Liba Yoffe

Tehila Yoffe, left, and her mom Liba.

 

 

Liba Yoffe had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that her 2-year-old daughter’s hair wouldn’t grow back.

Her daughter, Tehila, has alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. Liba had never heard about alopecia before Tehila’s diagnosis.

“It was very shocking in the beginning. I went home and Googled it – I had no clue what it was,” Liba said.

She and her husband quickly realized that in order to raise a confident kid, they needed to “transform ourselves as parents,” she said. “The way that you, as parents, relate to your kid who has alopecia is going to very much affect their future.

Liba, who lives in Phoenix, helps run a nonprofit called HAIROES, which provides support and organizes events for Jewish children and adults with alopecia. On Feb. 6, HAIROES is hosting its first in-person event since the COVID pandemic began in early 2020.

According to the National Library of Medicine, alopecia affects 1 in every 500 to 1,000 people in the United States.

Liba first became involved with HAIROES about six years ago. She learned of the organization through the Jewish community in New York, where she lived until 2019

“We really wanted to have something where she can meet other kids that have alopecia and see that she’s not the only one,” she said. “Also, we realized that there’s so many parents that need support.

The organization was not active, and Liba was happy to take charge. She organized her first event for the nonprofit in May 2016

“It was a big, carnival half-day event, and people actually flew in for it from across the country. For some people, it was their first time meeting others with alopecia,” she said.

Tehila, 12, clearly remembers that first event and the impact it had on her

“Four other girls came with me to the bathroom to take off their wigs and we all ran around together bald and beautiful,” Tehila said. “HAIROES is a place I can make others smile and make friends who just get it. It’s fun looking around at a room full of other bald kids. It makes me feel all happy.

Liba said she hears from fellow parents how these events fill their kids with confidence

She’s seen Tehila’s confidence grow, too.

Liba said alopecia has been something that Tehila has been able to use to build her up instead of tear her down. “She's totally comfortable with her baldness, or her wig. At this point, if anything, it’s an asset. It’s a tool to be able to help people.”

Liba, too, has grown from helping her daughter be comfortable in her own skin. Raising a confident young woman has forced her to become a confident woman herself.

Liba, who is 4 feet 11 inches tall, always felt insecure about her height. 

“I felt emotionally small, like I was unimportant – who's gonna listen to me, I'm so small,” she said.  “I learned that confidence comes from being true to yourself, and celebrating yourself. And confidence is attractive, it doesn't matter if you're different.”

Tehila said she is grateful that HAIROES has taught her to “love myself just the way I am.”

Before the pandemic, Liba would organize about two in-person events per year. But over the past two years, she’s been organizing a virtual event every two or three months. The Feb. 6 event will be at a Trampoline Park in New Jersey, and include workshops for parents, childrens and teens with alopecia. 

She’s expecting up to 100 people between 12 and 15 Jewish families to attend, she said, and is fundraising for the event on GoFundMe. JN