With Tzedakah a Calling, Salon Owners Prove a Cut Above


The owners of L'Etoile Salon in Jenkintown find beauty in the betterment of other people's lives.

L’Etoile Salon owners Mel Silverman and Jerry Yellin have spent 42 years tending to the hair care and beauty needs of their clients.

But for these two Mitzvah Heroes, tzedakah might very well be the kindest cut of all.

The two men — Silverman still serves as a stylist at the Jenkintown full-service salon three times a week; Yellin takes charge of the business operations — find beauty in donating their services to young hospital patients and raising money for several major medical research nonprofits. 

“That’s the way I was brought up,” says Silverman. “I was taught by my parents it is important to help and do for other people who might not be as fortunate as I am.”

Echoes Yellin: “I grew up in a family that was doing mitzvot all the time. My parents were poor and they owned a grocery store outside of Haddon Heights, N.J., in a poor community.” But despite their own lack of funds, he continues, his parents “often gave food to families without money.”

Perhaps their most emotionally satisfying project is their annual Day of Beauty for young patients in the craniofacial program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This event — which marked its 20th gathering this past spring — invites the youngsters to their suburban salon to be pampered with haircuts, pedicures, makeup and a big bag of beauty treatments.

Also benefitting from the tonsorial twosome’s talents and sense of tzedakah: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which works toward breast-cancer research and educationSilverman and Yellin have published a series of cookbooks — collections of L’Etoile patrons’ recipes — and donated proceeds from the sales to the foundation. The men also have had designs on helping Komen in other ways such as staging a benefit fashion show, with L’Etoile providing hair styling and makeup for the models, who were clothed in fashions provided by the Joan Shepp Boutique, where Mel’s wife, Marlene, works.


About six years, the duo sponsored another fashion show, which was accompanied by a silent auction and dinner, to benefit the local branch of Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency services organization. That well-attended event — held at the Cescaphe Ballroom in Northern Liberties — brought in more than $100,000.

The two philanthropists have been doing good at a fast clip: Silverman and Yellin have been contributing funds raised from their bi-ennial Cut-a-Thon to the area Alzheimer’s Association. And Silverman and a cadre of his hair-care cohorts have also been providing special stylings and accoutrements for participants in the New Year’s Eve Dance and other musical celebrations at the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life in Horsham.

The two salon owners were also in the vanguard in the battle against AIDS: Two events that they put together in the early ’90s brought in more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars for area AIDS charities. There have been many other benefits since. 

Silverman, his wife and Yellin have also cooked many holiday meals for families living at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, a harbor for young area cancer patients awaiting surgery and/or treatment. They will do so again this Thanksgiving.

Trim back their activities a bit? No, trimming is an activity, aver Silverman and Yellin: The salon partners also have contributed haircuts to McDonald House’s residents.

All these good deeds are rooted in their own roots as concerned Jews, says Yellin, who, years back, was a volunteer at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, N.J., where he set up a project involving teens paying visits to residents of an area Jewish geriatric center.

Yellin credits his sense of giving to his parents, founding members of Temple Beth Sholom in his hometown of Cherry Hill (formerly of Haddon Heights); a dear friend, Rabbi Shalom Lewis; and Lewis’ parents, the late Rabbi Albert — longtime religious leader of Temple Beth Sholom and former president of  the International Rabbinical Assembly — and the rabbi’s wife, Sarah.

That couple was “so inspirational to me because they made Judaism a living and breathing religion as opposed to just a written scripture," Yellin says. "This helped me to make it a part of my life.”

Tzedakah Scissorhands? It's all part and parcel of soulful sustenance, adds Rydal resident Silverman, who emphasizes the integral role his wife plays in all that he does.

“I try to do something good every day, seven days a week.”

Those daily good deeds are major undertakings, more than just a little off the top of life. And they provide a wonderful side benefit, he says: “It all makes me feel good about myself when I contribute to the betterment of others.”


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