Billy

Thanks to all who have contributed to our “Hope Smiles” Campaign

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We are so grateful that you take the time and dollars to support our work. It’s incredibly gratifying and this list of donors to our “Hope Smiles” Campaign is a small but earnest expression of our thanks. May our shared efforts bring ever-increasing goodness into a world that so desperately needs it.

The Dreskins and Boonshofts

 


Lloyd and Roberta Roos

John H. Planer

Carol and Matthew Scharff … in honor of Ellen and Billy and in memory of Jonah

Ilene Berger

​Jamie and Joey Carroll … in memory of Jonah Dreskin

Louis and Kathy Bordman

Mary Ann and Gary Shamis

Dan Nichols

Roberta Grossman

Jeremy Michael Wolfe … in honor of Ellen Dreskin

Paul Flexner

Cantor Danielle Rodnizki

Rabbi Hillel Cohn

 

BillyThanks to all who have contributed to our “Hope Smiles” Campaign
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Hope Smiles (our December campaign) Has Begun!

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We write with guarded optimism (fully vaxed and mask-enthusiastic). It’s been a sobering, wild ride since March 2020. More than 260 million have contracted Covid, and five million have died. Yet all this is punctuated by the countless acts of love and heroism which, inside and outside the medical community, have defined these two years, giving us the hope we yearned for.

Now we turn to a brighter future. Hopefully the new variants will be tamed alongside all the others, and we can resume living full, active, and interactive lives.

We’ve named our December campaign “Hope Smiles.” We’ve based it on a bit of writing from the great poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’”

Perhaps not more than a whisper, but real enough. From the depths of these past two years, we may be entering 2022 seeing the light of a new day in the distance. Anticipating our gradual reemergence from our homes, from our illnesses, from our challenges and from our despairs, let us now join hands and renew our commitment to helping others, to turning love into action.

We hope that you’ll once again give generously, this time to Hope Smiles — in thanks for your own survival, and in hope for a better year ahead. We here at The Jonah Maccabee Foundation promise to continue helping out on your behalf.

You might like to know what grants we’ve awarded this year. Here we go:

  • Angela Gold Music Scholarship Fund … to help raise the next generation of song leaders
  • MindLeaps … working in developing countries using DANCE to improve school performance and create positive livelihoods for at-risk youth
  • The Reform Movement’s Racial Justice Campaign … combating voter suppression, addressing systemic racism by demanding policy change on both a state and federal level
  • 18 emergency food organizations across North America helping families get through the pandemic
  • Harmony Project … an inspiring organization that provides high-quality music instruction and social support to children at no cost year ’round. Harmony Project motivates young people to cultivate their human potential
  • American Indian College Fund … this was a Thanksgiving gift, supporting Native student access to higher education, assisting our nation’s indigenous peoples in building whole, healthy lives for themselves and their children
  • Jewish Star … a North American talent search competition encouraging the next generation of singer-songwriters in the Jewish community
  • National Diaper Network … provides basic necessities required to build the strong foundations all children, families, and individuals need to thrive and reach their full potential
  • HIAS … helping settle new immigrants in the USA
  • Play Group Theatre … “preparing kids for every stage in life,” PGT understands that the show isn’t what’s most important when kids do theatre. Learning collaboration, sharpening listening skills, embracing creativity, and treating one another with honor … these are what PGT is all about. We love that!
  • 6 Points Creative Arts Academy … a summer camp that strives to create holistic, meaningful experiences for young artists in a living laboratory for learning and performing
  • Youth Futures in Lod (Israel) … The Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Lod, Israel, has seen far too much hate and violence. Youth Futures has established a trusting connection with the Jewish and Arab communities, providing all with emergency mental health care.

We’d be honored to have you join us in Hope Smiles, our December campaign to remember Jonah by helping make the world a little better for all.

Thank you.

