Good Hero philanthropic award recipient David Rubin and his wife Adie have deeply impacted our community through thoughtful charitable giving with a focus on uplifting others through education and meaningful connections. The couple, originally from New York and married for 44 years, have been through their fair share of heartache, but it is that heartache that has helped to fuel their mission to help others during difficult times. Early on in their marriage, they lost their only child, a son, after a serious illness in Adie forced the doctors to deliver Jordan very early. He died ten days later. According to the couple, the strongest glue in their partnership is not their marriage, but their friendship. “We have been best friends since day one, and it’s the friendship that has kept us together through the hardest times,” shares Adie.
As Jews and practicing Buddhists, the Rubins have had the privilege to have been guided by two paths that stress giving. In Judaism, tzedakah is a Hebrew word meaning “righteousness,” but commonly used to signify charity. This concept of charity differs from the modern Western understanding of charity. The latter is typically understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity; tzedakah is an ethical obligation. In Nichiren Buddhism, the stress is on boddhisattva practice—one of ardent commitment to self-development while also seeking to ease the suffering of others and bring happiness and benefit to them. David and Adie practice this for themselves and for others. The founder of Nichiren Buddhism once noted that “If one gives food to others, one will improve one’s own lot, just as, for example, if one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way."
David learned early in life about the power and magic of reading, growing up in a house of readers, delving into Hemingway at the age of seven. “Next to my family, I consider the ability to read the most impactful gift my life has given me,” he says. When he and Adie learned of an afterschool program in Newtown that was helping at-risk students to get back on grade-level reading, they jumped in. Adding in David’s love of architecture that inspires learning, they formed a team that built a leading-edge campus in the heart of Newtown named for the program’s founder, Mrs. Jacquelyn Paulk. SOAR (Seeds of Academic Resource) Learning Center is in its fourth year of successfully helping students not only catch up but excel in their reading. Many have gone on to college — one recently graduated from Yale University— and to bright, promising careers.
Adie’s life has been marked by a very personal battle with depression, anxiety and trauma. ”We have been to hell and back more times than we can count,” she says. It’s this experience with mental illness that has formed the current focus of the Rubin’s giving.
“There were so many times I felt I was barely clinging on to life,” Adie shares, “and at those times I wondered, what does someone do who doesn’t have the resource, the safety net of friends, the caregiving husband?” That’s when they scanned the community in search of those services that provided that kind of support.
“Sarasota is a place where there is enormous need, but it’s also one of the most generous and giving communities,” David shared. “We are truly blessed with many remarkable organizations that address the rampant mental health crisis in our society and our community. ”Resilient Retreat is one such organization and a favorite of the Rubins. This remarkable 84-acre retreat caters to those suffering from the varied effects of trauma. Many of their clients are first responders whose work on behalf of others has left them traumatized. All their services are free of charge to the public.
Early in 2022, Adie and David were part of an informal granting group that enabled elementary school mental health therapists at a Sarasota County school to receive what they felt was a much-needed, long-overdue salary raise. Also in support of mental health and more recently, the Rubins learned about a play being produced by Lifeline Productions called Clowns Like Me. It’s the work of Joel Ehrenpreis, who, together with playwright Jason Cannon–who served ten years as an Associate Artist at Florida Studio Theatre–is creating a one-person play about dealing with mental health challenges. It is about the life of Joel’s son Scott, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome along with other challenges, and is the sole actor in the play.
“It’s a poignant, humorous, and touching experience,” shares Adie, “It captures so much of what I have been through.” The goal of Scott’s parents and Jason Cannon is to bring the show to college campuses throughout the nation and the Rubins are working with them to try and make that happen.
Additionally, the Rubins annually support the Mark Wandall Foundation, an organization that helps children who have been touched by loss, and who desperately need a way to experience that loss and associated grieving, in a way that is healing and restorative. David explains “I’ve had the privilege of supporting the work of the Mark Wandall Foundation, led by Mark’s amazing wife Melissa, an organization that she founded after Mark was killed by a red-light runner years ago. Melissa made a vow that she would raise her newborn daughter Madisyn Grace not in loss, but in love. That was the starting point of her work.”
David and Adie are grateful to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for introducing them to many of the programs they have supported, including SOAR, a community-based education program for students in grades K to 3 in Newtown. David contributed gifts from his fund at the Foundation to help construct SOAR’s 3,000-square-foot, permanent learning center facility. The Rubins are looking forward to continuing their work, their tzedakah, so that by "lighting a fire for others, they brighten their own way."
To see the story as it originally appeared online in SRQ Magazine on March 2, 2023, click here.