While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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To purchase the music of So Is Life and Beged Kefet," visit jonahmac.org/music.

The Jonah Maccabee Foundation, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations. Our Federal tax ID # is 45-1736178.

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Bring Him Back, and Then I’ll Let Him Go

Dear Jonah,

It’s twelve years now and you’re still not back. So I guess this is going to be a thing, huh?

So much changed for me the day you died. I never know where or when, but things can affect me quite differently from the way they used to. Invariably it’s because a moment brings sudden, unexpected connection to you. I’ve certainly learned to live my life, and I’m doing pretty well at it. But then, without any warning, grief just sort of pours itself right back in.

Here’s an example.

A few months after your death, Ellen and I were back at Play Group Theatre (where you’d pretty much grown to maturity and adulthood so, needless to say, we’ve never wanted to see it leave our lives). It was painful to go back, of course, but we have so many loving memories that were born there, how could we not?

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Not An Ask … Just A Thank You

You really came through for us. Well, not just for us. You came through for all of the organizations to which we will forward grants in the coming months. Because of you, and WITH you, we will bring help to hundreds, perhaps thousands, as America emerges from the pandemic year.

Thank you. Our “Silver Linings” campaign has been a great success. What a privilege to join with you in bringing a little more goodness into the world. What a humbling honor to have you help us remember our Jonah, and to transform our loss into blessing.

We hope you found our “Silver Learnings” readings worthwhile. Here are links to all of our guest writers: Molly RodriguezJoe Casario, Evangelo ManiotisMarta Kauffman, Keron SiririJill Abusch, The Levins, Drs. Chuck and Nancy Fishman, Paul FeinerJuliet Wishner and Laurel Dreskin. We’re so thankful for their contributions.

As we write each time, we will always miss Jonah. But we’re grateful to have had him in our lives and, to this day, he inspires us to do good in his name. The Jonah Maccabee Foundation is privileged to honor his life by “turning love into action.”

Thank you for supporting our work.

Very sincerely,
Ellen, Billy, Aiden, Katie and Mark
The Jonah Maccabee Foundation

Silver Learnings: Laurel Dreskin

These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Laurel Dreskin is a kindergarten teacher working in Bangkok, Thailand. She moved across the world to follow her dreams to teach in Thailand. Laurel has a passion for teaching young children through hands-on learning and collaborative play. She’s Ellen and Billy’s niece.

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Laurel Dreskin

I found it so difficult to write this because I thought that I’m not special nor important so why would someone want to read what I have to say, but I realized that maybe if I wrote about my experience that others could find a connection in their own life.

I began my journey to Thailand in July 2019 after just finishing my undergrad in Tallahassee, Florida. I would have never expected to be living on the complete opposite side of the world far away from my family and friends, the people who mean the world to me, but this is just where my journey begins.

I’ve been living in Thailand for two years going strong but that doesn’t mean I haven’t faced challenges along the way. To the eye, I might seem like a strong and independent young woman, but on the inside I have many weaknesses too. First off, moving to a place where you know absolutely nobody and, second, the language. I did not learn Thai before moving here. Call me crazy but now. looking back. I am glad I didn’t learn how to speak the language prior to moving here.

At first I thought, “Laurel, what did you get yourself into?” But soon I realized that everything happens for a reason and I need to embrace those things. I remember my first “Aha” moment when I was teaching my homeroom students about Solids, Liquids and Gases. Seeing their eyes light up and their hands instantly want to touch the objects was such a surreal moment to witness and, with time, these moments became the reason I was excited to get out of bed each morning. Each day my love for the children grew; their excitement for my classes and their eagerness to know what I was teaching that day made me smile ear to ear.

Everything was wonderful but then the pandemic began, and that’s when I felt like my purpose to teach didn’t matter anymore. We went from in-person to online, and I’m sure other teachers understand how difficult a transition this would be. Kindergarteners online was certainly a challenge but we were able to find unique ways to engage our students. Still, it was not the same. Getting to teach these young learners whose minds are always expanding and eager to learn more had been truly one of the most incredible experiences in my life.

If you ask anyone how their life has been in this pandemic, everyone will have different answers. But in my opinion there is one common factor: self- growth. If we take a step back and we look at ourselves from where we were at the beginning of the pandemic and now, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve each become a different version of ourselves whether that was for the good or the bad. We’ve developed into someone who has the ability to achieve so much because we took the steps to get there.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve mastered living alone. I continue to learn things not only about myself but the Thai culture and people around me. For the longest time I was saying my apartment address wrong and, it turns out, I was saying something very inappropriate instead. This one example not only helped me continue each day to grow and become a better person, but it’s allowed me to teach others too. I’m still finding myself and putting this down in writing was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a while. What I’ve been through these past two years has really shown me that mistakes are opportunities to move forward.

I learned not to innocently trust others just because someone is nice to me. This was really a wake-up call because I felt naive and young in so many instances. People I met were constantly shocked by my age and surprised that I lived alone in a different country than my family as this is something not as common in Thai culture. I am fortunate to have an extremely supportive and loving family who continue to support my growth, even through my mistakes.

I think if each of us can accept and embrace our errors in life rather than becoming discouraged, we would all grow together. When I teach my students, instead of correcting them and telling them they did something wrong I first explain, “Maybe you can try it a different way.” I say, “Don’t worry about the mistake you made. Teacher Laurel makes mistakes all the time!” When I express this to my students, that it’s only natural to make mistakes, I can really see independent learning blossom inside them.