BillyHope Smiles (our December campaign) Has Begun!
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9/11 Twenty Years of Remembering

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Dear Jonah,

StoryCorps recently posted a piece about twin brothers who’d been extremely close their entire lives, sharing their childhoods, sharing their livelihoods, and even their employment at the World Trade Center. As I listened to one of them speak, I wondered if this had been recorded prior to 9/11 and that the brothers had perished there together. I soon understood that the recording was recent, and that he was recounting how it was that his brother was gone but he is still here.

I cried.

2600 innocent souls were stolen on that lovely fall morning in 2001, gone long before their time, families and friends having to learn to live life around a gaping hole still filled with love but empty of the person who should be there.

I appreciate crying. It helps me to feel more fully human. I was deeply saddened by the brothers’ story, but grateful to have heard it and been moved by it. The tears didn’t feel good, but they felt right.

Billy9/11 Twenty Years of Remembering
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Bring Him Back, and Then I’ll Let Him Go

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Dear Jonah,

It’s twelve years now and you’re still not back. So I guess this is going to be a thing, huh?

So much changed for me the day you died. I never know where or when, but things can affect me quite differently from the way they used to. Invariably it’s because a moment brings sudden, unexpected connection to you. I’ve certainly learned to live my life, and I’m doing pretty well at it. But then, without any warning, grief just sort of pours itself right back in.

Here’s an example.

A few months after your death, Ellen and I were back at Play Group Theatre (where you’d pretty much grown to maturity and adulthood so, needless to say, we’ve never wanted to see it leave our lives). It was painful to go back, of course, but we have so many loving memories that were born there, how could we not?

BillyBring Him Back, and Then I’ll Let Him Go
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Not An Ask … Just A Thank You

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You really came through for us. Well, not just for us. You came through for all of the organizations to which we will forward grants in the coming months. Because of you, and WITH you, we will bring help to hundreds, perhaps thousands, as America emerges from the pandemic year.

Thank you. Our “Silver Linings” campaign has been a great success. What a privilege to join with you in bringing a little more goodness into the world. What a humbling honor to have you help us remember our Jonah, and to transform our loss into blessing.

We hope you found our “Silver Learnings” readings worthwhile. Here are links to all of our guest writers: Molly RodriguezJoe Casario, Evangelo ManiotisMarta Kauffman, Keron SiririJill Abusch, The Levins, Drs. Chuck and Nancy Fishman, Paul FeinerJuliet Wishner and Laurel Dreskin. We’re so thankful for their contributions.

As we write each time, we will always miss Jonah. But we’re grateful to have had him in our lives and, to this day, he inspires us to do good in his name. The Jonah Maccabee Foundation is privileged to honor his life by “turning love into action.”

Thank you for supporting our work.

Very sincerely,
Ellen, Billy, Aiden, Katie and Mark
The Jonah Maccabee Foundation
BillyNot An Ask … Just A Thank You
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Silver Learnings: Laurel Dreskin

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These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Laurel Dreskin is a kindergarten teacher working in Bangkok, Thailand. She moved across the world to follow her dreams to teach in Thailand. Laurel has a passion for teaching young children through hands-on learning and collaborative play. She’s Ellen and Billy’s niece.

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Laurel Dreskin

I found it so difficult to write this because I thought that I’m not special nor important so why would someone want to read what I have to say, but I realized that maybe if I wrote about my experience that others could find a connection in their own life.

I began my journey to Thailand in July 2019 after just finishing my undergrad in Tallahassee, Florida. I would have never expected to be living on the complete opposite side of the world far away from my family and friends, the people who mean the world to me, but this is just where my journey begins.

I’ve been living in Thailand for two years going strong but that doesn’t mean I haven’t faced challenges along the way. To the eye, I might seem like a strong and independent young woman, but on the inside I have many weaknesses too. First off, moving to a place where you know absolutely nobody and, second, the language. I did not learn Thai before moving here. Call me crazy but now. looking back. I am glad I didn’t learn how to speak the language prior to moving here.

