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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2nd Annual Jonah Maccabee Dreskin Memorial Concert

Dear Jonah,

Last night (4/2/11) was the 2nd annual concert presented in your memory. We held it at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY, where Rabbi Rick Jacobs et al graciously and lovingly welcomed us so that we could do our remembering and our music-making. Between the crew over at WRT, our own crew at WCT, and everyone who came out to hear Craig Taubman, you were on a lot of people’s minds.

I was talking to the kids at temple this weekend about what happens to us after we die (I wasn’t thinking. Really. This bubbled up from my subconscious somewhere. It wasn’t until the third discussion that I made the connection with your concert.). Anyway, the kids got me thinking: So were you there last night? Is that great, big, enormous spirit of yours still hovering around somewhere? Or have you moved on? Have you moved into a new life somewhere? I understand that Zi and Carolyn saved a seat for you between them. After the concert, we wondered together if maybe you’d been using that seat. Whatever, we certainly felt your presence all evening long.

You would have loved the concert, Jonah. Those guitarists — Sean Harkness and your buddy Josh Nelson — man, you so would have dug their playing! And that dude on bass — Bob Parr — sometimes it was difficult to believe that was an electric bass and not an electric guitar he was playing. Best of all, of course, was Craig. Not only did he give a great performance, it seemed as if you were never far from his mind. It felt like he was seeking out your spirit, and bringing it right up onto the stage with him. A good egg, that Craig.

Ellen wrote the letter for your program booklet this year. It’s a beautiful note, and while I know you never doubted her love for you, I think you’d enjoy these words.

Dear Friends,

We are so very touched that you have joined us this evening for the Second Annual Jonah Maccabee Dreskin Memorial Concert. We know that tonight will be filled with fantastic music as well as warm smiles and hugs and tears, all in honor of our brother and son.

It’s entirely possible that some of you never knew Jonah Maccabee. And if you did, it’s hard to say which Jonah you knew. Was it the little boy intent on figuring out how things worked, who disassembled an entire VCR with his grandfather just to see if they could put it back together? Was it the kid who sometimes didn’t quite fit in, so insisted on paving his own path through his high school years? Was it the actor/singer/musician who both came alive in front of an audience and spent hours alone, amusing himself with his electric guitar? Was it the young man who was happiest being a worker in the Kutz Camp dining room and helping out on maintenance because he did it well and knew it made a difference? Was it the college freshman who delighted in honing his ukulele and mandolin skills and amazing his friends with his loving heart and his fiery spirit? Whichever part of Jonah we knew, we understand he was an incredible gift to all of us.

Were Jonah physically here tonight, he’d probably be behind the sound board or adjusting the lights. He’d seem nonchalant, but secretly he’d be excited to hear and be near Craig Taubman. Craig created much of the music of Jonah’s childhood and signed CDs for him when Jonah was only 6 or 7 years old.

Please think of Jonah, even if you never knew him. In his memory, give generously of yourselves — hugs, smiles, kind words, enthusiasm. Jonah knew that these simple things went a long, long way.

Thank you so much for being with us this evening. Enjoy the music, smile, dance, sing along and celebrate life.

Aiden, Katie, Ellen and Billy Dreskin

It’s still so difficult to believe that the word “memorial” is used in conjunction with your name. Two years later and I still half expect you to call, or to walk in the door. While I was sitting and listening to last night’s concert, there were moments when I was startled to remember we were doing this because you’ve died. That’s a tall order to assimilate into our lives. But we’re working on it.

Ellen and I started the evening much as we did last year, with Havdalah. I wrote these words, which I hope paid honor to your memory and to the work we’re doing to live our lives with that memory.

About a year ago, just about the same time we gathered for our first concert in Jonah’s memory, Playgroup Theatre, that great incubator of children’s spirits built by the talent and love of Jill and Steven Abusch over in White Plains, took a moment to remember our son and brother, Jonah, and the nine shows he helped to produce over there.

Jeff Downing, who directed Jonah in six of those shows, said at the tribute, “What I will remember most about you, Jonah, is your remarkable journey from a boy to one of the most dependable, engaging, and passionate young men I have ever worked with. […] We will remember you. We will remember those brilliant characters you created, the endless amount of laughter you gave us, and [your] one of a kind personality that will never be forgotten.”

As tragic as Jonah’s death has been, we think he was one of the luckiest kids on earth. Through the people he met — at Playgroup Theatre, at Woodlands, in NFTY, at Eisner Camp, Kutz Camp, the Summit School and the University at Buffalo — Jonah was able to build a life for himself that he adored. Because of the friends who loved him, and because of the adults who looked after him, who assisted in his growth, and who also loved him, Jonah’s nineteen years were great years.

What is Havdalah if not a marker that expresses our appreciation for the gift of a time that’s just left us: Shabbat. And while the weekdays ahead, the days of khol, cannot match the beauty of the day of kodesh, of holiness, that has now come to its end, there is in this brief moment, in this sweet ceremony, a possibility, a promise, that something good is just up ahead.

Those of us who knew and loved Jonah, who miss him even now, especially now, we understand that there is so much beauty that remains, even when such a significant part of that beauty has left us. And while, in some ways, the world ahead can’t ever match the incredible magic of the world behind, it would be even sadder if our tragedies — our hurts, our losses, everyone’s, far beyond the one we remember here this evening — it would be even more unfortunate if they prevented us from seeing and enjoying and loving all that still remains.

And so, with Havdalah, we honor the sacred times we have visited, and we celebrate the beauties that still are to unfold in the times ahead. Raising funds to give other kids some of the things that made Jonah’s life such a good one, this will be one of the ways we build a sacred tomorrow, one filled with sunlight, filled with possibility, filled with love.

With Havdalah, we say thank you for the beauty of what came before, and, regardless of where our journeys have taken us, we resolve to make new ones … that fill our cups, that light our ways, and add invigorating, Jonah-like spice to the road ahead.

Perhaps it would be reasonable for us to confine our emotional nose-dives to this one time of each year, Jonah. Problem is, we loved you a whole lot more than one night a year, boy. Yahrzeit probably won’t do it either. Far more likely, while we’re living and laughing and enjoying our lives, each time we hear the strum of an ukulele, fry up some pastrami, see a Broadway show, catch a bit of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” or “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” on TV, or listen to Craig Taubman sing “Mom’s Having a Baby,” we’ll be thinking of you.

Under the circumstances, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Love you forever,

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