The following essay on family values, including friendship, was written by Maya Mondlak Reuveni, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; an example of the values component can be seen below. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.
Maya Mondlak Reuveni
October 3, 2015
I remember sitting in my mentor, Amy’s apartment next to her looking at her computer with a blank page on the screen. At the top of the screen it read Maya’s Values Paper. “What does that even mean?”, I said to myself. I was worried that it was the most complicated thing in the world. Now I realize that it really isn’t complicated at all. Values are things that mean something to you. Values are something that you can connect to. And they are something you can share with others.
While I was writing the paper I learned about my family history. My grandparents, my grandparents’ parents. I heard stories about their lives, stories that showed the values in action. The seven values of mine that I am going to talk about are: Love, Friendship, Artistic Expression, Responsibility, Determination, Education, and Loyalty.
Love – (A-ha-va)
What is love?says love is “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.”
When people think of the word love they might think of marriage. Although in marriage there is love, marriage is not the first idea that pops into my head when I hear the word. My parents were together for 22 years, and were in love with each other very much. They had a very good relationship, and were very compatible. Even though they separated when I was nine, that doesn’t take away the love they shared with each other and with me.
When I am on stage singing, acting or dancing I love what I am doing. It is a happy feeling and different from any other times. I find myself in a different state of mind. Even though I may not be aware of the audience when I am doing what I love to do, the feelings are communicated out to others. Love is not a one person thing.
I have a small group of family members who I know and am close with: My mom, my dad, my uncle and his wife. I have a lot of cousins but I don’t see them and don’t really know them at all well. I do, however, have many friends who are important to me and are like my family.
My mom loves her friends and has a lot of them. She has known her best friends for over 35 years. They are like her sisters and brothers to her. She also says it is important to be open to making new friends all the time. My dad has more friends in Israel than here where most of his friends are from work.
Friendship is one of my main values. I love my friends. Most of them I have known since I was very little. I can’t imagine not having a lot of friends. A friend is someone who respects you and you respect them and you enjoy spending time together. Some of my friends are a lot like me; others are complete opposites. Some people can handle not being around other people all the time, but I enjoy it. I feel like I can be myself when I’m with my friends. Although you may act differently with two different friends, a friend is someone who likes you for who you are. With a friend you don’t have to be someone you are not. I consider my friends and their families to be a part of my family. If you love each other it can count as a family too, you don’t have to be related. For instance I go to a camp called Shire Village in Cummington, Massachusetts. I have gone every summer since I was nine. The intention of the camp owners is that everyone feels like family there. The girls in my bunk are family to me because we are always there for each other and we love each other like sisters. Sometimes we talk about things that are hard to talk about with other people because we are so close . There are even things I can talk to them about that I can’t talk about with my parents.
Artistic expression – (Bee-too-ee o-mah-noo-tee)
Art is a very important value to me, my family, and my friends. We are all very artistic people. I enjoy singing, dancing, and acting and I intend to keep doing that as I become older. I think those are important because if you can’t find words to say something to someone it can be a lot easier to do through artistic expression. For example, someone might express themselves through song; others might express themselves through an emotional painting.
My mom is an artist and a poet. She had small art shows even when she was in her twenties. When she was in college she struggled to decide if she was going to major in art or writing. She went in as a creative writing major and switched to fine arts. She continued to study art and writing even though her parents didn’t approve (and stopped paying for classes because they didn’t think art was a real career). Luckily her teacher let her go to classes without paying. My Mom’s art is unusual. She uses collage to combine different materials and images with text. She takes multiple classes for poetry and art during the week and she teaches art. My mom also used to dance and continues to enjoy Flamenco.
My dad did martial arts and taught karate for a while. Even though it’s not what we usually consider art it is a different form of it. In fact he was in a tournament the day my mom went into labor with me. Even though it’s not something I think I would want to do, karate can be quite beautiful. If you take away the concept of hurting someone it is actually graceful and structured with rules just as in dance.
My Uncle Drori says that music is a kind of communication. He thinks music brings people closer together and is a way of healing the world. He is a drummer and plays jazz with his band, Klaro. His wife Karolina plays saxophone in the band and when they play music together you can see how much music means to them.
