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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Jonah @ Kutz: Sonia Wilk

2015.06.SummerCamp“Summer Camp” is The Jonah Maccabee Foundation’s summer fundraiser for 2015. Throughout June and July 2015, we’ll be remembering — through the writing of his friends as well as some who watched from the sidelines — experiences, both great and small, that were part of Jonah’s seventeen years (from age 1 to 18) at the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY. We’re hoping you’ll be inspired to help us help Kutz continue its wildly successful work of helping teens blaze a summer’s path to a whole, healthy life. Please consider making your tax-deductible gift at jonahmac.org. Thank you. You’re the best!


Sonia Wilk remembers …

SoniaWilk.01aSonia Wilk was born and raised in Clearwater, Florida. Passionate about her NFTY-STR region, it informed a great deal of her Jewish identity and lead her to spend five transformational summers at Kutz Camp (2006-2010). For many years, Sonia considered herself a professional wanderer and has lived all over the country and the world, “collecting experiences,” learning, and teaching. Along the way, she figured out that what really makes her heart sing is education; specifically, through a Jewish, experiential lens. For work, she learns and shares the wisdom of the Jewish tradition and its connection to the land with day school students throughout the country. When she’s not out discovering new wonders of the natural world or chasing groups of kids up mountains, Sonia can often be found lying in a hammock or spending time with her bird, Emunah (sometimes simultaneously). She is honored to have come from the roots of the Reform Movement, and the lessons she learned at camp have helped to inform and guide her into the world as a professional Jewish educator.

*     *     *

When I think of my time spent at Kutz with Jonah, a few memories come to mind.

SoniaWilk.03aMy first memory is a camping trip we shared during the first summer of the Teva major. During that trip, we played a lot of games, sang a lot of songs, and explored a lot of nature together. I remember meals when we were on chopping duty and some card games I hadn’t yet learned but were quickly taught to me by Jonah. Our big day of the trip was “rapids” rafting down a river. However, the river that day was calmer than the Lazy River at an amusement park. So the day involved lots of sitting around in our rafts and hanging out. I wasn’t in the same boat as Jonah, which meant a few things. One, that when our rafts did meet up on the river, there was lots of pushing each other into the water, which resulted in a small, loving war with lots of splashing and (eventually) all of us getting soaked from head to toe. And two, once we were back from our adventures of moseying down the river, there was a little something extra that united everyone who’d ridden in Jonah’s boat. As you can tell from the picture, their thighs became sunburnt to a very bright red! All that sitting (in between the splashing) gave the sun unhindered access to a part of the body that rarely receives sunscreen. It was pretty funny to see how much he and his comrades could “milk” sympathy for their very, very red skin.

SoniaWilk.02aAnother memory is brief but enduring. During one of our first programs that summer (and honestly, I can’t remember what the program or the point was … maybe an opening that was used as an analogy to something about leadership), Mike and Shelly, who were leading it, selected Jonah and me to “take down” Mike. Well there we both were, in front of all of camp, trying to wrestle with the Assistant Director. I think that the photograph I have of this is one of my very favorite pictures with Jonah. Notice our creativity in the way we worked together to “take down the Man.” Jonah and I spent a lot of time that summer feeling really bonded over having had the chance to formally tackle Mike Fuld. Or, at least, to try.

My third memory recalls an annual Kutz tradition of having the option to stay awake an entire night in the Beit Am. If, however, you started falling asleep, you’d be sent back to your cabin. To stave off slumber, we held many impromptu dance parties and even an “open mic” session that continued until sunrise. I remember having been so impressed by Jonah’s ability to time his performances so that they occurred when we most desperately needed a pick-me-up. His rendition of “Making a Motzi” was one that he expertly performed, got all of us back on our feet, and is a memory I think of with a smile just before making a Motzi each Shabbat.

One last memory is of the summer when Jonah rarely appeared without a Rubik’s Cube in his hands. His skill at solving it was extremely advanced, and he would often hand you a Cube to scramble and then time how long it took for him to solve it. But even more than that, he was great at teaching others how to solve the Cube. My sister was one of his students, and later she taught me. Jonah’s sharing of his knowledge and passion created a domino effect; that love and kindness which emanated from him would spread to further than he likely realized.

Jonah and Sonia (Kutz 2008)

Jonah and Sonia (Kutz 2008)

That was Jonah. Mischief maker, brother in battle, teacher, and friend, whose goodness and influence, freely given, touched more lives in his nineteen years than many of us do in ninety.



Do you have a memory of Jonah at Kutz? Share it as a comment below. And please donate to our “Summer Camp ‘15″ campaign at jonahmac.org/donate. Thanks!

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