BillySilver Learnings: Laurel Dreskin
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June Campaign: Final three days … plenty of time to make that gift!

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We’re rounding third and heading for home! Please help us fund the next six months of grants by donating during these last three days of our June campaign, Silver Learnings. Your gift is what empowers us to act in Jonah’s name and do the good in the world that he might himself have done. Thank you for partnering with us to turn love into action.

Silver Learnings has brought words to us all from folks who’ve lived alongside us throughout the pandemic. They may be students, professionals, entertainers, living here or abroad, but they all have written down what they believe to be some of the lessons they’ve learned from all of this. Life has become more precious having seen so much sadness and loss. Now it’s time to lift each other up and get the world back on its feet again. Silver Learnings is our contribution to that effort.

BillyJune Campaign: Final three days … plenty of time to make that gift!
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Silver Learnings: Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman

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These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman

Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman has been the spiritual leader of Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, NY, for more than thirty years. Rabbi Sirkman fosters a face-to-face faith, cherishes the gift of Torah, affirms the importance of developing a relationship with the Jewish State. He has served as Chair of the Program Advisory Committee for URJ Eisner Camp, the Admissions Committee of HUC-JIR, and teaches 5th year rabbinic and cantorial students at HUC-JIR. Ordained by HUC-JIR in 1987, he received his B.A. in Religion and his M.A. in Theology with a Certificate in Modern Jewish Thought from Boston University. Rabbi Sirkman lost his wife Susan (z”l) to cancer, is the proud father of their four wonderful children, Aaron, Alexander, Gabriel (Chelsea) and Sophie, and adores his grandson, Sawyer. He’s also Billy Dreskin’s best friend!

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As a Reform rabbi who’s spent over three decades in congregational life, I’ve often talked of renaming Reform — an insufficient descriptor for our denomination — to Punim-to-Punim [from the Yiddish, “face-to-face”] Judaism. Rabbi Larry Kushner once said, “We are a hopelessly communal people.” More precisely, I believe, we are a ridiculously relational people. Being together makes being Jewish happen. But what happens when we can’t be together?

BillySilver Learnings: Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman
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Silver Learnings: Juliet Wishner

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These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.


Juliet Wishner

Juliet Wishner grew up in Billy’s congregation and is dedicating her life to creating social change in America and Israel/Palestine. After graduating from Ardsley High School (Ardsley, NY) she studied international studies and sociology at the University of Michigan, completing her studies in 2020. She firmly believes that through creating connections and relationships, we can form a long-lasting shared society.

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When I told people I was moving to Israel for nine-months in the midst of a global pandemic, they looked at me as if I was crazy — what on earth would convince me to do this? I am here as a part of a program called Yahel Social Change Fellowship. We work in two cities, Rishon Letzion and Lod, with marginalized communities that lack resources in many sectors.

BillySilver Learnings: Juliet Wishner
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Silver Learnings: Paul Feiner

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These past 15 months, no matter how “hard” or “easy” any of us had it, we’ve learned a lot. Good stuff even. Our learning, you could say, has been one of the pandemic’s silver linings. To acknowledge some of those Silver Learnings, we’ve invited friends from different walks of life to share what they’ve learned from the pandemic. Our guess is you’ll hear some voices that sound like your own, and some that offer a window into a world you’ve not known but from which we can all now learn.

 


 

Paul Feiner

Paul Feiner has been the Town Supervisor in Greenburgh, New York, for 30 years. He’s married to attorney Sherrie Brown with whom he shares a wonderful daughter, Julia.

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During the pandemic, as Town Supervisor my major concern has been to keep services in the town operational, and to make sure that employees knew that we were concerned about them. Any employee who had major medical issues was able to work from home. To keep employees safe during the initial months of Covid, we rotated days when employees would come in. We were worried that if one person got sick everyone in the department would have to be isolated, so we kept half at home at different times.

BillySilver Learnings: Paul Feiner
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