Responsibility – (Ah-cha-ry-oot)
My dad had to go to school all by himself when he was eight years old and lived in Tel Aviv. His father had to go to work and his mother was busy in the house. At that time and in that place, it was normal for eight-year-olds to go to school on their own. He tells me that he had to go a long way and reminds me of how lucky I am that I live only two blocks from my school. Growing up the way he did, he had to be responsible. After his first year of college, my dad dropped out and decided to get a job and start his adult life. Someone might say that’s irresponsible but some people might also say that he did a responsible thing wanting to support himself. He went into real estate, working for Corcoran, and by the time he was 18 he was one of the best in the company.
My mom is responsible in a different way. When I was young she was the one responsible for the day to day parenting while my dad went to work. She does a lot for me without pressuring me to do it by myself. My dad treats me as an older person and expects me to be responsible without being told.
Determination – (Hech-leh-tee-yoot)
Determination is something that I value. I need determination for a lot of things, but for me, it is mostly needed in school. For instance, math is a hard subject for me. Every test that I take, or problem I solve, I use determination to help guide me to do better next time.
Growing up in New York, I’ve never had to move further than 20 blocks. However my parents and their parents moved a lot and I can imagine how much determination it took to relocate to another country.
My mom’s father was originally from Poland but escaped before World War Two and immigrated to Mexico. His two older brothers were already there. When they left Poland, by boat, they wanted to settle in the U.S., but when the boat arrived in New York, they were not allowed off, and the boat then sailed south to Latin America. Many family members who did not escape died in concentration camps, including his parents, whom I never knew. It took determination for my mom’s father to make it to safety.
My mom was born in England but grew up in Mexico. My grandmother took my Mom and her brother to New York when my mom was about 14. At first they went to London for a year as my grandmother was English and wanted to be near her family. After that they moved to New York and many years later my grandfather did too. It must have been hard for my grandmother to move so far from her family, first to Mexico and then to New York.
My dad is from Israel and he has a brother and a half sister. When my dad was very young his mother left after his parents divorced. He and his brother stayed with his father and they all moved to this country when my dad was a teenager. Once again they needed determination to make this long move.
Going back in time, my dad’s grandmother (on his father’s side) came from Russia to Israel. She and other family members decided to go to Israel because they wanted to be where their people were and a lot of other countries wouldn’t accept them.
I may use my determination for conquering a math test, but I can just imagine how much more determination was needed for what my family had to go through.
Education – (Chee-nuch)
Everyone in my family thinks education is important. My mom still keeps going to classes; she calls herself a life long learner. My dad always wants me to do well in school. Maybe this is because his father didn’t make his kids’ education a priority and never pushed them. I tend to do my homework without being reminded which my parents appreciate. Both my parents want me to get the best education possible. I go to a progressive school, Bank Street, which is very accepting and understanding. This is different from the schools my parents went to when they were my age. My mom went to a small private Jewish school in Mexico where they learned Mexican Jewish history. They spoke in Spanish but also learned Hebrew. My dad went to a large public school that was more traditional. I think education will always be something that’s important to me.
Loyalty – (Neh-eh-mah-noot)
Loyalty is important to me. It’s not just a value of mine, but it is a large part of my everyday life. I make sure to always be loyal even to people who I’m not necessarily close to. Yes, there were probably times in my life when I was not very loyal to someone. But the only thing I can do is learn from those mistakes, and be loyal from now on.
My mom was very loyal to her parents as they got older. Her father became quite deaf which was frustrating in the extreme. Sometimes my mom probably just wanted to walk out of the room. But she did not. She was loyal. She also took care of her mother and made it a point to visit them a lot at the nursing home. It was not easy for my mom to interact with her mother at the end because she was always in a wheelchair and was losing her teeth so she couldn’t speak. She also was losing her memory so that was hard to see. My mom would take me to buy clothes and diapers for her mom, which embarrassed me but I understood that it was necessary. When my parents are older I will certainly take care of them and bring my children to see them.
I started this process by trying to figure out what values are. While writing this paper I learned about my family’s values and my own. Love, Friendship, Artistic Expression, Responsibility, Determination, Education, and Loyalty are important to me and to my family. If you look at my family you can see these values reflected. We are connected to these ideas and we find meaning in them.