hosting guests and entertaining family and friends for holidays and celebrations as well as for community events such as fundraisers. As a teenager, she had pitched in to help her mom entertain. Brenda was adept at all the details like setting tables and arranging flowers, while incorporating her own creative spark and flair.
Segue into Event Planning
Again, it was Brenda’s daughter who led her into a new career. After a wonderful birthday party Brenda hosted for Shelly, a friend’s mom called asking if Brenda could plan a party for her daughter, too.
That first birthday party event in December 2020 kickstarted Brenda’s event planning business. She began with birthday parties. Her event bookings all came all through word of mouth. At first, Brenda didn’t take payment. She wanted to first gain experience. It was her mother-in-law who asked Brenda to arrange a brit for the first boy in their family. Before she knew it, Brenda had acquired a second specialty, brit milot celebrations. Then Brenda felt confident enough to start charging for her services. Her brother was getting married, and she planned his sebet. Requests for sebets, engagements, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and mazza parties started coming in. “My assistant, Marcelle has been with me since 2018 and transitioned beautifully from accessories to event planning.”
Brenda values the relationship she develops with each client. Establishing trust with clients is key, so that they recognize that Brenda is there for them and can handle every detail of their events and any glitch that may arise.
Brenda also loves lending her talent for community organizations. She has planned and hosted two Sephardic Bikur Holim Destination Deal Events in her home as well as her 10-year Hillel High School reunion.
To continue Charlie Saka’s legacy of charity, Brenda has spearheaded her family’s initiative to raise money for cancer research and other charities with an annual walkathon in his memory. Charlie, a”h, was known for creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and doing so many other quiet acts of hesed.
Juggling to Make It All Work
“I’m good at juggling and am very organized, always making lists. My husband is my rock. He supports whatever I do, whether it’s volunteering in school, planning a party, or running to a board meeting. My mom helps me put the kids on the bus or comes early if I have a morning event booked. She wants me to succeed! My sister Sarah is also a great support and is my best friend.”
Family comes first for Brenda. She wakes up early to prepare lunch for her children and pack their backpacks. “I’m very present with my kids. Once they come home from school, I am with them.” Her daughters are curious about her events and her community projects. It’s no surprise that Brenda helped her eight-year-old daughter Shelly set up a lemonade stand, where the proceeds were donated to the SBH food pantry. All of Brenda’s daughters help her with hesed projects, especially for their school, Hillel Yeshiva. They are proud to give back to the institution where for 20 years their grandfather Sammy has been at the helm.
To express appreciation, Brenda started a beautiful monthly lunch program on Rosh Hodesh for all the Hillel teachers and staff.
Brenda admits that balance is difficult. “Truthfully, I work well under pressure and thrive with tight deadlines.” Her assistant Marcelle knows her priorities and handles a lot of the behind-the- scenes work when needed so that Brenda can be with her family.
This past summer Brenda and Elliot welcomed their fourth daughter, Samantha Charlie.
Brenda’s parents and grandparents significantly shaped who Brenda is today. She is so proud of her dad, who does it all. “He always makes time for everything: business, family, and the community.” Brenda quotes Sammy Saka’s advice, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.” Her mom is her inspiration in how she raises her children and runs her home.
Both Margie and Sammy are her biggest cheerleaders, after her husband. Elliot has been supportive from the start and has always encouraged Brenda to follow her passions, knowing how they make her feel fulfilled. Brenda is inspired by the quiet way Elliot performs so many behind the scenes acts of hesed. She learns from him daily and is blessed to have him as a lifelong partner.
To relax, Brenda heads to the gym. “I work out almost every day, schedule my week in advance, and incorporate ‘my time.’ For one hour, I don’t look at my phone and prepare myself mentally for the day ahead.”
“Always follow your dreams and passions. Work ethic is your most valuable asset.”
Brenda is a Hillel Yeshiva board member, and often volunteers for SBH and DSN.
Message Brenda on Instagram www.instagram.com/brendaantebievents or call at 732-539-6908.
Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching. Ellen is active in her community and is currently the Vice-President of Congregation Bnai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights. She can be contacted at email@example.com (www.lifecoachellen.com).