SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 – When it comes to volunteering in Beverly and across the North Shore, David Carnevale is often one of the first people in line to help. Carnevale was born in Nova Scotia, and grew up in Beverly. His wife, Sue, is a forensic psychologist, and he has a son and daughter, Roman and Calandra. He converted to Judaism several years ago, and since then he has served on the Board of Directors at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly.
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You were born in Nova Scotia?
Yes. I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was put up for adoption and placed in an orphanage in Prince Edward Island. When I was 18 months old, I was adopted and brought to Beverly where I grew up.
How was it to grow up in Beverly?
It was great. My dad owned H. Guy Lyman Company in Beverly, and he was a plumber. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. My upbringing was really nice. I grew up one street over from where I live now. When I graduated Beverly High School my dad got me into the plumber’s union. I became a plumber, and I eventually took over my father’s business.
You grew up Catholic?
Yes. I was always a spiritual person. I have a daughter from my first marriage. Then I met my wife, Susan, 21 years ago, and we got married in 1999. She is a forensic psychologist. We were married for two years and we decided that we wanted to have children, but we were older so we went through all of the DSS programs and graduated all of the classes. And when it came down to foster care or adoption, I had a talk with Sue. I asked if we could adopt a kid from another country just like I was. I wanted to give another kid a break, just like I got. And Sue said, it was OK. So, we actually had to go Russia twice and we brought home Roman. He was 5. He’s now 19, and attends Endicott College in Beverly.
When did you decide to convert and become a Jew?
I was a non-practicing Catholic. We adopted Roman and we decided we would raise him Jewish. My wife is from Chestnut Hill. I then met Rabbi Steven Rubenstein, a former rabbi at Temple B‘nai Abraham in Beverly, and he became my best friend here. Before we had Roman I was going with Susan to Friday night services, and I’d always ask Steve questions about Judaism and he always took the time to answer them fully. One day I asked Steve about converting and he referred me to the Lappin Foundation, which had a conversion program with rabbis. I took a class with a few rabbis, and I learned about different aspects of Judaism. And then I went to the mikvah and it was so funny. As a plumber I had repaired the mikvah in Lynn and so now I went there for myself and it was closed because they were painting it. So I said, “Steve, where could I go?” It was April. And the rabbi said there’s a lake at Camp Menorah in Essex. And I knew the camp well – my son went to Camp Menorah for 10 years and I did a lot of volunteer work for them on their plumbing. I even had the keys to get into the camp. I knew that Chebacco Lake is really cold. But we went over there, and I did it. I dunked a few times. I felt really very spiritually satisfied. I felt like I was supposed to be doing what I was doing. I felt more whole with myself.
You’ve done a lot of volunteer work over the years.
Yes. For the last eight years I’ve been in charge of organizing a Monday Night Dinner at the First Baptist Church in Beverly for those who have no where else to go. The shul pays for it and we have 10 to 12 members from the temple volunteer every month. We have a spaghetti dinner with meat sauce, and we have a couple of women who come early to make ratatouille and they drive over to a farmstand that donates all of the produce. We even have homemade applesauce.
You also provided and installed all of the plumbing material at the Habitat for Humanity House in Beverly, and built a shower for a homeless shelter in Beverly. Why are you so passionate about volunteering?
I like to give. Anytime I can volunteer I jump to it. I want to give back. You know I’ve been lucky, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d be planting potatoes on Prince Edward Island if I didn’t get the chance I had so, I just want to give back.
You’re on the board of Temple B’nai Abraham.
Yes, I’ve been on the executive board for six years, and now I’m a vice president at the synagogue. For me, being in temple is like being at home. It just feels so right to be at that temple. The people are so nice, and I’ll do anything for my family. When they did the renovations for the bathrooms, I got all the materials for below cost. I go to Friday night services. This summer we had our Friday night services at Lynch Park. I helped get the pizza, and I got them at discount.
You went to Israel. How was your experience?
I traveled with the temple to Israel a few years ago. It felt like home, it felt just like it was all meant to be. I went to the Western Wall, and I could have stayed there all day. I meditated and I just felt one with myself and with God. I was mainly thinking about myself. Susan was there also. I was able to talk to God there.
How is Judaism different from the religion you were raised in?
I think it’s more fulfilling because I can talk directly to God. And Judaism allows me to do that.
I love the Jewish traditions, the holidays. We have a Passover seder in my dining room and we host as many as 18 people each year. My wife will lead the seder, and in the past we’ve had Rabbi Alison Adler and Steve Rubenstein here.
Do you look forward to the High Holidays?
Yes. I fast on Yom Kippur. It’s a Jewish tradition that I enjoy being a part of. I look inward on that day. I think about my family, where I am in life, and where I want to be in life. And I always think about just how I want to try to help out as much as I can in life.