My journey here in Thailand is far from over. Well, who knows where I’ll be next, but I’m thankful for the people in my life, those who have helped me and those who have wronged me. I’m grateful for them all because I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.

Laurel Dreskin

June Campaign: Final three days … plenty of time to make that gift!

We’re rounding third and heading for home! Please help us fund the next six months of grants by donating during these last three days of our June campaign, Silver Learnings. Your gift is what empowers us to act in Jonah’s name and do the good in the world that he might himself have done. Thank you for partnering with us to turn love into action.

Silver Learnings has brought words to us all from folks who’ve lived alongside us throughout the pandemic. They may be students, professionals, entertainers, living here or abroad, but they all have written down what they believe to be some of the lessons they’ve learned from all of this. Life has become more precious having seen so much sadness and loss. Now it’s time to lift each other up and get the world back on its feet again. Silver Learnings is our contribution to that effort.

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Silver Learnings: Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman

These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman

Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman has been the spiritual leader of Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, NY, for more than thirty years. Rabbi Sirkman fosters a face-to-face faith, cherishes the gift of Torah, affirms the importance of developing a relationship with the Jewish State. He has served as Chair of the Program Advisory Committee for URJ Eisner Camp, the Admissions Committee of HUC-JIR, and teaches 5th year rabbinic and cantorial students at HUC-JIR. Ordained by HUC-JIR in 1987, he received his B.A. in Religion and his M.A. in Theology with a Certificate in Modern Jewish Thought from Boston University. Rabbi Sirkman lost his wife Susan (z”l) to cancer, is the proud father of their four wonderful children, Aaron, Alexander, Gabriel (Chelsea) and Sophie, and adores his grandson, Sawyer. He’s also Billy Dreskin’s best friend!

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As a Reform rabbi who’s spent over three decades in congregational life, I’ve often talked of renaming Reform — an insufficient descriptor for our denomination — to Punim-to-Punim [from the Yiddish, “face-to-face”] Judaism. Rabbi Larry Kushner once said, “We are a hopelessly communal people.” More precisely, I believe, we are a ridiculously relational people. Being together makes being Jewish happen. But what happens when we can’t be together?

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Silver Learnings: Juliet Wishner

These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Juliet Wishner

Juliet Wishner grew up in Billy’s congregation and is dedicating her life to creating social change in America and Israel/Palestine. After graduating from Ardsley High School (Ardsley, NY) she studied international studies and sociology at the University of Michigan, completing her studies in 2020. She firmly believes that through creating connections and relationships, we can form a long-lasting shared society.

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When I told people I was moving to Israel for nine-months in the midst of a global pandemic, they looked at me as if I was crazy — what on earth would convince me to do this? I am here as a part of a program called Yahel Social Change Fellowship. We work in two cities, Rishon Letzion and Lod, with marginalized communities that lack resources in many sectors.

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Silver Learnings: Paul Feiner

These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Paul Feiner

Paul Feiner has been the Town Supervisor in Greenburgh, New York, for 30 years. He’s married to attorney Sherrie Brown with whom he shares a wonderful daughter, Julia.

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During the pandemic, as Town Supervisor my major concern has been to keep services in the town operational, and to make sure that employees knew that we were concerned about them. Any employee who had major medical issues was able to work from home. To keep employees safe during the initial months of Covid, we rotated days when employees would come in. We were worried that if one person got sick everyone in the department would have to be isolated, so we kept half at home at different times.

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Silver Learnings: Drs. Nancy and Chuck Fishman

These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Chuck and Nancy FishmanCharles Fishman, M.D. is a pulmonologist with the New York Presbyterian Medical Group Westchester, and an attending pulmonary medicine physician at NYP Lawrence Hospital. He is a member and past president of Woodlands Community Temple in White Plains, NY, a longtime friend of the Dreskin family, and a staunch supporter of Jewish camping. 

Nancy Mills Fishman, MD, FACP, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and a Medical Oncologist and the Director of Cancer Survivorship at New York Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital. She specializes in the treatment of gynecologic malignancies and breast cancer. Nancy lives in Hartsdale, NY, with her husband, Dr. Charles Fishman. They have two daughters, Alexa and Kimberly. Nancy has served as both Vice President of Education and Vice President of Ritual and Programming at Woodlands Community Temple, and has served as a Board Member of URJ Eisner/Crane Lake Camps.

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Silver Learnings: The Levins

These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

The LevinsFrom harmony in voice to harmony for humanity, The Levins strive to uplift and unite with feel-good and infectious music. Their songs have nabbed Top 10 positions on Folk and Roots DJ charts and yearly Top 10 song/album lists and their music is known to bridge genres and communities, offering The Levins unique opportunities to tour and perform. Highlights include Amsterdam Jewish Music Festival, The Parliament of World Religions in Toronto and co-producing an original full-scale musical theater/Euro-Circus production in San Francisco, based on their album, “My Friend Hafiz.”

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SILVER LEARNINGS: Ten days remain … we’d love to hear from you!

As always, you come through for us. And we couldn’t be more grateful. There are just ten days remaining to our June campaign and we’re hoping there are still a bunch more donations out there. Might one of those be yours? If so, thanks in advance for becoming part of Silver Learnings. It will be because of you that we can turn love into action.

Throughout Silver Learnings, we’ve been hearing from some folks who are very special to us (like you!) sharing some of their experiences during the pandemic. So many lessons, even from life’s toughest moments. We hope you find the reading worthwhile.

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