The following essay about family values, including hard work, was written by Jacob 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 something that you follow and worship. Values express who you are and what you believe in. Values show what you stand for and can also show your religion. They show your heritage and where you come from. Values are things you strongly believe in. I interviewed my mom and a few family relatives (my cousin and my aunt.) I invited my cousin Carol over for dinner and we talked about family history. I communicated with my aunt Elizabeth over the computer.
One value important to my family is hard work (Avodah kashay). When my baba (my grandmother on my mom’s side) was growing up, her family was very poor. They had to take in boarders to pay the rent. They worked hard and gave up their own comfort to ensure their security. Also, my parents work hard every day to put food on our plates. They have very demanding jobs and I’m so glad that I’m their son because without their courage and support, I have nothing. My sister works hard to get good grades in school and to finish all her homework every day. She studies hard to get good grades on tests. She tries hard to be a nice person to everybody. My father is also a hard worker. He is in the casting business so he is always busy working on movies and TV shows. He has a very successful company. He is responsible to give out the right information to his employees and makes sure that they are on task all the time.
My grandfather on my mama’s side (I call him Poppy) has worked hard for a very long time. He has had multiple businesses such as: dress manufacturer, restaurant owner, film producer, racehorse owner and Broadway producer. Even at 86 years old, he still works every day. He has a good work ethic. I think that I also have a work ethic. I would not have won a singing competition if I had not practiced. (We will talk about the competition later.)
Honoring one’s s parents (Kee-bood av v’em) is another value that appears in my family. My mother keeps kosher to make sure that my baba’s traditions stay alive. Keeping kosher and honoring Jewish traditions is what my baba would have wanted. My mother talks about her mother every day. My mother works with her father on Broadway. She makes sure that she honors her father by acting professionally when they are at work together. I feel like I am honoring my ancestors who died in the Holocaust by having a bar mitzvah for those who could not.
Charity (Tz-dah-kah) is another value talked about in my family interviews. My music teacher Christine had a loss in her family. Her grandmother died and she was very upset. Recently I won a music competition. The prize was $100 check and $100 scholarship. I have decided to donate the scholarship back to the school in honor of her grandmother. Another example of charity is even after my grandfather’s retirement, he still helps people less fortunate then he is. He volunteers at a place called Helping Hands where he gives bus passes to people who cannot get them by themselves.
With Broadway producers in my family, music (Moosica) is an important value. I am related to a famous songwriter named Doc Pomus. He was my cousin. He had polio and wrote the song “Save The Last Dance for Me” for his wife. Before my mother was a Broadway producer, she was a professional actress who sang in musicals. I write songs at my music school. I sing them as well. My grandfather on my mother’s side recently took piano lessons. He wanted to take piano because he had a passion for playing music. I feel that I can express myself when I listen to music. It feels good and it feels a little bit nerve-racking to perform. It makes people feel happy and inspired when they listen to music.
Family (Meesh-pah-cha) is extremely important to me. Whenever I see my grandparents, they always treat me to a good time and always are willing to do whatever I want. My grandpa on my dad’s side takes me to the comic book store whenever he’s in New York City. They do these things to make sure we spend time together as a family while my sister and I are having fun. If I didn’t have a family like this, I would be pretty lonesome. I also think that having a family is important because you can make memories that last a lifetime.
Courage (O-metz lev) and confidence (Nib-tawkh) are values that are important to me personally. I feel like I have a lot of courage. Whenever I perform in front of an audience, I feel I have a lot of confidence and courage to do it. When I sing or play piano, I feel that I am the bravest person on earth (even though I know I’m not.) It feels as though I am invincible and nothing can hurt me. And I feel that when I play piano, I am very skilled and focused. And that gives me a lot of courage.
In conclusion, I learned that values are something that you can keep forever and I hope to hand them down to my kids. Values are something that will guide you for your entire life. Values are something that is your family’s way of saying “don’t forget this.”