The following essay about family values, including hard work, was written by Chloe Genick, 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 last 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.
Values are very important to a person’s everyday life. Values are something that can bring out your personality and your traits. Values work this way because they are something people believe in and incorporate into their everyday life. In my eyes, values are rules and thoughts and ideas that people live by. I feel that my personal values are a lot like those of my extended family: Bravery, Memory, Kindness, Education and lastly, Honesty. After I got the information about the values of my family members through interviews with them, I thought about the ones that were similar to each person. I finally picked my own five values to write about based on my family’s answers. The values I picked are not only important to me but are important to my extended family as well. My values are values my family and I live by. My personality is formed by my values.
The New Oxford English Dictionary states that courage, O- metz-lev, “is the ability to do something that frightens one.” Courage to me is standing up to fear and being brave and doing something that you would have never dreamed of doing.
My mother’s grandma, my great-grandmother Frieda, came on the boat to Ellis Island two times, once all by herself. The first time she came to New York was when she was 15 years old. She is the one who got sent to America by her family because they all thought that she was the smartest and she was the most capable of living on her own. She went back to Hungary to visit her family when she was 17 years old and met my great-grandpa while she was there. They went back to New York together when she was 18 years old. Her journeys show courage in our family because though she was probably petrified, she was also very brave. She left her family to become a maid and a cook and sent home the money she made. I would not be able to do what she did but I can learn from her in many ways. Another reason why Grandma Frieda was brave was because she went back again even after all the fear that she went through the first time. She was brave because she left her family and went to America on her own when she was very, very young. If I could have met my Great-Grandma Frieda, we would have had a lot to talk about.
Keeping memory, Zee-ka-rone, alive in my family is very important. My grandmother on my mom’s side, Honu, who was called Baba by my family, died when I was 3 years old. I don’t remember her very well, but my mother has made sure that I know a lot about her. My mom tells me stories and talks about Baba’s traditions with me. As I was interviewing my mother, I learned more about Baba. I have a light pink blanket that she made for my cousin Gabby that was passed down to me. I’ve had the blanket for such a long time that it only goes down to my knees now and it used to go down to my feet. I keep it to remember her by. My mother also talks about how Baba lit candles every Shabbat. She told me that when Baba used to light the candles, her shoulders would shake with emotion. Even though I don’t remember her, my mother has kept her memory alive for me by making sure that I know a lot about her.
My Grandpa on my dad’s side, Mike, demonstrates the third value, kindness, Cheh-sed. Every week and sometimes more, he volunteers at Helping Hands, an organization that helps the less fortunate. He hands out food and bus passes and talks to the needy. He also is kind because he took my brother and me to Washington, D.C. on a special trip because he wanted to show us the history of our nation, even though it was a lot of work for him. In addition, when he had his heart surgery he still managed to think of me and remembered to send me a card and a gift on my birthday. This shows kindness because he didn’t have to send me a card from the hospital. He knew that I would want to hear from him, and he thought of me when he had much more to think about. I picked kindness as a value because as I was looking over my family’s answers to the interview questions I noticed they all had something in common. They all were talking about doing something considerate for other people. That’s when I started thinking about how kindness is a very important value to my family and to me.
Education, Chee-nuch, is also very important to my family. My great aunt Thelma was a teacher. She started teaching right after she finished college, and taught in the New York City school system. My mom went to three colleges. When she was 17 years old, she attended a summer program at Northwestern University, where she studied theater. A year later she went to her first college, Syracuse University, for four years. When she was done with school, she was a professional actor for 16 years. When she was 33 years old, my mom went to The New School for a year and a half to study Drama Therapy. Then she went to NYU for two years where she received her Masters in Drama Therapy. I am looking forward to having an educational journey just like my mom! She was able to forge a new career path with her training in drama therapy. Education is also important to my father because he still uses what he learned in high school in his everyday life. When my dad was a kid, he switched between many different schools. He went from a private school to a public school. He was not always the best student, but he was very smart, in my opinion. His sister (my aunt) also went from private to public school, but she had so much extra credit from her private school when she switched to public that she went to college when she was 16. For me, education will help me get into a good school and will help me in future career plans. I take my education very seriously. In school I try to study and focus as much as much as I can. Education is a big deal for me, and I know that it will play a big part in my life.
My grandmother on my mom’s side, Baba, who died, represents the fifth value, honesty, Ken-oot. When my mom and grandmother were buying furniture for my mom’s apartment when she was living in Chicago, the man who was selling the furniture undercharged them by $500. My grandmother, who was buying the furniture, told the man, “Sweetie, you undercharged us.” and then paid the correct price. This shows me that even though my grandma could have said nothing about being undercharged, she still chose to do the right thing by being honest with the salesman and paying the correct price. My mother is also very honest. People in her business rely on her honest opinion about their shows. Whenever she sees something she doesn’t like, she is honest about her feelings towards the show, but she conveys her thoughts in a nice way so no one gets hurt. My dad is very honest as well. He tells me what I can do to make my work in school the best it can be. He gives a very honest opinion, but offers it in a way that will not hurt me. In my family my parents try to teach us how to be honest with people, but also be kind with our opinions. I think my whole family exhibits the value of honesty, and they take it very seriously.
In conclusion, values in my family are very important. We use our values in our everyday
life. We use them in our decision-making, our ideas, and our thoughts. Values make you stronger and bring out your traits. Every individual has different values. I also have my own values that are important to me, separate from those of my family, such as: responsibility, hard work and curiosity. My family and I also share some of the same values, such as: bravery, memory, kindness, education and, honesty. I chose these values by looking over all of my notes and seeing what the common ideas were throughout all of the interviews. Once I did that I thought to myself: do I value these ideas? I thought about my own values and connected them to my family’s values. All of these values are important to me, because they are rules that I live by. I think about these values and try to incorporate them into my everyday life.