WASHINGTON (JTA) — When Zakary Kadish was overseas last summer on a teen tour with the North American Federation of Temple Youth, his younger brother, Ethan, was struck by lightning while playing Frisbee at the Goldman Union Camp Institute, a Reform Jewish overnight camp in Indiana.
The strike left Ethan with a devastating brain injury and a long, unknown road to recovery. It has not only changed the family but cast Kadish, 16, into the role of passionate advocate for his brother.
“I felt I needed to help, to spread [Ethan’s] story, to motivate people to see the kind of person he is,” said Kadish, a junior at Loveland High School in Ohio, near Cincinnati.
A volunteer organization dubbed “Team Ethan” was set up to assist the family, from preparing meals and looking after their dog to refurbishing the home. Multiple fundraising events have been organized to help offset the costs of Ethan’s medical bills and related expenses.
Kadish actively promotes the events, has sold tickets and even went on local radio to talk about his brother. When his parents were at the hospital with Ethan and could not attend the events, Kadish served as family spokesman, updating and thanking the hundreds of supportive volunteers.
“The show of solidarity [for Ethan] from across the world is really touching and inspiring,” he said.
Kadish remains positive for his brother and their family.
“There’s a speck of light, a silver lining somewhere, so grab on to it,” he said. “It will make it seem like it’s the brightest day.”
Recently, Kadish shared with JTA his advice for other teens dealing with family crises, his revelation in the Israeli desert and his surefire way to blow off steam.
What advice would you give other teens dealing with a family crisis?
Hopefully it’ll make you all stronger and rally around a single cause. But have someone to talk to. You need an outlet.
If you could have lunch or coffee with anyone and tell him or her about Team Ethan, who would it be?
In the interest of spreading the word, Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper. I can’t think of a better outlet than CNN and MSNBC … or JTA.
Can you share with us a meaningful Jewish experience that you’ve had?
In Israel, in the desert, hiking and camping in the Negev, it was the first time I saw God. I felt at peace, a stillness, a oneness.
Who or what have been the biggest influences in your life?
Outside of my parents, I’ve been blessed to have teachers who I really connect with on an emotional level.
What do you think you want to be doing when “you grow up” or think you’d like to be doing professionally in perhaps five or 10 years?
I’m very interested in politics and the political system in America. Law and politics is where I think I’m going to end up. I hope to go to George Washington University, but I’m looking at all D.C.-area schools equally.
What kind of things do you like to do for fun?
I play tennis. There’s no better way to let out tension than hitting a ball. I’m also the co-founder and president of the debate club at my high school.
The Teen Heroes column is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which is dedicated to celebrating and supporting teens repairing the world. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit http://dillerteenawards.org. Please tell us about teens who deserve attention by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.