UJA-NNJ’s Mitzvah Day opens window to year-round event
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UJA-NNJ’s Mitzvah Day opens window to year-round event

When Orette Vaziri offered to provide free services to needy clients of Jewish Family Service of North Jersey during Mitzvah Day Nov. 7, she had no idea how the experience would affect her in such a profound way.

She was so moved by the stories she heard that the very next morning, the owner of Salon Gisu in Wayne called the American Cancer Society and Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in Manhattan to offer cuts and blow-dries every Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Both the American Cancer Society and Memorial Sloan Kettering loved the idea, she said, and had never been approached in that context. Plans are to get the program up and running come January.

“When you hear other people’s tzuris, you realize how trivial your own problems are and appreciate your good fortune,” said Vaziri, who was brought to tears when she learned of one client’s path to free services on Mitzvah Day.

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Orette Vaziri was moved by Mitzvah Day to offer salon services to chemotherapy patients. Courtesy Oette Vaziri

Because she has several regular clients whom she has seen through the chemotherapy and hair loss experience, she feels she can make the experience less traumatic. “I go through a process and bring them from long, to short, to shorter, to a buzz cut,” she explained. “By the time they get to the buzz cut, they are OK with it. Then when the hair grows in, at first it is fuzz…. We keep cutting it and, in my experience, three months after chemotherapy the hair gets stronger again.”

For that reason, she said, she and her staff will offer services from shortly before treatment through the hair loss, clean-up of the fuzz, and finally, until the hair comes back again. She is also offering 30 per cent off services for a friend who comes along because “often the patient doesn’t want to come alone,” she explained.

The 51-year-old Vaziri was born in the Bronx. Her parents were Sephardic Jews from Istanbul. She met her husband, Mehran, an Iranian Muslim, in California. He was studying film and managed a hair salon after the shah lost power and he lost his school funding.

“With all going on between Jews and Muslims, he was a wonderful son-in-law to my aging parents, who lived with us until they died,” she said. She and her husband are the parents of two boys, Austin, a sophomore at Wayne Valley High School, and Alex, who attends the Academy of the Arts in San Francisco.

Vaziri is no stranger to philanthropy. In years past, her salon has donated work and tips to raise thousands of dollars for breast cancer and ALS because of clients affected by these two diseases.

For more information, call Vaziri at (973) 600-3112.

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