Camp building is poignant memorial for local family

B’nai Amoona Senior Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose speaks during the dedication of the The Jonny G Sports Shed at Camp Ramot Amoona in memory of Jonathan Goldberg, who died in 2007.

BY ELLEN FUTTERMAN

By most accounts, Jonathan Goldberg was one of those all-around great kids, the kind who peers and parents alike loved. His smile alone was intoxicating – wide, a bit mischievous but wholly adorable.

The worst that could happen did so two weeks after Jonathan’s bar mitzvah in 2007. While in the hospital to have a shunt in his head replaced due to an earlier brain tumor, Jonathan died in the middle of the night. The official cause of death was aspiration, said his father Dr. Rick Goldberg, an orthodontist who lives in Chesterfield.

No parent ever gets over the death of a child. Each tries to cope in his or her way. As therapists will tell you, place one foot in front of the other, and take it one day at a time.

For Goldberg, it became important to do something to honor his beloved son, something that would, in fact, be meaningful to Jonathan. So Rick Goldberg began the Jonny G Foundation to raise money for kids who need help. So far, the foundation has donated thousands to charities such as Youth Lifeline America, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Albert Pujols Foundation and the Jonathan Goldberg Camp Fund at Congregation B’nai Amoona. The foundation hosts a huge fundraising event every May.

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The brain tumor I mentioned earlier was diagnosed in 1996 when Jonathan was 2-years-old. He had a 20-hour surgery to remove it and spent three weeks in intensive care. He underwent chemotherapy, but because he couldn’t take the chemo, the tumor returned. Doctors then tried radiation therapy, which essentially got rid of the brain tumor and cured Jonathan, said Rick Goldberg. “The only remnant was a shunt, which had to be replaced in 2005 and again in 2007,” he said. It was while Jonathan was in the hospital for the latter surgery that he died.

Jonathan was a gigantic sports enthusiast. A sports nut. He served as a water boy for the St. Louis Rams and as a junior bat boy at spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals. He also loved attending camp with his friends, both at Camp Sabra and Camp Ramot Amoona located on the grounds of Congregation B’nai Amoona.

Dr. Goldberg figured what better way to honor his son than build something at both places. So he had a fishing shed built in Jonathan’s honor at Camp Sabra in 2007 and this year built “The Jonny G Sports Shed” at Camp Ramot Amoona, which was dedicated at a ceremony last month. Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose presided over the dedication and talked about “his good friend Jonathan” who was about as special a kid as you can find, he said.

Embedded in the shingles of the sports shack are the initials “J.G.” Mike Perry of HBD Construction and Dave Engel of Engel Roofing donated most of the materials for the shack and Jonathan’s friends and family help to build the structure. Goldberg has it worked out so that Jonathan’s best friends Eric Cantor, Josh Harris, Dustin Klein, Juliana Wishne, Sarah Perry and Anne Perry, each of whom sits on the junior board of the foundation, will take over the running of the Jonny G Foundation when they are older.

Jonathan attended Rockwood Valley Middle School. More than 1,500 people attended his funeral in 2007, including most of his seventh grade class and Rams players Adam Timmerman, Roland Williams and Marshall Faulk. Jonathan was buried with a jersey that slugger Pujols, whom he had gotten to know, had signed for him.

Faulk, in particular, had a terrific relationship with Jonathan. Goldberg said that the day after the funeral, Faulk called and told him, “You never get over it. You just get used to it.”

Goldberg thinks that’s true, though being able to honor the great kid Jonathan was helps. Goldberg also is grateful that after being diagnosed at age 2, he and his family had another 11 years with Jonathan.

For more information about the Jonny G Foundation, go to www.JonnyGFoundation.com

Beginning this weekend, a new theater company called the Blue Rose Collective is staging the play, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” at St. Louis University. To give you a little background, in 2003, 23-year-old American Rachel Corrie, a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, was protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes. She had dropped to her knees in front of an Israeli bulldozer, which supposedly was clearing away foliage used to hide bombs. She expected it to stop, but it kept moving, trapping her under its tracks and crushing her to death. The protesters called it murder. The Israelis said that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Corrie because the windows of the bulletproof bulldozer were very small and visibility was limited.

Shortly after Corrie’s death, with the permission of her family, British actor Alan Rickman (“Love, Actually” and the “Harry Potter” movies) and British journalist Katharine Viner accessed Rachel Corrie’s diaries and emails and edited a huge volume of her written material into a 70-minute one-woman show titled “My Name is Rachel Corrie.”

The play won several British Theatregoer Choice Awards, but unleashed controversy in New York, where in 2006 the production at the New York Theatre Workshop was cancelled six weeks before its opening. According to reports, the producers feared political reprisals because of the subject matter.

The British production eventually made it to New York’s Off-Broadway Minetta Lane Theatre in October 2006. It has been successfully produced elsewhere in the U.S., and in Israel, Greece, Argentina, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Australia.

Local actress Magan Wiles will portray Rachel Corrie in the Blue Rose production. She says she doesn’t see the play as anti-Semitic, but rather as critical of Israel’s policies toward Palestine and the occupied territories.

“The play is really about the social and political awakening of a young American woman,” said Wiles, who traveled to Israel and the occupied territories in 2006. “It’s all taken from Rachel Corrie’s diaries.”

Wiles says that while some people might find the subject matter “uncomfortable,” she hopes Jewish theatergoers who come to the production will stay for the nightly post-show discussion. “People have strong emotional responses to this topic,” she said. “I hope we can have a discussion about reactions to the play rather than a debate about Israel’s policies.”

She also feels that while the subject matter might be critical toward the Israeli government, the play is in no way an indictment of Jewish people.

I plan to go Friday evening and see for myself what the play and the controversy is all about and I encourage you to join me. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, July 8-10th and 15th-17th, and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 11 and 18 at SLU’s black box theatre in Xavier Hall, 3733 West Pine Boulevard. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved at [email protected] Refreshments and a moderated discussion follow each performance.