Botwin Family Values (2013)

By September 21, 2013 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Family Values
The following essay on family values,  including Animal Rights, was written by Alex Botwin, 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.

Alex Botwin
September 21, 2013

Sitting down to write my values paper was not easy for me. I had to sit and think about what was important to me and this was the first time in my life I was asked to think about my values. I looked at the list of values from my bar mitzvah book and listened to all the family interviews that I had done when writing my family history paper. From all of that I came up with six values that mean the most to me and incorporated them with what I learned was important to my family.

My first value is Animal Rights: (TZA-AR BA-AH-LEY HY- EEM), which is defined as the rights (as to fair and humane treatment) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all animals. I love animals and I feel very badly when they are mistreated. About a year ago my mom and dad took me to visit an animal shelter in Brooklyn. It was very sad and made me a little depressed to see all the dogs and cats in the shelter without homes. Some of them were sick, some of them were injured, and most of them were abandoned. What I really remembered was the noise; all the dogs were barking so loud and pacing in their cages. I know they were saying “pick me, take me home.” The shelter was trying to care for them the best they could but it was not a nice place. Some people were adopting a few of the dogs, but most of them were in bad shape. Someone asked me if I wanted to take one out of them out of the cage, but I was afraid. We walked around for a little while and then we left.

That day I realized two things– one was that I really wanted a dog and two was that I wanted to volunteer when I was older and work in a shelter. So, I am trying to convince my parents that I am responsible enough to have a pet. I am the only one in my immediate family who really wants a pet. Though my family shares the value of fair and humane treatment to all animals, I have a stronger passion for animals. I do spend time with my cousins Julia and Emma’s dog Cooper and my cousin John’s dog Giatta. Over the winter school break I got to dog sit for Giatta. At first everyone was nervous about leaving me with the dog, since I had never watched a dog before. It is a big responsibility. Cousin John brought Giatta over with a lot of stuff; her food, toys and wee wee pads. I had to walk her, feed her and clean up after her. I learned that having to care for an animal is a huge responsibility and though it is fun to play with them it is a big commitment. You have to love and protect them also, because they are a part of the family. I hope that in time my parents will see that I can be responsible and get me a dog.

The second value I’m going to talk about is Humor: (HU-MOR). Humor is a big part of my dad’s side of the family. My Uncle Brad, Aunt Wendy and my dad are always playing jokes on each other. Now my brother Samuel has also gotten into the act of sending things to Uncle Brad that make fun of his political beliefs. Samuel says Uncle Brad has a funny political mind and that his politics are way out there. Uncle Brad is a Republican and he sent Samuel tea in the mail. Everyone thought that was very funny, because he is a Tea Party member and Samuel is not. I do not really get it, but my whole family thought it was funny.

I am also very funny, although not about politics, but I do love to tell far- fetched stories. Sometimes that gets me into trouble, but most of the time everyone just laughs and knows I have a good imagination. I like to tell funny stories to my friends and family. One of the funniest stories I ever told was when I was on vacation in Cape May with my parents, brother Samuel and my grandparents on my mom’s side Marie Ann and Alfred. I made up a story about a fisherman who was about to catch lobsters. Everyone was listening quietly to my story, they were all saying that I had such a great imagination and my story had so much detail. My mom said we should write the story down so we would remember it. When she turned around she realized I was describing the painting on the wall in the restaurant. Everything in the story was taken from pictures in the restaurant. I made everyone laugh — my parents, grandparents and even my brother. They all laughed so hard tears were coming out of their eyes. I felt so happy at that moment making everyone have a good time. That was a good family moment, as my mom likes to say. That is what humor does; it puts everyone at ease and makes people feel happy. I like being a part of making people feel happy.

The next value I’m going to talk about is Risk-Taking: (L’KEE-KHAT SEE-KOO-NEEM). What this means to me is taking a chance even if it makes you uncomfortable, or doing something that has the great risk of failure, but you try it anyway. Last year, we took my mom’s parents to Mexico and my grandmother Marie Ann wanted to go para-sailing. My mother, who is afraid of heights, did not think it was a good idea for her to go, but she insisted and my dad took her and she had a great time.

