We broke the cycle of poverty – From recipient to giver

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By: Frieda Schweky

On July 17th 2012, the community was shaken to its very
core. A 12-year-old boy playing on the beach was suffocated by the most playful thing in the world – sand. Twenty-three hours later, Ezra Cornman left this world. The seven-day shiva period is one few will forget. Thousands of people walked through the Cornman family’s doors looking to console, and walked out uplifted with inspiration, with tears in their eyes, and carrying a pair of tzitzit to wear in Ezra’s memory. It was a somber time, and a very difficult time not only for the Cornmans, but for every parent, brother, and sister.

Following the shiva, the Cornman family decided to honor Ezra’s memory and keep his name alive. There were two goals in mind: find a charitable cause relevant to Ezra, and fill a community void. Since Ezra was just a few months away from turning 13, they decided to start an organization that would assist families with bar mitzvahs.

The Ezra Cornman Bar Mitzvah Foundation (ECBF) is a non-profit charity organization that aids families in need with bar mitzvah essentials, including everything from a pair of tefillin to a small celebration and everything in between (clothing, Torah reading lessons, korachas, and more). The foundation works with a network of community rabbis, and partners with other community organizations to assist with local bar mitzvahs, while also partnering with Yad Eliezer and Belev-Echad in Israel.

“I don’t remember much about my bar mitzvah 13 years ago,” said David Cornman, Ezra’s brother and сo-founder of ECBF. “However, had I not had one, had I been the only one in my class not to have one. That would have stuck with me for the rest of my life. I don’t think I would ever recover from that embarrassment and shame.”

The Ezra Cornman Bar Mitzvah Foundation helps families who have a clear financial need. Take for example, one of the families they are currently assisting. The family is only able to pay the rent with help from government subsidies, and they rely on food packages delivered every month. There is no way they could pay for a celebration, let alone a pair of tefillin. Other families are living paycheck to paycheck, have high medical expenses, or the family breadwinner has simply lost their job. During these tough times, when even the basics of living seem to be a struggle to obtain, a celebration such as a bar mitzvah can seem like an impossible feat. This is where ECBF steps in.

It is important to spread awareness of this worthy organization. ECBF has had a case of a family that was unaware of this organization prior to the son’s bar mitzvah. The family had no means of buying tefillin for their son, so they did not. The boy went to shul every day for six months after his bar mitzvah, and used his father’s tefillin following prayers. When ECBF found out about this case they quickly got to work, and the boy had what he needed just three short days later.

“It breaks my heart to hear some of these cases. I want everyone to know that there is somewhere to turn for help with bar mitzvahs. No boy should have to feel like an outcast because of financial strain. We are here to help.”

To date, the Ezra Cornman Bar Mitzvah Foundation has helped 174 families, and counting! Their mission is to ensure that every single boy in our community has a bar mitzvah with dignity.

 If you would like to donate or you or someone you know could benefit from the ECBF, please reach out! Contact 646.628.7128 or davidc@ecbfund.org.