To mark the year anniversary of The Ladder Project our first participant, David Corn, joined us for Rosh Hashanah services, which he greatly enjoyed.
David has reached many milestones this year. He moved out of The Bridge homeless shelter to his own studio apartment, which our congregation furnished, outfitted and subsidized for several months. He got a job at Studio Movie Grill, thanks to congregant Joe Harberg. He's now certified as a tactical team leader, overseeing theater prep operations and training new employees. Since April, he's been totally financially self-sufficient—paying all his bills, including food, phone, DART passes, rent, renter's insurance, and utilities. (The recent tornado hit David's apartment complex, and the Ladder Project paid for David to go to a motel near his job for several nights until power could be restored; we also replaced the food that was spoiled in David's refrigerator and freezer.) David also became noticeably more handsome this year—thanks to Dr. Rowan Buskin, who volunteered his labor to give David dentures (the Ladder Project paid the out-of-pocket expenses). David is also extremely fortunate to have CSI congregant, Dr. Lawrie Friedman, serving as his pro bono general practitioner.
"I don't have words to express how grateful I am for all of the support," David said recently. "I'm growing up again in a way—by rebuilding my life, reconnecting with family, and gaining new family. It's my honor to know you all. Thank you. I couldn't have done it without your support. We continue with the journey."
As David's self-esteem and self-confidence grew this year, he reached out to his 35-year-old son, who he hadn't communicated with in years. He also went to Houston for a poignant reunion with his sister, who he'd been estranged from during his homeless years.
David reunited with his sister, Patricia Gonzalez.
We are now ready to help David get to a new level of independence. Although David enjoys his job, he only makes $12 an hour, the top of the pay scale. David struggles to cover his bills. When emergencies happen—like the tornado—David can't make ends meet without help. And, unfortunately when the theater is slow, David is sometimes let off work early, without pay. AND a significant portion of David's wages are deducted by the state for court-ordered child support for a 20-year-old son, who was raised by his grandmother.
We are actively looking for a job for David that pays at least $15 per hour. Our rabbis made this appeal to the congregation on Yom Kippur Day, but we have yet to be contacted by anyone with a job offer. However, one congregant, who wishes to remain anonymous, has agreed to pay David the difference between his current wage and his dream wage (a difference of $3 per hour) until he finds a new job. David will use this money for emergencies, and will also put it aside for future expenses, particularly car insurance, gas and repairs.
Used Car so David can get to a better paying job
Which brings us to the second ask the rabbis made on Yom Kippur: we are looking for a used car for David so that he can stop relying solely on public transportation. The flexibility that comes with a car will create more opportunities for a better job. David turned down one good job last year that would have required a 2-hour trip on three different DART buses. David just signed a new, year lease at his apartment, which is owned by congregant Michael Ochstein, who made a $5,000 donation to the Ladder Project. We prefer the car be donated to the synagogue but have some Ladder Project funds that could be allocated for this. thanks in large part to David's personal commitment to his job, and the many in-kind donations of furniture, household items and medical care.
We have been interviewing candidates to be our next participant family, and we will have an update about that in the next issue of The Shofar.
Thank you for all you have done to save a life. David certainly feels we have saved his, and we look forward to celebrating his future successes and enjoying his friendship.
Ladder Project Executive Committee: Chair Laura Miller; Mindy Fagin, Glenn Geller, Jeff Hoppenstein, Larry Krasner, Marsha Lev, Andrea Solka, Sally Wolfish
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine
One of the most oft-cited passages from the Talmud is the text from Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 which focuses on the significance of God creating all humanity from Adam, a single human being. According to the text, this teaches us that all people have a common ancestor, that no one can claim “my ancestor was greater than yours,” and that destroying a single life is akin to destroying the entire world, while saving even one single life is as if we have saved a whole world. This profound message, that every person matters equally, is one that, even today, close to 2000 years after the Mishnah was compiled, we still often struggle with putting into practice.
