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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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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SO IS LIFE: The 9th Annual Jonah Maccabee Concert

2018 Jonah Concert @ WCTDear Jonah,

You should have been there.

Yes, I know that’s a preposterous proposition. But look who’s writing you letters!

Anyway, your concert is always a mixed bag, of course. The evening is always filled with incredible music, a ton of friends, phenomenal support from the URJ summer program staff, and even mouth-watering baked goods that you’d have loved. Actually, you would loved all of it. Even, in your own weird way, the whole idea that a concert’s being held each year in your name.

I think often of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn who were presumed drowned in the Mississippi River and snuck back to watch their own funeral. Believe you me, boy, if you’d like to surprise us all by opening up the second half of next year’s concert, please do!

Each year, I love watching your concert, even though the evening is always tinged with a quiet but persistent sense that you’re not there.

More than 250 people attended this year. We raised mucho bucks to help get kids to camp who otherwise won’t be able to go, and (of course) there was the music of Mom’s new group, So Is Life. You knew all of the performers, Jo, but I doubt you ever heard them sing together. Let me tell you, your mother and her pals make some great music! They have fantastic voices, know their way around guitar, keyboard and upright bass, and do some wonderful storytelling weaving in and out of the knock-you-over songs they shared with us.

You were not an elephant in the room. I think we all felt your presence. And while we’d trade this all in to get you back, that’s not likely to happen. So if this is how it’s gonna be, we’re gonna do it with style, with love, with humor, and with music! That was how you lived your life and, by golly, that’s how we’re going to produce your concert.

Mom and I opened, as always, with words to introduce Havdalah, to mark the end of Shabbat and begin a new week. Havdalah’s always a powerful metaphor there, since we’re certainly not the only ones in the room trying to figure out what to do with a past that can no longer be and how to move forward with as much grace as possible.

Here’s what we shared:

Back in 2010, only a year or so after Jonah died, Michael Rosen, author of What Else But Home, came to Woodlands for a Shabbat evening and spoke about his extraordinary journey, opening his family’s home to five young men in their New York City neighborhood and building a multi-cultural family from out of the ashes of 9/11.

[Billy only] Michael and I struck up a fast friendship, each of us drawn in by the other’s story. I was deeply moved by the profound distinction between his story (all those kids coming into his life) and our story (one too many leaving it). It felt so important to bring him here, perhaps because those young people expanding his family were creating a counterbalance to Jonah’s absence from ours.

Michael looked at a post-9/11 world and wanted to do something to restore faith in the possibilities for building a world whose foundation is comprised of goodness and love. Each one of us who has lost someone or something precious in our life struggles to get back to a place of faith, goodness and love. As a community, this is something we try to bring to each other. It is these principles – faith, goodness and love – that our URJ summer programs build all the live-long day.

The Jonah Maccabee Concert is all about young people. Each year, with your generous support, we help lots and lots of them enjoy the powerful, life-changing experience of a month or so in a URJ summer program. All five Dreskins have benefitted from these programs. We have spent time at Kutz Camp, Eisner Camp, Camp Coleman, Goldman Union Camp and NFTY in Israel. We’ve learned to songlead, make s’mores, study Torah, swim, Israeli dance, lead services, fall in love, fall out of love, and so very much more. Those summers were unforgettable and they helped us to feel wonderful about being Jewish.

Havdalah is about making distinctions – between Shabbat and the new week ahead, between all of those things in life than need us to tell the difference between a and b, between yes and no, between right and wrong. Learning to discern is a vital life-skill. It lets us know when something in front of us is good and when it’s not. And while discerning is often about personal preferences, many times we’re choosing between what will benefit our immediate and wider communities, and what isn’t in our or their best interest.

This is what religion is all about. When it’s doing its job, it’s helping us to make these distinctions, to make them well, and to make them for the good of all.

Which is why we get so jazzed about URJ summer programs. They take Judaism’s most important values and find ways to teach and reinforce them in ways that kids enjoy and really hear. These programs are critical partners for us – as synagogues and as families – in building the kind of human beings we want our kids to become.

Thank you for helping us keep Jonah’s memory alive by bringing the gift of a URJ summer to all of our kids.

JoJo, I’m so grateful and even happy that we do this. Together. Our family. Our community. And everyone who either helps plan these concerts, attends them, or makes a donation. While you were alive, you touched so many lives in wonderful, unforgettable ways. These days, you may be physically gone but your spirit continues to touch us deeply. Because of you, because of how you lived, you’ve brought great music to our community, you’ve made it possible for a whole bunch of kids to go to camp, and you’ve brought those of us who love and miss you a little more of the healing that everyone who’s a little (or a lot) broken needs on the long journey that follows.

Each year I think, “Jonah would be bowled over that he caused all this, and that this is how we’ve chosen to remember him.” I’m bowled over too. After all, I’m your dad.

Love you forever,
Dad

P.S. I mean it. You really should have been there.


Our Summer Campaign 2018 is now going on. 
Please make your gift at jonahmac.org/donate. Thanks!

One Response to “SO IS LIFE: The 9th Annual Jonah Maccabee Concert”

  • Leon Sher:

    Bowled over! As usual. But, as always, never feels normal. Extraordinary. Your words here and the concert. Thank you for both.
    With much love,
    Leon

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