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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Archive for the ‘Jonah’ Category

The Music Goes On and On

Dear Jonah,

We’re working on the 10th Jonah Maccabee Concert, and it’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this now for a decade. After you died and we began thinking about how we wanted to honor and remember you, the concert was an easy choice. You loved music. You loved Jewish music. You loved your temple. You loved doing good for others. And despite how much you tormented Aiden through the years, you loved doing nice things for your family.

The concert – which brings contemporary Jewish music to Woodlands, and helps kids get to URJ summer programs whose families wouldn’t otherwise be able to send them – seemed like a perfect avenue for carrying your memory forward.

It was, and it still is. Ten years later, we continue making music and sending kids to camp – because of you. Not because you died, but because of what you loved while you lived.

Read the rest of this entry »

Play Ball!

Dear Jonah,

During Hanukkah 2015, when you were fifteen years old, I did something unforgivable. I gave you a deck of Jewish baseball cards. What in the world was I thinking!? Dreskins don’t care about sports. And Jewish ones, to boot?! What kind of father treats his son this way?

But there they were. Maybe a hundred cards highlighting the careers of Jewish major league players from the 1870s forward. At best, a modest trivial pursuit. And at worst, a rabbi-dad imposing his stilted view of the universe on his growing, resentful, teenaged son.

And what did you do? Well, you didn’t laugh at me. You didn’t make fun of the gift. And you didn’t make it disappear forever. Instead, you asked me if I would get you card protectors. Card protectors?! Perhaps you were making fun of me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Making Light Work of Giving

Dear Jonah,

I don’t know when you figured out that your old man would love you giving him gifts made by your own hands. Possibly, you really took to heart your parents’ message that it’s the act of giving that counts. Possibly, you liked saving the money. And possibly, it was making anything that involved fire.

We’ll never know. But when you were 13 years old and in the afterglow of becoming a Bar Mitzvah, you made me a birthday present that consisted of a cardboard box, one side of which you had replaced with a watercolor depiction of a night sky. You’d poked small holes in the stars so that the candles you placed inside, when burning, would light up the heavens.

I was euphoric. Read the rest of this entry »

First Gifts

Dear Jonah,

Gift-giving was a big thing in our family. Especially on Hanukkah. As a kid, my family lit candles each of the eight nights but only exchanged gifts on one of them. So perhaps in parenting you and your siblings, I was reacting to a choice my own parents had made. Wherever my motivation came from, I looked forward to doing the meticulous research that would ensure each of you (mom included) receiving at least one gift each night. I loved piling them all up before Hanukkah began and watching each of you select the gift you wanted that night (you gravitated, of course, toward whichever was largest).

When you were younger, you were likely to display your disapproval should I be so thick-headed as to get you something you didn’t like. But as you grew older, you began to understand it was the act of giving that counts; quality was welcomed but not crucial in eliciting true gratitude. You got very good at that. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Waaaay Back

Dear Jonah,

Now that I’m in my sixties and you’re gone more than nine years, there’s a different kind of remembering going on. I’m getting “old man” nostalgic — that time in life when youthful memories, dimly recalled from years “long misprision rusted,” sneak up and remind me that many decades have passed and not so many more are waiting up ahead.

You, of course, always called me “old man” so this would be nothing new to you (except maybe the reality that it’s actually starting to come true).

Let me explain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering: Is the Joy Worth the Pain?

Dear Jonah,

I doubt you ever attended a Yizkor service, the quarterly gathering during which we remember loved ones who have died. Nowadays, you sit there right next to me.

When I lead these services, I often share the story of someone else’s cherished memory. My hope is these stories will trigger others’ memories of their own loved ones so that their observance of Yizkor becomes a very personal tribute during the hour we spend together.

This week, for Sukkot-Simkhat Torah Yizkor, I shared a story that hit very close to home. It wasn’t about you per se, but elements of the young man’s life reminded me of you. I warned the folks gathered there that I might cry and indeed I did. Afterwards, I was asked if that was difficult for me. Difficult to remember you with tears? Not only is it not difficult for me to conjure up a good cry for you, I don’t mind doing so in public. I want people to know that I miss you, and that you’re still a very important part of my life. The only difficulty was putting away the tears so that I could continue telling the story.

Read the rest of this entry »

“You Will Be Found” (The Jonah Mac Theatre – Endpiece)

PGT's Jonah Mac TheatreDear Jonah,

When the Jonah Mac Theatre (I still can’t believe they named it after you!) was dedicated at One North Broadway in White Plains, New York, I wrote three notes to you about it. But yesterday, I noticed a fourth note that I’d never finished. And since the moment it describes moved me so deeply, I really needed to complete it. So I’m sorry it’s taken so long to write this one, but I’ll tell you this: On March 11, 2018, I cried for you at this particular moment during the theatre’s dedication, and I cried for you again as I put these words together.

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The Jonah Mac Theatre – Part 3

PGT's Jonah Mac Theatre

Steven and Jill Abusch started Play Group Theatre (PGT) in 1995 and currently serve respectively as Executive Director and Artistic Director. While teaching their young charges to dig deeply into their creative reservoirs, they have never viewed “the production” as the be-all-and-end-all of their work but, rather, have always placed the greatest emphasis on how to nourish young hearts and spirits, using theatre as an excuse to help kids grow, as we say here at The Jonah Maccabee Foundation, healthy and whole. In designing the Jonah Mac Theatre, ever-so-lovingly dedicated to the memory of our boy Jonah, Steven and Jill paid obvious attention to creating a practical and beautiful theatrical space but, with a twinkle of mischief in their eyes, they incorporated into the room’s design elements that reflect who Jonah was, and what it was about him that Steven and Jill want young people to know: how his very essence embodied PGT’s mission and that the things he valued can (and will) continue to serve as a model for those who will come to PGT in the years ahead. These aspiring performers will think that they’re signing up to act in a play but, in actuality, they’ll be embarking upon a wonderful journey of life skills (and love skills!) training. On PGT’s website, Steven and Jill write, “Our work is focused entirely on the love of the craft and the life lessons that are a natural result of a healthy and non-competitive creative process.”

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The Jonah Mac Theatre – Part 2

PGT's Jonah Mac Theatre

Dear Jonah,

At the dedication of the Jonah Mac Theatre, before anyone could get in to see the new performance space (including us!), there were words that needed saying. Mom spoke about PGT’s years of wandering when there was no permanent home, and yet every kid in the program felt completely at home wherever Steven and Jill told them to show up. Having driven you and Aiden to my share of your auditions, rehearsals and performances (between you and Aiden, 22 shows), I have a pretty clear idea for myself what those years of wandering were all about.

So the words that I shared during the dedication are totally wrapped up in the point that mom was making. PGT took some work. You had to want to be there, wherever “there” was, because it was a constantly moving target. And Jonah, you certainly wanted that.

Here’s what I had to say:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Jonah Mac Theatre – Part 1

Dear Jonah,

Gordon Macrae & Susan Luckey in Carousel

For most of my life, I’ve carried a memory of Gordon MacRae playing the wayward carnival barker Billy Bigelow in the film version of Carousel, returning from the afterlife for a brief visit to help his daughter. I saw the film as a little kid and that scene has haunted me ever since, not in a frightening way but piquing my curiosity as to whether or not a person can breach that seemingly infinite divide between this life and the next.

After you’d gone, I held out hope for a few years that you might find a way to reach me from the great beyond. I saw you in my dreams a few times, but they were fleeting moments and always with you either facing away from me (so I couldn’t see your face) or moving away from me (so I couldn’t talk with you or get one of those trademark hugs of yours).

How’s that for frustrating?

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