Alcabes Family Values (2012)

By November 17, 2012 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Family Values
The following essay on family values,  including creativity, was written by Olivia Alcabes, 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 this 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.

Olivia Alcabes
November 17, 2012

Identity. Really, that’s what values are. Just another branch of who we are. What’s valuable to me, what means the most to me. They’re my top priorities and sharing them means sharing who I want to be. Not only are these values things I feel like I have, but things I want to get. I want to become more determined, I want to become more self accepting. My values shape who I am. My family values shape who we are, together.

It’s really hard to put values into words. Most of the time, we just go along, acting by them instead of describing them. Putting our life rules into a few simple words causes lots of long thinking on the roof, listening to music and downing juice boxes. Yet here I am, and I’ve done it all. Now all that’s left is to describe them to the rest of you.

My most important value is Creative Writing, or in Hebrew, K’tee-vat y-tzir-a-teet. I think of it more as a skill than a value. Although it’s most important to me, not many people in my family share my love for writing. It all started when I was younger, when my parents would read books to me. I was always saying, again, Mommy, again! When I was seven, I made up little stories for my younger brother, Daniel, called Mr. Man. I wasn’t even so good at reading myself yet. Still, I knew how to form the idea. Eventually, I made an entire series of Mr. Man, all involving some sort of giant fruit falling on his head and trapping him.

It only went uphill from there. Before long, I was writing little chapter books and poems. I’ve grown up with writing. To me, being unable to write would be like being unable to breathe. While I will admit I don’t love writing non-fiction, anything is better than nothing. Even this essay is making me feel better (I had a cold as I wrote this).

Creativity, or Y-tzeer-ah-tee-oot, is more than just writing to me. Creativity comes out in everything, from drawing to editing videos. Although creative writing might not be a value my family and I share, creativity is one. My dad got a degree in economics, but he wanted to do something more creative. With lots of hard work, he got into television. Now, he’s had a chance to see things he probably wouldn’t have seen before, and actually do what he wanted to do with his life.

My brother is creative in a way completely different than my dad and I. He doesn’t search to be creative, he is naturally. Yet he isn’t creative by creating things. He’s creative by coming up with new ways to look at them. All the time, he just randomly says something that takes me a moment to process before I realize just how amazing it was. I wish I were able to do what he does.

I look up to my mom in a way I don’t look up to anyone else. It’s like no matter what the problem is, she can always find a solution. She’s creative by helping people in ways I’ve never thought of. She doesn’t just have one solution, either. My mom normally gives me a variety of ways to get out of something, with each of them just as helpful as the last. It just goes to show how different people are, even mother and daughter. We have our similarities too, because two of our top values have to do with the arts. Mine is writing, and for my mom, it’s all about dance. Physically moving calms her the way writing calms me.

That leads me to the next value – Dance, or Ree-kood. Dancing is fun to me, but to my mother it’s more a passion. She loves the way it makes her feel, like the music and her mind and body are all connecting and becoming one. Not only that, but she loves to watch dance. To her it’s a universal language, expressing emotions in a way that nothing else can. She loves to dance, especially at bat-mitzvahs or weddings. She always tries to get me to come with her, but being the grubby teenager I am, I always say no. It’s amazing how brave she is, to just go out there and dance. I don’t think I’d ever be able to, especially if it’s not choreographed. I guess that’s what some people say about my writing, though. Everyone has their own special art.

Music, or Moo-see-ka, is the perfect value to follow dance. The first value my family and I think of equally. Music is my way of journeying out of this world, mostly just to think. I always listen to my iPod in the car, and half the time I’m hardly even paying attention to the words. I’m actually listening to music right now, as I’m writing this. It helps me think. To my family, it’s more about making music. My dad likes playing Beatles songs on the guitar, or listening to his albums. It’s very important to him and connects him to the world. One of my brother’s favorite video games is called Ocarina of Time, from the Legend of Zelda series. In the game, you have to play various songs on a little music instrument in order to acquire different abilities. As you can see, music can be in the most hidden places.

