The following essay on family values, including honesty, was written by Liana Hitts, 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.
April 26, 2015
Before starting my Bat Mitzvah project, I never really thought about Jewish history and values, and/or my own personal values and beliefs. As a matter of fact, I never really thought about Judaism and what it means to me. Writing this paper, I have been challenged to explore my family’s history, look at my family’s values, and give time and thought to my own values. The main purpose of this paper is to show and explain the values that are important to my family and the most important ones that have been passed down to me.
Before I started writing this paper, I made a list of values that I collected from my family interviews. I also made a list of my own values. I listed them in order of which I think are most important to least important; there were twenty values.
Values are what make a person unique. You can see a person’s values in the way that they treat others, interact with others, the way that they carry themselves and many other ways. Values make everyone different and are what cause you to make your choices in everyday life. The people around you play a role in your values, particularly family. They pass the values down to you and they influence the decisions you make. Some values I share with my family and some values are distinct to me. The ones that did not come from my family come from my own personal experiences.
Honesty, yosher, is a value that I share with all my family members. It’s really what makes a family one because it makes sure that everyone knows what’s going on. In my family, there are many examples of honesty, but one that I especially recall is my grandmother telling me that when she was a little girl growing up during the Holocaust, her mother said that they must always earn everything honestly. Whether it’s work she did to earn some money or the food that she brought home even when they had hardly anything at all, what they did have was earned in honest ways. Honesty makes everyone realize the truth about what goes on. An example is if you were supposed to pick up your younger sibling from school and you forgot. When your mother asks, you would say no to not get in trouble. But if you tell the truth it brings a family closer together by building trust.
Another value I have in common with my parents and grandparents is knowledge through education, or Chinuch ve Lemida. For example, my father is the only one of four siblings to have graduated from college. He paid for his college education with his own money, which shows the importance of learning and how he values knowledge and education. I personally believe that education is the key to success. If you don’t get a good education, you may have less of a chance to have a good life. If you get a good education then you may have more choices and opportunities to do more with your life.
Another value that I share with my family is working hard to achieve goals, lavod bishvil lehasig et matrotecha. When you work hard and try your best at anything, you will be getting a great shot at success. During my sixth grade school year, I really wanted to get good grades. I worked very hard and I got good ones. Many people’s goal is to be the best they can be and that is what this value means to me. This value has a very important place in my life. Achieving your goals can really help you in being successful throughout life. If you try hard, yet fail to achieve your goals, then you know that at least you gave it your best effort.
This next value is sharing also known as lehitchalek im acherim. This value is important because if you do not share then others will not share with you. You should share because it is important to be a giving person. A person who does not share with others may find themselves alone in times when they may need help.
A related value that I also have in common with my family is helping others who are in need, ezra le nitzrachim. Some ways to help out are doing charity work or volunteering at different places such as animal shelters or a senior citizens home. In my family, my parents and I both volunteer in different ways. Occasionally, my mother volunteers with the New York Cares Foundation assisting senior citizens, as well as helping families in poverty. Sometimes I join her to volunteer. My father is also a very active member of our community and does many things to help make it better. I think that it is nice to help out whenever possible. You should help the needy because you know that you are doing the right thing and then you will feel good. It is also important to help those who are in need because if you are ever in need, hopefully you will get the help that you gave before.
Another value that is very important in my family is to treat others the way you want to be treated, lehitnaheg la acherim kmo she ata rotze she hitnagu elecha. In the third grade, in my school, there was an assembly about the Golden Rule, treat others the way that you want to be treated. Since that day, treating others the way that I want to be treated has been a priority. This value is important because if you want to be treated with respect, then you have to treat others the same way. Being kind is an important example of the Golden Rule. This is a basic human behavior, and most people are kind. I’m referring to politeness and patience and common manners.
One value that is unique to me is not to indulge in self-pity. I think this value is important because if you spend all your time feeling bad for yourself then you won’t have time to get back up and try again. If you fail and feel sorry for yourself then you will never try again in fear that you will fail once again and go through the same emotional struggle.
Another value that I think is important is to not let your dreams overrule you. This value is important, because if you only focus on your dreams and goals, then there is no room for anything else. This value comes into play when, you have a wish or a dream that you really want you will work hard towards it. But this can cause problems, because if you only focus on your dream or wishes and nothing else, you will neglect to think about other important things such as your daily life, friends and family that are obviously very important.
Optimism is also important to me. If there is a bad situation, you can look on the bright side of things; it will most likely at least make you feel better which will make the whole situation better. Staying optimistic is a good way to deal with obstacles that come along in life and it is good to show that you can be happy even in bad situations. Being optimistic can be very valuable.
Before working on this project, I had not given much thought to my values and what they mean to me. Working on this paper has shown me the huge effect that values have on the choices I make for myself, and for others around me every day. As I stated previously, through this project, I have really learned a lot about myself. I understand more about where the strength of my opinions comes from and how much it means to me to stand by my convictions. In general, writing this paper has helped me to appreciate both the values I have inherited as well as the values that I have developed on my own.