Shani Greenfield makes shidduchim — the right wig for the right woman
Shani collects used sheitels, washes, sets, and repairs them when necessary, and matches them up with women who need a new sheitel but can’t afford to buy one.
How It Started
I grew up in Brooklyn, went to Prospect Park High School, and then taught in kiruv elementary schools. After my husband and I married, we lived on the Lower East Side for a few years, and then moved to the Old City of Jerusalem where we joined the Aish HaTorah family. Then we moved to Musrara, a really cool — and eclectic — neighborhood next to the walls of the Old City between Shaar Yaffo and Shaar Shechem. That’s where I started my gemach.
Thrill of the Shidduch
When I was living in Musrara, I did wedding makeup for a kallah whose mother wasn’t frum. The kallah asked her mother to cover her hair at the wedding, but the mother couldn’t find an affordable sheitel. She saw my sheitel and loved it, so I ended up lending her my sheitel for the wedding and then giving it to her to keep afterward, on condition she wear it to light candles on Friday nights. That began her journey toward Yiddishkeit, and today she’s frum.
After that, I realized that our community has a real need to match up people who need sheitels with people giving them away. Being a people person and a sheitelmacher, I realized I could be the one to do it.
I’ve seen so many incidents of hashgachah when it comes to matching up women and sheitels. It’s happened a few times that a woman gave away a sheitel she thought nobody would want — and then the very next day, another woman came in and asked for exactly that one. Another time, a kallah who came to us said that she found out about our service while she was flying to Israel. She loved the wig of the lady sitting next to her and asked her where she got it — the woman gave her our contact info. She came to the gemach and found a perfect pre-owned wig that had been donated the day before.
It’s the thrill of making that shidduch that keeps me in business.
How It’s Going
I make the gemach work for me.
Appointments are in my home in Ramat Eshkol, from Sunday to Wednesday, mornings and nights, when my kids are in school or in bed. I also run periodic sales in which I display the entire inventory at a large venue.
Still, people knock on my door at odd hours to try their luck, and I try to help them if I can. Sheitel emergencies are real; I’ve seen women lose their sheitel when their luggage got lost in transit, leave it on the bus, or singe it when lighting Shabbos candles.
Before any client sees a wig, we wash it and set it beautifully, ready to wear. That way, when they’re looking at the piece, they’re not seeing something their neighbor gave away. They smell and look great. People are always surprised that they smell so good, and I tell them, “Well, that’s because they’ve been cleaned and prepared for you.”
The women feel respected and welcome, as if they’ve gone shopping in a regular sheitel salon. Women of all backgrounds and types come to the gemach, and it’s wonderful to witness their interactions.
The only sheitel work I do is for the gemach. I don’t do regular wash/sets or cuts. Some days I’ll have five or more women coming in, and some days there are no appointments or they don’t show up, so I end up with time to paint or do whatever else I want.
We live in an average size Jerusalem apartment. When friends from the US walk in, they stop in shock for a moment and say, “How do you fit everything you do into this little room?”
For Shabbos, we put everything away and place a huge wooden board on the table, which usually has ten or 15 people sitting around it. In Jerusalem, your home somehow expands for everything you need — and there’s still room for the kids to play.
Plans for the Future
People have asked me many times: do you want to expand? Are you going to stop? And I always say I’ve been a conduit for so many people to do chesed with each other, and I’d like to facilitate that more. One way I could do that is if I could expand my inventory through more sheitel donations.
The secondhand sheitel market is growing, and I’d like to stay a part of it.
But I don’t think I’ll ever open a fancy storefront because I like the personal feeling the gemach has now. Women like to talk to their sheitelmachers, and in this homey setting, they share personal stories. I love that this gemach takes down walls between people of different frumkeit levels. In this cozy setting, we’re all one family, and we love each other.
All the sheitels are tagged with a low fee. I learned from experience that if women don’t pay something for their sheitel, they take things they don’t need, and they feel much better about it when they’ve paid something for it. I also have people collecting, shipping, and then washing, setting, dying, and cutting the wigs so they look respectable. We also have expenses like supplies, advertising, shipping.
Anyone who asks gets a discount, and I don’t charge the ones who seem like they really can’t afford it, or cancer patients. They’re suffering enough, and this is one thing they should never have to worry about.
How We Market
My husband is my biggest promoter. He’s my role model for always giving and trying to do more. He manages our logistics, books, receipts, and website. I just tell him when it’s time to advertise for collections or a sale, and he figures out how to get the word out. Once the ads are created, I’ll also share them with my friends on WhatsApp.
How We Get the Wigs
It’s all about networking: we have wonderful friends and family all over the world who help with collections. We get the wigs to Israel through a combination of chesed and paying for people’s overweight luggage.
Choosing a Wig
I always tell my clients to come with a friend. Because I’m biased — I know what I think looks good to me. But your friend will do a much better job helping you because she knows what you like and what you think looks best on you.
If I Were a Sheitel, I Would Be…
A wild mess of dark blonde curls. When I was younger they always told me to tie my hair back and keep it under control, which I did, but it never helped. The same is with my personality; you can’t contain someone who uses their creative abilities to help other people.
I don’t judge anybody because I literally can’t. I’m such a combination of different types — my home, my affiliations, the way I dress. I dress simply and neatly, I wear things that don’t stand out — there’s nothing fancy and nothing about me to intimidate people. People walk in and say they’re so embarrassed they can’t afford a sheitel, and I tell them, “Don’t worry, I can’t afford one either.”
Before anyone ever heard of a place to donate and receive used wigs, many tried to convince me a sheitel gemach would never work. But just like my hair kept popping out, I realized they couldn’t hold me back from being more creative with how I help others.
Baruch Hashem, my idea worked out, and many others have copied the sheitel gemach idea. I get calls from other cities, and they ask me how they can make a similar gemach.
Doing It All
I love to take 20-minute power naps during the day, whenever my brain gets fuzzy. That gets me through my very busy days.
I also paint Judaic art. I’ve always been the kind of person who needs time alone. During Covid lockdowns, I didn’t have alone time anymore because the whole family was locked at home in our small Jerusalem apartment, so I began to paint to give myself alone time. I was already 40 at the time, and ended up turning it into a career — I now sell my artwork online.
Once upon a Time
I always thought I was going to be a teacher. I love teaching and feel like I was born to do it. I started off with a degree in education and taught full-time for over six years. When we moved to Eretz Yisrael, because of the language barrier, it didn’t work out.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 826)
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