Elins Family Values (2013)

By October 16, 2013 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Family Values
The following essay on family values,  including family, was written by Jolie Elins, 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.

Jolie Elins
October 12, 2013

Values to me are what help us shape our lives. Values help us make decisions and deal with problems. Values make us who we are. My values and the values that I have learned from the people around me make up my character.

My first value is family (meesh-pa-cha). I don’t have a very big family, so the family that I do have is very important to me. I consider my family to be not only blood relatives, but people close to me as well, like my godmother Jane. I love spending time with my family and I hang on to the bonds I make with them, even if they live far away and I can’t see them often. Family is important not only to me but also to the rest of my family. My mother and her brothers grew up in a close-knit family and I love to hear stories about their relatives and friends.

The second value is charity (tzedakah). Charity is very big in my family. My mom and I sometimes volunteer but mostly we donate to different charities. Part of my allowance goes to helping the World Wildlife Fund. Even my grandparents did a lot of charity work. My maternal grandmother wrote and helped perform plays for my mom’s school’s PTA, and did a lot of volunteer work for the temple. My mother’s father did too. He was the temple president and the president of the school board. He and my grandmother both served in the military during World War II. My mom and I like volunteering for the Day of Service.

My third value is honesty (ken-oot). I try to be honest with my mom, even though sometimes I want to lie. If I do lie, it’s only a little white lie or because I want to surprise someone. Honesty is important because without honesty, no one could trust anyone else and people could get hurt, physically and mentally. For example, if a blind man asked someone to tell him when to cross the street, and the person said “now,” right when there were cars coming, the blind person could get hurt or die. My mom never lies to anyone. She thinks that honesty is really important. She says that her parents were really strict about honesty. My mom once found a purse with $800 in cash in it. She spent a whole day tracking down the owner. A lot of people in my family listed honesty in their values. For example, both of my uncles listed honesty as an important value. It was the first value they listed!

My fourth value is humor (hu-mor). Humor makes everything better. When I feel bad I watch comedy. It makes me happy. My mom can be really funny. She can say just one word and it will make me laugh. One time as a little girl, my mom got a toy banana as a joke gift for her grandmother, who hates bananas. My mom thought it was so funny. My godmother Jane is also very funny. When she comes over we always have a lot of fun. My old babysitter Carmen was very funny too. We would go to the park and I would say something funny and Carmen would be the only one who would get it. Humor can lift up someone’s entire spirit. It can take a bad day and turn it into a great one. If someone close to you is feeling unhappy, humor can often help and make them happier.

My fifth value is determination (hech-leh-tee-yoot). I am always determined and so is the rest of my family. Whenever something is hard for me, I will procrastinate. But, when I’m done procrastinating I will work hard until I finish. When my mom had to write an essay to read in services, she did the same thing. She was anxious, but when she did start she rarely stopped until she finished. One time when I was in the fifth grade, I spent two months procrastinating on a writing project that was 80 % of our grade. The night before it was due, I realized I really wanted to finish. So I spent the night writing a fifty-four-page book on the Oregon Trail. That night I was really determined to get it finished, and I did it!

Also in the category of determination, my godmother Jane is really determined. She is the principal of a school in Central Harlem. There are a lot of charter schools in the area and they are attracting a lot of the kids that would go to her school otherwise. Jane says, “I have never worked so hard at anything in my life, and not been successful.” She says this is a hard lesson for her. This year things are turning around. Jane is very determined to keep her school running.

My sixth value is friendship (cha-vey-root). Just because it is my sixth value doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to me. I have friends all over the world. I make connections really easily. My mom does too. Also, as I said before, my mom and I hang on to people that we know. Wherever I go, I make friends. For example, when we went to Arizona to visit my grandfather in a nursing home I met a girl named Sarah who was also visiting there. We instantly became friends and I got along with her little sister too. While I was in Arizona we saw movies, went to the water park at her hotel, and made pretend fancy dishes with the oranges and grapefruits that grew at the nursing home. I got her email before she went back to her home in California and we are still in touch.

My seventh value is compassion (rachameem). I don’t think that any of my family listed this in their values, even though all of my family is really compassionate. It is like an unspoken value to all of us. Whenever someone is hurt or needs help, we help, whether or not we know the person. One thing that I do a lot is when I see someone wearing something I like, or with pretty hair, I will tell her. I will walk past and say, “I like your purse.” A lot of my friends think that this is crazy, but a lot of the people I compliment feel really happy afterwards. For example, on Valentine’s Day, I took all my extra candy and Valentines and gave them out on the street. One of the people that I gave a Valentine to was really happy. She said that she hadn’t gotten any Valentines that day and that this was one of her best Valentine’s Days ever. It was really cool.

As I said before, values help us shape our world. They can bring us together and teach us about ourselves. We learn them from our parents and friends. We pass them down to the next generation. My values make me what I am.