Chesed close to home for Abrams family
By Deb Silverthorn
Carolyn and David Abrams have been hands-on caregivers, caretakers, mitzvah-makers and more throughout Dallas’ Jewish community for decades. It’s time now to return the favor.
David was diagnosed earlier this year with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). While his physical abilities are somewhat compromised, his spirit, sense of humor and care for others hasn’t diminished even a bit. Together, the Abramses are staring the disease down, moving on as best as they can, grateful for a community who cares.
In the spring of 2021, David had fallen a few times. At first, he didn’t think much of it. But, continuing to weaken, he went to his primary care doctor, who referred him to a neurologist, then to a rheumatologist.
It took more than a year for a diagnosis to come through. The “maybe,” “could be” and “might be” conversations eventually led to confirmation of his having the progressive nervous system disease. ALS affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, ultimately causing loss of muscle control.
After a fall at their beloved Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) on Kol Nidre night, David began using a cane. By late December, he was using a walker. In December, when he finished a contract role as an accountant, he realized that it was likely his last.
“Then, just a week later, I couldn’t move and was admitted to Presby Dallas for four nights followed by three weeks at Legacy Midtown Park’s health care center,” said David. “I came home and not long after, Carolyn fell, and in March, I began relying on my wheelchair. 2022 has been tough.”
In January, just before David’s Feb. 16 formal diagnosis, Carolyn — who has a home chef business — fell while delivering to a client. Hip surgery followed the next day, and a second operation a week later when complications arose. The couple, used to helping others, relented and accepted the support of family, friends and professionals. With the ALS confirmed, and Carolyn still unable to stand on her feet long enough to return to her beloved “Carolyn’s Cuisine” home business, a GoFundMe was set up to support David’s nonmedical ALS expenses.
“It’s hard because we are used to being the people out there helping, dropping off food, running errands, whatever we can do to help. It’s incredibly humbling, and we are so grateful for everything that everyone is doing,” said Carolyn, who is working temporarily as a telemarketer securing opera subscriptions, a position she can fulfill with less physical strain.
“From an office chair and dining chairs to my wheelchair, and accommodations throughout the house that are continuing — it’s all so different. We were resistant at first to the public support, but the expenses have built up so quickly,” said David. “We’ve realized the costs are climbing, and will continue to do so, and there’s so much that Medicare won’t cover. The support people are sharing is just overwhelming.”
Crews from Dallas Ramps and First Richardson Helpers built ramps inside and outside the home, allowing David access. While it’s difficult for David to get in and out of most vehicles, he appreciates Jewish Family Service’s and DART’s paratransit services.
In addition to financial support, the Abramses are thankful for the crew of CSI’s Mitzvah Meals and the many individuals who are delivering meals. Their only requests are to bypass green peas, pork and shellfish, and that meat and dairy items are not to be mixed. Their son Sam is a fan of pizza and burgers and Popeye’s Fried Chicken.
Supporting the family’s physical care team is longtime friend Andi Taubman, owner of Andi’s Angels Home Care. While the couple needed more care when Carolyn was recovering from her surgeries, they are now providing 54 hours, nearly $1,400 each week, a cost that could more than double.
“Our families were dear friends before we were born,” said Taubman, a native of Midland, who was raised in California. After moving to Dallas in 2011, she founded her company, providing senior patient advocacy and nonmedical home care services. “Making sure their care is reliable and that they are covered is a priority.
“I’ve helped them bring some of the parts of the puzzle together,” said Taubman, who provides her services to the Abramses only to cover her caregivers. “Caregiving is expensive, and ongoing, but I’m making sure they have the very best.”
David, the son of Lolly and Sam, of blessed memory, and the brother of Susan (Rocky) Horowitz, was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and moved to Helena, Arkansas, at age 9. Raised at Temple Beth El, he graduated from Central High School and from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. At LSU, David was a member of ZBT and Hillel. As a student, he founded the United Jewish Appeal campaign on campus, a role he made professional when he moved to Dallas, from 1979 to 1981 as a UJA field representative.
He then spent three years in Shreveport, Louisiana, as executive director of the North Louisiana Jewish Federation before returning to Dallas in that same role with the Jewish National Fund; then worked with longtime friend Mark Kreditor, and with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, before turning to contract accounting roles.
A Dallas native, and fourth-generation Congregation Shearith Israel member, Carolyn is the daughter of Anita and Charles Marcus, of blessed memory, and the sister of Fraser (Rhonda). She was a member of USY and Ginny Weinstein BBG, graduating from Hillcrest High School and the University of Denver. A Life Member of Hadassah and of National Council of Jewish Women, Carolyn has been involved with Shearith Israel’s a cappella choir, Adult B’nai Mitzvah program, SISterhood and Social Action Committee. For many organizations, she has donated her chef services for auction.
The Abramses were introduced by mutual friend Mark Kreditor. He was repaying a most important favor, since David had introduced him to his own wife, Carol.
“I owe everything that matters to me to David — my wife, my kids and grandkid, my life,” said Kreditor, who credits David with starting his focus on Jewish philanthropy. “David added me to a JNF fundraising drive — the beginning of organizational philanthropic involvement. Forty years after we were collecting $5 for a tree in Israel, I’ve visited groves in the Western Galilee and thought of where we started.”
A game of Jewish geography had them soon realize that Carolyn’s father was also from Clarksdale and there had been family connections for over a century.
The future Mr. and Mrs. Abrams shared their first date at a class of the JCC’s Joys of Jewish Learning. They were married Dec. 20, 1986, at Shearith Israel. Ten years later, they adopted their beloved Sam with the support of Jewish Family Service.
“The grace and kindness, the help in so many ways is something we can’t have all the words for. I know the inevitable, but I try to smile every day and to participate in whatever I can,” said David. “This is a journey we never could have imagined ourselves on. Not ever.”
“David’s always been there, and now it’s a no-brainer to be there. Helping others is what makes our shtetl here so special. We truly feel an obligation to help one another,” said Kreditor, who in 1986 with David founded the Run for the Trees, which became the Bagel Run. “It’s not so often that the need is real, but it is now. So often we help those we’ll never meet, and that’s a good thing to do. Here, and now, we have an opportunity to help those for whom we have a real and special kinship.”
To donate to help the Abramses, visit tinyurl.com/ABRAMS-Go-Fund-Me, or submit a donation to Congregation Shearith Israel earmarked “Abrams Family.” To deliver a meal, email firstname.lastname@example.org and to donate care hours, email email@example.com.