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 Jamie Rubin.
Jamie currently lives in New Jersey, after moving from Chicago to New York City in April of 2016. She has been a nanny for a family of four rambunctious boys for the last two and half years, while also going to school full time. On top of that, she began a weight loss journey, saw 80 pounds disappear and is still going. She never saw herself as a gym goer but is now obsessed with one called Orange Theory Fitness. Jamie graduated two weeks ago having earned her BA in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Special Education and is going to start teaching in the fall. She’s also going to start the masters program at Montclair State University this fall. Aside from all this, Jamie is also getting married in November!
Being lucky enough to have known Jonah has made an extraordinary impact on my life, before and after his death.
I remember it like it was yesterday when a friend of mine from camp called me while I was sitting in my car getting ready to walk into work. All I said was, “Hi, how are you?” and her response was, “Jonah died last night.” I couldn’t move or think. I texted my boss from the parking lot and said I couldn’t come inside. For the next three weeks I was so distraught that I could not physically get out of bed and I missed a lot of school. It was my senior year and it got to the point where they told me if I missed any more classes, I wouldn’t be able to graduate. With the support of family and friends I got through it and graduated.
Jonah and I met in the summer of 2007 at Kutz Camp and had a brief, but intense summer romance that later grew into a strong and meaningful friendship. For the next twelve months we talked for hours every night on the phone until one of us was told by our parents that it was time to hang up and go to sleep. After Jonah started college, we spoke less frequently. We still checked in with each other from time to time, but the last time I spoke with him was on his birthday. A quick “I love you” was mentioned by both of us, which I will always hold onto.
During those twelve months, we tried hard to meet up and see each other, but seeing as I lived in Chicago and he in New York, life kept getting in the way and we didn’t get the chance to do that before he passed.
We loved each other and made sure the other knew it. I remember one conversation we had during which Jonah asked me why I think people say “I love you” so much if the person they are saying it to already knows. This has now become one of those conversations that has stood out for me since his passing because I am beyond grateful that Jonah and I did that for each other. His heart was so pure and full of love.
Jonah was phenomenally intellectual and he taught me so much. Not only did I learn about politics from him, which is something I had never been interested in until I met him, but also I learned about life in general. I learned how to be happy and I believe I became a better person because of him. He was a genuinely remarkable person.
While we were at Kutz, he asked me what a few of my favorite songs were and he searched for the chords online, then printing them all out and learning them so he could play them for me. He wrote me a letter on the back of one of my favorite songs, “Drive” by Incubus, and on my 16th birthday, learned the song “Jamie” by Dashboard Confessionals and sang it for me over the phone. Jonah was always giving to others, whatever he had to offer.
Very soon after I heard the news about Jonah, I contacted Rabbi Billy and we began to share some stories back and forth. It was extremely important to me to keep that connection with the part of Jonah that made him who he was. Jonah and I talked a lot about our parents in those phone conversations because what else do high schoolers have to complain about? The Dreskin family and I have kept that line of communication open these last ten years, during which we have developed a strong friendship. I am going to be marrying my best friend in a few months and Rabbi Billy will be there to officiate our wedding. This is beyond incredible. I know Jonah will be there with us too.
I feel Jonah everywhere in everything I do. Through all of the ups and downs life has thrown my way, he has never been forgotten nor will he ever be. I went through a very rough period in my life several years ago and ended up moving to New York. I was in bad shape, but with support from a few incredible people, I was able to get back on my feet again. One of my biggest support systems was Jonah’s family. They took me under their wings and, in a sense, brought me back to life. I believe wholeheartedly that this is what Jonah would have done for me if I had come to him in a time of need. In fact, when we were at Kutz he was always the first one to ask me if I was okay or if I needed anything.
I felt Jonah with me when I went to college, when I went to Israel, when I moved to New York, and at many other points in my life during the last ten years. I have dreams about him now and then, some of which are extremely vivid. I really don’t know how dreams work or why we dream about certain things in certain ways.
The last dream that I remember vividly was a few years after Jonah’s family had helped get me back on my feet. In my dream, Rabbi Billy and I were on a big hill below a pool, which seemed somewhat similar to the hill at Kutz. It reminded me of the hill that Jonah and I sat on together when he told me he loved me. In real life, he cried that day as he expressed his feelings to me. In the dream, Rabbi Billy and I were having a conversation about my now fiancé, Ben. In that conversation we were talking about Ben and me getting married. This dream came to me before we were even engaged. Rabbi Billy was reminding me of how far I had come and how he thought I would be very happy with Ben. Then he said, “Hang on one minute.” He walked down the hill and came back with Jonah by his side.
Jonah then sat with me and told me that he sees more of Ben than I do, and that he was sure Ben was the man I should marry. He also said that he was incredibly proud of his family for all they had done for me. He cried again on top of that hill. The last thing I remember from the dream was Jonah saying, “Look how far you’ve come.”
Jonah seems to visit my dreams at some very significant points in my life.
While Jonah was alive, I enjoyed spending time talking to him and being with him — who wouldn’t? His enthusiasm was outrageously contagious. He was an amazing leader, singer, guitar player, writer, actor, artist, and the list goes on. Most of all, he was an amazing friend who never failed to be there when you needed him. Jonah was unique. He did everything with passion and energy.
For the last few years my fiancé, my soon to be in-laws, and I drive from New Jersey to Westchester to attend the services led by Rabbi Billy on the High Holy Days. My whole family knows the rabbi and my whole family knows about Jonah, rightfully so. Anyone who knows me knows about Jonah. He was, and has continued to be, a driving force that has pushed me through life’s toughest obstacles. He has been with me through all of the happy moments and triumphs as well. None of these incredible pieces of my life today would exist if it weren’t for Jonah Maccabee Dreskin.
I will carry him with me forever.
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 jonahmac.org/donate 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.
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 Ellen Dreskin, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, 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 or wherever you listen to music!