Both my grandfathers, Alfred and Robert were risk takers with their careers. My grandfather Alfred was the first and only child in his family to graduate college and he had his own successful architectural business. His father wanted him to finish high school and get a job. My grandfather Robert was an aerospace engineer who helped get the astronauts home when they were stuck in space on Apollo 13. I also enjoy taking risks by trying new and exciting things, from Zip-Lining in the Mexican jungle to riding the rollercoaster “Steel Force” at Dorney Park, to skateboarding off high ramps, to making new friends. I like to try new things because I don’t want to miss out on all the fun and adventure.

The next value I want to mention is Sports (ATH-LET-EE-KA). I love to play sports, whether its baseball, football, soccer or basketball. I have been playing on many teams since I was four years old. My favorite sport is soccer. I have been playing competitive travelling soccer for two years and I really enjoy it. My dad played soccer when he was young; he takes me to all my games and cheers me on. I love spending time with him and talking about the game afterwards.

I take after a lot of my cousins who play sports; my cousin Harrison played baseball and was a pitcher, just like I am. This year Uncle Harry came to most of my soccer and baseball games. He played baseball and softball and liked being on a team. You need to learn how to work together, listen to each other and solve problems. He said that when he was young he did not have any fancy video or computer games; playing ball with his friends was his favorite thing to do. I agree, though video games are fun, playing sports on a team is much more fun. I have made good friendships; we are all focused on the game and nothing else. Sports keep me active and healthy.

I want to now talk about the value Courage: (O-METZ LEV) Courage is defined as moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. Both sides of my family showed great courage when they came to America for a better life. My mom’s side of the family came from Italy and my dad’s side came from Russia. My dad’s mom Shelly’s father Harry (which is my middle name) came from Russia and opened a furniture store. He and his wife Estelle worked hard to give my grandmother Shelly a better life. It takes courage to leave behind what you know and start over when you are unsure what is ahead. I have been told that I also show great courage. My life has not always been easy. I, like my great grandparents, migrated to America for a better life. When I was four years old, my parents came to Russia and brought me to the United States, and though I did not understand everything that was happening to me back then, I know now that it took courage to leave behind my old life and start a new life with family and friends. Though I make friends easily it takes lots of courage to put myself out there and be accepted. It is not always easy but I do not give up. I do it because I have courage. I get a lot of help from the adults in my life, but again it is my courage that gets me through it all.

My last and most important value is family: (MEESH-PAH-CHA). It is defined as a group of persons of common ancestry. My mom and dad’s family share a lot of the same traditions and have a lot in common, even though my mom’s side is Catholic and my dad’s side is Jewish. Throughout all of my interviews with my grandparents – Marie Ann, Alfred, Shelly and Bob – and Uncle Harry, family was what everyone spoke about the most. Their memories were of big family gatherings, stories about when they young, vacations they all took together and holidays that were celebrated. They all spoke about big family dinners with a lot of good food. My mom’s mother told me how her mom would cook all day for the holidays, and now she does it. She is the best cook ever; my brother Samuel says she cooks with love and I agree. I love her meatballs, sauce, chicken cutlet and mashed potatoes.

I also love to go on vacations with both sides of my family. We always have a good time and it has left me with great memories. Every year my brother, my cousins and I go to “Camp Botwin” for a week. My dad’s mom Shelly always has the whole week planned out; we go fishing, go to concerts at the park, go swimming and just have fun. We stay up late, we get up late and we can eat and drink (just soda) all we want! I love going there! There are always people visiting like Aunt Marcelle and Cousins Beth & David. I know Grams lived with many aunts and uncles when she was growing up also and likes a lot of family around. Family is important to me because they love me unconditionally. I know that no matter where I go or what I do, my family will always be there to support me.

In conclusion, I learned a lot about who I am and what I believe in. I learned more about my family and what values they believe in. I also learned that I can be an individual with strong opinions and beliefs and still have some of the same values as my family.