Amanda Battaglia: Ten Years Later (Part 5)

Amanda Battaglia: Ten Years Later (Part 5)

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Jonah’s death ten years ago commenced a journey for many of us that has been filled with sadness (of course) but also with love — so much love. With this campaign, “10 Years Later,” you’re invited to spend some time with some of Jonah’s best friends and teachers.

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Meet Amanda Battaglia.

Having just wrapped up her time working for URJ Youth in New York, Amanda is a soon-to-be graduate student at the University of San Diego studying Social Innovation. Amanda is an alum of NFTY NAR, Kutz Camp, and University of Virginia.

Amanda writes:

As many people who spent time in NFTY NAR or at Kutz Camp with Jonah might know to be true, my first memory of him is of his traditional Makin’ the Motzee rap. A Saturday night and talent show classic, it exemplifies so much of the energy and fun Jonah shared with everyone around him.

But over the past decade without him, the memories that have stood out most to me are a little different.

During the course of our friendship, Jonah took on for me a protector role. I’m an only child and was just slightly younger than him, so looking out for me seemed to come fairly naturally to him. This became especially true during Kutz 2007, my first summer at sleep away camp. Through the trials and tribulations of high school friendships and relationships, Jonah was always nearby to lend a shoulder to cry on or to talk through my problems. He always had sensible wisdom to offer. He helped me admit things to myself when I didn’t want to. He helped me examine a situation from another perspective and was an incredible judge of character. He was the voice of reason, which meant he was also sometimes the voice I didn’t want to hear because, in the end, he was always right. We joked that it was annoying how right he was each and every time. He looked out for me in every instance he could, many times in ways I didn’t even learn about until long after they happened. It was during this summer when Jonah and I adopted the nicknames for each other, “big bro” and “little sis.”

Jonah was just always there. He was either around every corner at camp or just awake in the middle of the night to message with me on AIM. His friendship was one of the most supportive and genuine I’ve ever had.

Jonah lives on with me now in my relationships. I try to be the kind of friend to others that Jonah was to me and I look to surround myself with people I think Jonah would have liked. Jonah also lives on for me as my moral compass. Whenever I face a difficult decision, I ask myself what Jonah might have told me. I try to imagine the debate we’d have. I push myself to think how he might have challenged me to see the situation differently. At nearly every turn in my life, small or large, I’ve thought of Jonah’s support and guidance.

One of the most significant times I’ve asked myself these questions came shortly after he died. After a crazy, stereotypical moody teenager fight with my parents, I was incredibly upset and longed to talk to him. Alone in my room, I decided to put my iTunes on shuffle and hoped for some kind of sign from him that everything would be okay. Of the couple thousands of songs I had in my music library, the first that came on was one by the Rolling Stones that I had never heard before. I knew Jonah was a fan so I continued to listen. Midway through the song, the lyrics said “oh, little sister.” While the rest of the song had no meaning to me in that moment, those words told me everything I needed to hear. From then on I knew I would always have Jonah with me, especially when I needed him most.

Jonah’s legacy for me can be summed up by the gift he got me for my 16th birthday. While attending the URJ Biennial convention in San Diego, Jonah wished me happy birthday, handed me a plastic bag full of things he explained he picked out at the dollar store, and told me he expected a video of me using all three items together by the end of the weekend. I felt very special and a little surprised that anyone remembered my birthday in the chaos of the event but even more surprised to look inside the bag and find: pink Play-Doh, a spatula, and a stuffed animal goldfish (complete with bubble noises when squeezed). The gift was absolutely silly, undeniably thoughtful, and entirely one of a kind.

Just like Jonah.


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We all miss that boy. It’ll probably always hurt that he’s gone. But he left us so much, and that’s what these writings express. Watch for them in emails and postings throughout the month. Our hope is that these stories will inspire you to make your gift at to help us help kids build whole, healthy lives.We continue to miss Jonah and to feel grateful: a) that we had him in our lives; and, b) that he’s inspired us to do good stuff in his name. We’re incredibly honored that you’ve joined us in our work and thank you in advance for donating to our Summer Campaign.

Very sincerely,
Ellen, Billy, Aiden, Katie and Mark
The Jonah Maccabee Foundation

ALSO ALSO ALSO … The Jonah Maccabee Foundation is so proud to now be the beneficiaries of the proceeds from four exceptional musical recordings:

“So Is Life” was recorded by (ta da!) So Is Life, which includes Dan Nichols, Josh Nelson, Cantor Rosalie Boxt and Cantor Ellen Dreskin. It’s a magnificent album and is available to you as a download and on CD (if anyone still has a CD player). You can order So Is Life right here.

And now, you can order the music of Beged Kefet (which, for you youngsters out there, was a Jewish performance group that Ellen and Billy were in for a good 20 years or so). Beged Kefet recorded three albums, all now available to you! Our thanks to the members of Beged Kefet — Beth Sher, Cantor Leon Sher, Cantor Riki Lippitz, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Rabbi Les Bronstein and Rabbi Billy Dreskin — for allowing us to use the proceeds from their three recordings to help kids build whole, healthy lives. You can order your Beged Kefet digital downloads here. We’re also streaming, so check us out on Spotify, Amazon Music and more!

BillyAmanda Battaglia: Ten Years Later (Part 5)

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