November 22, 2014
As part of my Bar Mitzvah I interviewed a number of family members to understand my family’s history and values. During these interviews my family members shared some fascinating stories and memories. I want to say a special thank you to my cousin Susan Kleinman who had many great Shatz tales to tell. My favorite of these stories was that my Great-Grandpa Freddy gave a stranger a check, which helped that man send his son to college.
This is a true act of compassion- (ra-cha-meem), a value that a lot of my family members share. Compassion involves understanding and helping others. My family is very compassionate towards other people. My mom is a physical therapist who devotes many hours to her patients so they can live better lives. My Aunt Heather helps many children and families through her work as a psychologist.
Like compassion, charity- (tz-dah-kah) is very common throughout my family’s history. My great grandmother Claire, who I called Nanny, and her stepmother, Lillian, volunteered at a hospital for 25 years. At the hospital, Nanny would go around with books and read to the sick patients. Nanny also volunteered at Hadassah, which is a Zionist organization that strengthens partnerships with Israel. This is also where my great-grandmother Celia volunteered. Her name can be found on a wall in Israel that honors those who were important volunteers at Hadassah. My grandfather David was the Chairman and President of a Jewish retirement home for many years. He also served on the Board of Graham Windham, the oldest still active orphanage in the United States. My Grandma Ruthe volunteered at the March of Dimes for many years among other places. My mom has for the last four years run the auction for our elementary school, and has been very successful in growing the auction so the kids at our school have many things they otherwise wouldn’t like a reading program, computers and fitness activities.
The next value that is important to my family is education (chee-nuch). My Great Grandmother Gigi, my mother’s grandmother, went to college which was unusual for a woman at that time. Two of my grandparents, my grandma Ruthe and Grandpa Barry, went to college at the age of 16. My mom and dad both got their Masters degrees at Columbia University. My Grandma Debbie and my Great Grandmother Gigi both were teachers. School is now an important part of my life. I work very hard to learn and get good grades which, hopefully, along with the millions of tours and tests I have done this fall, will help me get into a good high school.
My next value is work- (ah-vo-dah). I have two grandfathers who ran their own businesses. Grandpa David’s company painted famous buildings in New York City like Yankee Stadium, Radio City and the famous gold statue of Prometheus in Rockefeller Center. Barry runs a printing business that has been around for three generations. They both worked very hard to grow their businesses and provide for their families. I also appreciate how hard both of my parents work, which I observe every day, to give Carly and me so much.
While education and work are among the more important values for my family, the MOST important one is family itself (mish-pah-cha). My family means more than anything in the world to me. My Grandma Debbie makes sure our family gets together for all the Jewish and secular holidays, as well as birthdays and other events. She makes it clear to me through her actions that family is very important. On my father’s side, The Shatz Family Circle was started many years ago to help family members who needed money. Another example of caring for each other in our family’s history was Nanny taking care of Poppy at the end of his life when he suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. There is also is the family legend that my great-great grandfather’s hair turned white overnight when he learned his family had died in the Holocaust.
On a lighter note, food (ma-zone) has become a passion of mine, one which was passed down to me. My sister, parents and I all like to cook and to eat. Among my specialties are Greek salad, steak and omelets. Meals aren’t just about the food but also about being together. At a typical dinner at home we talk about what happened to each of us earlier that day. Occasionally we play what we call dinner games; my favorite is three out of four; some of you have played this with us.
As I said, good cooking has been passed down from generation to generation in my family. For the High Holidays my grandmother Debbie brings everyone together at her house. Her matzoh ball soup is so good that Carly and I often go back another night for the leftovers. She learned the recipe from Nanny. My dad fondly remembers eating his mother’s kreplach at holidays growing up. He grew up in a kosher house so it was a big deal when everyone found out a few years ago that my uncle Peter secretly grilled pork hot dogs under the porch when he was growing up. My great-grandfather Poppy only ate traditional foods from the old country like plain roasted chicken, and vegetables such as radish and sauerkraut, even after he lived here for his whole life.
Another of my family’s value is selflessness (Hoo-sar ah-no-kee-yoot). My relatives often put the needs of others ahead of their own. My grandpa David and his father Freddy were very selfless. My grandma Debbie is also very selfless. All of them have regularly put the needs of their family members ahead of their own needs throughout their lives. For example, my Grandpa David let my father keep a cat that he was given even though grandpa was allergic to cats and never told my dad or complained in any way.
Even though sports (ath-let-ee-kah) are not a value, they have played a part in my family’s history and remain a common and fun part of our lives together. Both of my grandpas are season ticket holders of many New York sports teams going all the way back to the 1960s. Some of dad’s best childhood memories are going to sports games with his father including the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup. I now go to games regularly with my parents and my Grandpa Barry, and I have started a little tradition of eating sushi dinners with him when he takes me to Rangers games. My sister and I both play travel soccer – go Corinthians! My mom and dad have run two marathons together.
As you can tell, I learned a lot from talking to my family about our history and values. I will try to live by these important values in the years to come. I hope to pass them on to my own children someday.