Other than our parents, our friends tend to have the most influence on us. That’s why Friendship, Cha-vey-root, is one of my most important values. I love my friends, and, to put it simply, I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. They’ve helped me get through hard times in life and vice versa. We’ve all shared so many laughs together, so many days near our lockers, just talking. They’re all my family.

Now, for the value of Family, Meesh-pah-cha. Without my parents, grandparents, brother, aunts, uncles and so on, I would be a completely different person. My physical attributes might be completely different (and what could I do without my hair?), and the way I think might have changed for good. I’m not the only one who appreciates my family, though. There wasn’t one person I interviewed who didn’t mention family. Family means a lot to my grandparents, they like to be a major part of their families’ lives. We all care so much about the past because we believe the past shapes our future. Both sides of my family were very informed about our history. It makes us feel like we belong somewhere and that we have people to rely on. I know things about my ancestors that I wouldn’t know if we didn’t care so much. Matter of fact, I know that one of my many great grandmothers had the same birthday I have, but 185 years earlier! Of course, immediately I assumed that I was a reincarnation of her. Maybe I am. I wonder if she was into writing?

My grandmother on my dad’s side, who I like to call Nona, grew up on the Lower East Side. Her family was big, but didn’t have the most money in the world. Despite that, they were very, very close. Her brothers loved to tell really bad jokes. It’s so fortunate that my dad is carrying on that tradition.

Another value everyone I talked to mentioned was Education, or Chee-nuch. For me, education is more important than something to help me get a good job. School is where I’ve met some of my best friends, and learned more than just a lesson. Before I went to school, when I was a toddler, the entire world made almost no sense. School’s told me why two plus two equals four instead of just making it a fact. My great-grandmother and her sister (on my mom’s side) both ended up with college degrees, which was a big accomplishment back then. Women from that generation wouldn’t normally get degrees.

My father’s father, who I like to call Papa, holds the value of education highly. Papa values it because of his father, because whenever my great-grandfather saw Papa’s homework and thought that his handwriting wasn’t good enough, he would rip up the homework.

Frugality, Khee-sa-kone, is another important value for us. One of my ancestors, F.A.F. (Ferdinand Auguste Freidrich) came to the U.S. in the mid 1800s. After passing inspection at Ellis Island, he was on his way to the train station when he wanted a cigar. He went around the corner to buy one, thought the price of 5 cents was outrageous, and never smoked again.

Determination, Hech-leh-tee-yoot, has the simple meaning of not giving up. Without determination, the world would literally be nowhere. It’s about caring so much, it’s impossible to stop without finishing. I don’t like to just leave something unfinished. Sometimes it’s hard, but I always try to do my best. To be determined, I have to be committed. I’m not the only one like this, though. Whenever my brother is into something, he’ll research it for months – he’s that determined. Determination is one of the values that I feel I should have more of.

Self Acceptance, Mesh-lee-mah eem atz-mah, is important to me because it means accepting myself for who I am, not what everyone wants me to be. I’m not about to be swayed by my friends to do something bad. If there’s something I believe in, I’m not going to stop believing it just because my friend says it’s uncool. This value, I feel everyone could have a little more of. Everyone’s insecure about something, but that doesn’t mean we should be hiding it. If I don’t understand something, I try to ask questions as much as I can, and urge others to do the same.

Independence, Atz-mah-oot, goes along with that. It’s important to have friends, but it’s also important to be my own person. I don’t want to be some robot that goes along willingly with everything, even though I will admit that sometimes I should go along willingly. These two values, self-acceptance and independence, have a lot to do with the age I’m at. They’re what most teenagers (or almost teenagers) deal with. Still, that doesn’t mean all you adults should turn a blind eye. Independence and self-acceptance should have a balance in everyone’s lives, not too much, but not too little.

Values are what shape me. They’re what I want, and who I want to be. My family’s values go alongside mine because they’re the people who have taught me to be who I am. I’m proud of the values that I chose, because I feel like they really are what I want to be. My family and I have some differences, but that doesn’t mean we are different. If we were exactly the same, it would be strange, unreal. The values we have are a big part of who we are.