Remembering A Friend

Remembering A Friend

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Meet Alessandra Rabellino. Ale (pronounced “Allie”) is 24, lives in Atlanta, and is a graduate student in design at the Portfolio Center.

Ale and Jonah met during her freshman year of high school at a weekend retreat for Jewish youth group leaders. This was Ale’s first time attending the retreat, held at Kutz Camp in upstate New York, and she didn’t know anyone there. Although she’d never really been shy, she felt out of place in this very new environment. But not more than two minutes after she got off the bus and finished signing in, a cute boy with auburn hair approached her and asked if it was her first time at Kutz, flashing a warm, welcoming grin that melted away any reservations she may have had about being there. She imagined that smile had a similar effect of many others. The boy she had just met was Jonah Maccabee Dreskin, a cool high school senior whom everyone seemed to know and love.

Over that weekend, Ale got to spend a lot of time with Jonah—which was so exciting for a shy freshman who had a huge crush on him. Everything he did made her laugh, from rapping the story of Hanukkah, to wearing tie-dyed shirts with a checkered fedora. He made her feel important, like she mattered, and she hoped she could someday be half as confident and outgoing as he was.

Ale spent only one more weekend with Jonah, later that year at another retreat. He was just as kind and welcoming as he had been when they had met, and that genuine warmth and kindness have resonated with her to this day. Although she only knew him for a short time, she thinks about him often. His energy, positivity, and soulfulness made such a huge impression on Ale that he inspired her to deepen her faith, to laugh more, and to invest 100% of herself into the things she cares about.

Recently, Ale contacted us to share a project she’s been working on in design school. Her assignment was to design a chair based on something or someone who has influenced her life. She asked if we would mind her designing the chair in homage to Jonah. She explained how Jonah had impacted her life so deeply even though they’d known each other for only a brief amount of time, and that he had stayed with her throughout the years. The chair would strive to represent Jonah’s warmth and his upbeat approach to life.

We were completely flattered and, of course, gave her our blessing.

Not too long after, we received photographs of the final model of Jonah’s chair. Ale explained that it represents the power of accepting someone into your life and allowing them to change your perspective, ultimately weaving new narratives into your own story. The chair seats two and is meant to be an outdoor lounger that will encourage people to sit together and to share their own experiences.

When Jonah died back in 2009, Ale had felt an inexplicable void and asked her mother to bring her to shiva at our home. It was a powerful, loving experience for her, demonstrating that Jonah’s presence remained a powerful one, and she carried that presence with her through the years that followed.

Ale had always wanted to do something more to honor Jonah, and the design project seemed like the perfect venue. Designing the chair has been the most challenging project she’s worked on and she hopes that when people sit in it, they will experience something of Jonah’s warmth and comforting spirit.

We couldn’t be more touched or moved at by Ale’s loving gesture.


P.S. If you’d like to help Ale build her chair, you can donate to her project (it’s really expensive to build one chair!) — just click here.

P.P.S. Ale invited us to use this story as part of our Summer Campaign ’17. If you haven’t yet donated to The Jonah Maccabee Foundation, I hope you’ll do so.

BillyRemembering A Friend

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