The following essay on family values, including determination, was written by Camila Grunberg, 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 the 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.
June 25, 2016
Each individual chooses values to hold important in their lives. Values can be inherited from family or simply chosen. Lately, I have been looking back at my family’s long and detailed history with an observant lens in order to find what my ancestors’ values were through the stories of their lives. I came to the conclusion that several family members, both past and present, share very similar values with me that have been passed along through many generations.
One value shared throughout my family is determination, or hech-leh-tee-yoot. Determination is not only a value but also a trait that has been preserved within my family for many generations. An example in my life where I am constantly determined to do better is with my dancing. Whenever I come home from a dance competition I am determined to do better next time. I am always proud of my performances but I want to continue to grow as a dancer and an individual.
Another value in my family as well as my own is the value of bettering the world, or tee-koon o-lahm. Someone in my family, who strongly believed in bettering the world, was my maternal grandmother’s stepmother, Rosa. She was a very committed Jew who devoted her life to helping women and children in Israel after she emigrated to Venezuela from Vienna, Austria.
She was the president of the Venezuelan branch of the Women’s Zionist Organization. Rosa went door-to-door collecting funds to support Issrael. She also organized many fundraisers along with the other members of the Women’s Zionist Organization.
Rosa was also very passionate about music, or moo-see-ka, which is another value of my family’s and my own. She used to express this value by playing her piano that stood in the living room of her house. After she died my maternal grandmother Ruth (Rosa’s stepdaughter) kept the piano for several years before donating it to the music program at the school that both my parents attended called Hebraica in Caracas, Venezuela. In the act of donating the piano in Rosa’s name, Ruth and Saul were not only honoring the value of music but also bettering the world. The piano was later used at many student concerts at Hebraica and it was very much appreciated by the students and the staff. I also inherited the value of music from my family. I am currently learning to play the violin, and have taken both piano and voice lessons in the past.
I enjoy expressing myself through creativity, or y’tzeer-ah-tee-oot, which is another value of mine. I use my creativity, other than by playing my violin and singing, by dancing, or ree-kood. I dance because it makes me feel good. I like that it’s a challenge that I can overcome with hard work. I currently dance lyrical/contemporary, jazz, ballet, and tap. In the past I have also taken several other styles of dance including hip hop, tumbling and various ballroom dances.
Dancing requires hard work, or a-vo-dah ka-shey, which is another value that is present in my family. My maternal grandmother, Ruth, worked very hard and became not only the first woman, but also the first Jew to be president of the Central Bank in Venezuela (which is the equivalent to the Federal Reserve in the US). She had the responsibility of signing the paper currency that everyone in Venezuela used. I still have a bill from a Monopoly game with Ruth’s signature, which she gave to me as a present when I was eight years old. I, along with my family, do my best to work hard so that I can be proud of my progress.
Education, or chee-nuch, is another important value in my family. My paternal grandfather was hardworking. He wanted to study to be a lawyer but wasn’t able to because he grew up during the Holocaust.
When the war was over and he was already living in Venezuela, he decided to study law while in he was in his forties. He then opened his own law firm. That took a lot of hard work and perseverance, or Akh-sha-noot which is another value I share with my family.
Family, or meesh-pah-cha, is an important value for my family and me. My parents have taught me that family is extremely important and should never be taken for granted. As I have grown older I have come to understand, more and more, just how important family is. Whenever I have school events, concerts, or dance performances, family members come to support me. That makes me feel empowered and strong. A lot of my family lives in Venezuela, Florida, California and France but being far away from them does not make us any less close. We make an effort to keep in touch with family members because family is such an important value.
Friendship, or cha-vey-root, is another value close to my heart. Over several years I have been lucky to have found friends who respect me as I respect them. I have met some of my friends in school, dance class and through family, and they all share similar values to my own. I know I can trust my friends, and I hope they know that they can trust me too. I am grateful for my friends for always being there for me.
My family has many values that have been passed along for many generations until they reached me. I make sure to honor these values and find out what they mean to me by thinking of them in my own life context. The same value can have different meanings to different people because it’s possible to interpret values in many ways. I also learned that a value isn’t something that is set in stone. Values may change over time. Values define who I am as a person. They motivate and guide my actions as well as the interactions that shape my personality and future. Since values are so important to one’s life, I will continue to make an effort to think about my values and why they are important to me.