David just reached a huge milestone -- he paid all his rent and utility bills himself for the month of January! It's a big step forward, and we congratulate him. He's a bit nervous about his ability to keep this going, but we assured him we are here to help. On January 8, The Ladder Project executive committee met with David (on his day off from work!) at the synagogue to review his monthly income and expenses. Laura Miller's daughter, Lily Wolens, created an easy budget template for David to use each month to record his living expenses. Additionally, we gave David several tips on how to save money, including: bring your lunch to work at least four days a week, and don't buy any clothing -- let our congregants help with that!
David loves all the garments he has received to date, both donated and new items. When we pressed him for another wish list, he asked if it would be possible to get two pairs of his favorite jeans, Levi 505s, and some white undershirts. Please click on the link below if you'd like to purchase one of those items for him from an Amazon registry we have set up. Everyone did so well on the apartment items that he needs for NOTHING in that respect. Thank you everyone!
UPDATE! EVERYTHING ON DAVID'S AMAZON LIST HAS BEEN PURCHASED! THANK YOU!
by Laura Miller
We encourage every congregant to do an easy mitzvah this Christmas Day by doing what you do best on this holiday: Go to the movies!
David Corn is working at Studio Movie Grill now (thanks to congregant Joe Harberg), and his shift on Christmas Day starts at 10 am. Since the only family he will see that day is US, we are asking congregants to go see a film at Studio Movie Grill, 13933 N. Central Expwy. (at Spring Valley) to show support for David.
Please ask for the manager and tell him you only came to Studio Movie Grill because David Corn works there. This will be a big help to David since he is working hard to show SMG that he is an invaluable addition to the team. If you see David (he is currently one of the food servers in the theaters) be sure to tell him you are from Shearith Israel and came to support him.
It's hard for people who celebrate Christmas to be alone on that day. The holiday blues are a real thing, as we all know. You can personally make a HUGE difference -- in David's spirits and how he can be perceived as a rainmaker at work -- if we go to his theater that day to support him. This is such an easy way to show we care.
One more bit of good news for The Ladder Project: Congregant Arnie Stokol got in touch this past week to offer his free optometrist services to David. Thank you Arnie for your generosity! (And thank you for, coincidentally, officing just down the street from our other doctor donors: David's dentist, Dr. Rowan Buskin, and David's internist, Dr. Lawrie Friedman!) David will make an appointment soon.
Thank you to Sally Wolfish who recently hosted a Shabbat dinner for David with some fellow members of The Ladder Project Executive Committee. David appreciated the warm hospitality of Sally and her husband Larry. After dinner, the group helped David fill out a long, online application for a new job since David does not have wi-fi in his apartment. Good job team - he got the job!
The highest level of the ladder of charity is to provide an individual with the means to support himself, to become self-sufficient, so that never again will he need to rely on the generosity of others to maintain his independence.
Three ways you can help
$36 from every Shearith family
1. Our goal is to have 100% of all Shearith Israel families make a donation of $36 or more to a Housing/Transportation Fund set up specifically for The Ladder Project. This money will go to help David and other homeless people who we will help in the future. All donations are charitable and tax-exempt. You can donate HERE or mail a personal check to the synagogue, 9401 Douglas Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75225 and write The Ladder Project on the memo line.
David, 58, was a resident of The Bridge, Dallas’ 24-hour, downtown homeless facility for 17 months, until he moved into his own studio apartment, thanks to you – the members of Congregation Shearith Israel.
David was born in Oak Cliff. His father worked at the local box factory for thirty-eight years. His mother, a homemaker, was the only true constant in David’s life, supporting him with unconditional love
This sermon was given on Erev Yom Kippur by Rabbis Sunshine, Roffman & Wallach
On Erev Yom Kippur, our prayers begin to slip the earthly bonds of gravity. By the conclusion of this most sacred day, they are propelled straight through the gates of heaven. And what guides their way? A ladder.
Ya’ale tachanuneinu me’erv, v’yavo shavatenu mi’boker, v’yera’eh rinuneinu ad e’rev.
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share