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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Shirt Tales (Part Two)

Dear Katie and Aiden,

I’ve got a few more of Jonah’s t-shirts I’d like to tell you about.

Jonah @ the URJ Biennial December 2007

Jonah @ the URJ Biennial
December 2007

Your brother was a longtime fan of Monty Python. We’d corrupted him at the tender age of 12 when, for Hanukkah, he received and took full advantage of the opportunity to watch every episode of the Flying Circus, as well as The Holy Grail (which he eventually viewed more times than any sane person should). Not long after that, Jonah displayed his taste for Python by sporting the very handsome “It’s only a flesh wound” t-shirt. By age 13, those of us who were paying attention knew pretty much for a certainty what kind of sense of humor we were dealing with: Jonah loved to laugh, and (Aiden, when he wasn’t hitting you) he loved getting others to do the same. The Simpson’s Spider Pig would also find its way to Jonah’s upper-torso, inspiring more than a few choruses of “Spider Pig, Spider Pig, does whatever a spider pig does …” But my favorite of Jonah’s clothing from the humor genre was a sweatshirt he wore as a 12-year old that read, “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it!” This, of course, was so funny because, whatever it was, he very likely did do it!

Jonah, Ellen, Aiden & “Cheeseburger” 9th Night of Hanukkah January 2008

Jonah, Ellen, Aiden & “Cheeseburger”
9th Night of Hanukkah
January 2008

Food. Jonah didn’t have a lot of t-shirts that sported food (or that sported sports, for that matter). It’s not that he didn’t like food (tho I’m pretty sure he didn’t like sports). His appetite for tasty morsels was defined at least in part by Ben and Jerry’s Magic Brownies, Fuddrucker’s burgers, and artichokes with butter, to name but a few. I suppose food rarely struck the right chord when it came to putting it on his clothes. So besides “Eat Shed” (see Shirt Tales – Part One), I only remember Jonah wearing one other food shirt. He’d picked it up in Hawaii which: 1) was Hawaiian (and since his ukulele was Hawaiian, anything from Hawaii was cool); 2) came from a restaurant called “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (see Jonah’s fondness for burgers above); 3) it’s the only burger stand we’ve ever gone to that had a live guitarist on the premises (playing, to boot, on a legendary Parker which Jonah had dreamed of someday owning); and, 4) most importantly, on the backside it read, “Shut up and eat your burger!” and on the sleeve, “Cheeseburger with an attitude” – which made it an apt symbol for Jonah himself. He was no cheeseburger, but he sure had attitude!

Jonah and “Shakespeare” Civil Rights Journey, Birmingham, AL December 2005 inset: Jonah and Aiden Cincinnati February 2006

Jonah and “Shakespeare”
Civil Rights Journey, Birmingham, AL
December 2005
inset: Jonah and Aiden
Cincinnati, Feb 2006

Then there were the shirts that revealed something Jonah never had the time to get fully comfortable with: Jonah was smart … really, reallysmart. He rarely embraced his inner geek but once again, if you watched the shirts, it was definitely there. He wore this brown t-shirt that had what looked like a hand-drawn piece of pie on it, beneath which were the numbers 3.14 (those of you haven’t yet embraced your own inner geek, google it). In this genre, however, my very favorite was a sweatshirt he wore a great deal during his early teen years. It read, “Me and Shakespeare … we speaketh the same language.” I remember watching how moved he was, standing by the civil rights memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Birmingham, Alabama (we’d gone down there for the temple’s Civil Rights Journey in 2005). Wearing his Shakespeare sweatshirt, it really made a powerful impression on me … here was this silly, joker of a kid, who cared about so many things in the world that he was only just beginning to become aware of. It amazes me how many social justice activities he participated in during his brief life.

Jonah, Aiden & MSIADUJ June 2008

Jonah, Aiden & MSIADUJ
June 2008

Then there were the Jewish t-shirts. These mostly expressed how much Jonah enjoyed his time in NFTY and at Kutz Camp. He attended as many regional and national events (along with his summers at Kutz) as he possibly could. Sometimes his PGT shows kept him from getting to a NFTY event (the only thing, I believe, that could keep him from a NFTY event), but he always found his way back there. One of his shirts stated: “MSIADUJ … so we read right to left … like you haven’t tried.” And I always loved the one that pronounced Kutz … “the Jerusalem of NFTY.” But his favorite, I think, was created by NFTY-NAR, and may as well have been custom-designed for your brother: “A Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do!” He loved that this shirt practically had his name on it (how many times have we all sat and watched Rugratstogether across the years?). But it also spoke to Jonah’s spirit – most definitely of the Maccabeean persuasion (relentless, proud, strong) but “a baby” too (playful, hopelessly devoted to cultivating immature chic, and able to capture your heart with a smile pretty much anytime he wanted).

Would Jonah have started a revolution? L’taken Political Action Seminar Washington, DC December 2006

Would Jonah have started a revolution?
L’taken Political Action Seminar
Washington, DC (Dec 2006)

I’ve mentioned Jonah’s blossoming sense of social conscience. That he traveled to Mississippi to rebuild Katrina-ravaged homes, protested in our nation’s capitol the genocide in Darfur and (at the Million Mom March) gun violence here at home, and knocked on doors to get out the vote for Obama, all speak to the kind of person he was, and the kind of person he was becoming. While in DC, he bummed $15 off me to get a shirt on a street corner that shouted: “Stop bitching … start a revolution!” And from somewhere (I have no idea), he wound up with another that read, “Tide … loads of hope.” I guess he didn’t use a lot of his shirts to fix the world … unless you count music and humor as part of what we need to make this world a good place … which I actually do believe … so I guess he did too … and I withdraw the comment.

Bottom-line: Your brother was fun, he was colorful, and he was kind. Jonah Maccabee’s shirts fit him well.


2 Responses to “Shirt Tales (Part Two)”

  • Josh gave the Maccababy t-shirt to Julia as a gift from Kallah (or Convention). I just washed it yesterday, so it's still in the rotation. One reason I love the blog is that it is a reminder to appreciate my family.

  • Anonymous:

    I'm clearly not your child, but I know that in Jonah's short life, he had the best parents a boy could have. And I hope that is your solace.

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