Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lice Ain't Nice

They're in the lice-removing business
Tuesday, January 29th 2008, 4:00 AM

They're the lice ladies of Brooklyn.

A network of a dozen Orthodox Jewish businesswomen has developed a specialty in nitpicking — a profession rooted in Jewish tradition, the women say.

"They say Jewish men make good husbands," laughed Abigail Rosenfeld, who charges about $100 a head and works solo out of her Kensington home. "Jewish women are known to be nitpickers."

These days, the best technique involves less picking and more of a combination of combing and the use of various potions.

The women — who live in Borough Park, Kensington, Flatbush and Marine Park — have known each other for years and have worked together on lice outbreaks across the borough.

Lice are tiny parasitic insects — adults are about the size of a sesame seed — that live among hairs, most commonly on the head, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nits are their eggs.

"Everybody here has a lot of kids, so [the louse infestation] spreads faster," said Susan Sherman of Borough Park, who's been nitpicking for years and is Rosenfeld's best friend from high school.
Sherman recently started LiceBGoners, employing 16 people and charging $75 an hour for a treatment that lasts an hour or two.

Rosenfeld also offered a more serious explanation of her community's specialty. The women have experience checking food for bugs, which aren't kosher.

"Do you know how many bugs you can find in dates and figs, lettuce, celery?" she said.

Because lice are not particular to the Jewish community, the lice ladies' fame has spread far and wide. Sherman tended recently to a family in Connecticut who hailed her as a lifesaver.

Adie Horowitz, of Marine Park, who runs Manhattan-based Licenders, recalled another reason Orthodox women got into the delousing profession about 10 years ago. "There was a tough strain coming in from Israel," said Horowitz. "Now all the lice are resistant to the poisons."
The Lady Bug, a good friend of Rosenfeld's, credited her as a master nitpicking teacher.
"Abby was the first one to develop the method," she said. "She should have patented it, but she didn't."

Rosenfeld's method, developed about 10 years ago, involves repeated combings, first with hair coated in conditioner and then with baking soda. The lice ladies use various versions of a stainless-steel comb with closely spaced teeth to do their work.

"We're social workers and psychologists for panicked mothers," said Dalya Harel, of Lice Busters NYC, who's been nitpicking for more than 20 years and employs eight people.