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: Rabbi Darren Levine

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!


Rabbi Darren Levine remembers …

DarrenLevine.01Darren Levine is the founding rabbi of Tamid: The Downtown Synagogue (New York City). He holds Rabbinic ordination from HUC-JIR and has a Doctorate in Pastoral Psychology from the Post Graduate Center for Mental Health.

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In the summer of 1999, I held open interviews for the inaugural class of RA Associates at Kutz Camp. It was my first summer as Head Resident Advisor and I quickly noticed a gap in the overall leadership structure at this storied institution of the Reform Movement. Young men and women from across the acres were called, for serving as an RA Associate was indeed a calling. One sunny afternoon in my headquarters, I sat with the candidates and their parents. It was an historic moment for the Jewish People and we, or rather, they, were standing at the edge of a new frontier.

RA Associates Dan Ross, Michael Bernstein and Jonah Dreskin (Kutz 1998)

RA Associates Dan Ross, Michael Bernstein and Jonah Dreskin (Kutz 1998)

I described the role to the candidates in detail. It would require of them periodic check-ins with me or members of my staff on a daily basis. If selected, they would become a new and highly respected cadre of youngsters that would need to first and foremost represent me personally around the camp grounds but, secondly, to represent the office of the Head RA. I knew that I needed to choose wisely. It was time to make my selection and I did. The first class of RA Associates would be: Jonah Dreskin, Dan Ross and Michael Bernstein.

Darren presents an RA Associates t-shirt to proud cadet Jonah Dreskin (Kutz 1998)

Darren presents an RA Associates t-shirt to proud cadet Jonah Dreskin (Kutz 1998)

Three candidates demonstrated obvious potential to fulfill the roles and responsibilities required: to be punctual, honest, thoughtful and, at times, silly with a streak of wild. These young cadets would define the role and, over the course of the summer, that is exactly what they did. At their initiation ceremony, I had them run sprints, respond to questions about their future, and be available to the camp community for questions. Each soul did well on that day which further reinforced my belief that the camp community – and perhaps, the future of the Jewish people – was safe in their hands.

These cadets had talent. Over the course of their tenure, they showed heart, they showed commitment, they showed maturity. I received letters from across the nation and Israel, recognizing and acknowledging their successes with pride. For the RA Office that summer and for the Associates themselves, this assignment became their summer. Finally, as the last day of summer arrived, we gathered to celebrate their achievements and my heart was full knowing that they had developed the skills and confidence to meet any challenge they faced, at home or abroad.



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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