Keifetz Family Values (2013)

By October 13, 2013 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Family Values
The following essay on family values,  including education, was written by Julian Keifetz, 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.

Julian Keifetz
October 13, 2013

In order to begin my family values paper I started by interviewing my family members. I asked them about the things that were important to them and the things that they learned were important to their ancestors. After getting all this information I started writing about their values along with the ones that matter most to me.

The first value that I think is most important is education. (Chee-nuch). My maternal grandfather, who I refer to as Papa, was a straight A student throughout elementary, middle, and high school. His own parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe and they never learned how to read or write English. They only knew Yiddish, but eventually learned to speak English. Even though Papa grew up in this kind of environment he worked incredibly hard in school every step of the way. Not only did he want to make his parents proud he also wanted to be proud of himself. After high school he joined the Army where he was a meteorologist during World War II. After the war, he was accepted at M.I.T. where he got a bachelors degree in industrial engineering. It was an extraordinary achievement to be accepted to such a prestigious school and to have the GI bill cover his college tuition.

Papa was the first member of his family to attend college and he paved the way for his brother, his children, and his grandchildren including me. Education is an important value to me and I work hard in school with the goal of being able to go to an excellent college.

The second value that is important in my family is working hard. (a-vo-dah ka-shey). My Dad is a perfect example of someone who works hard in all aspects of his life. He grew up in Chelsea nearby to where I live and his family was middle class. When he was growing up, my dad’s parents told their children that they could have a lot of freedom as long as they got no lower than a grade of B in all of their classes at school. They told this to my father and my Aunt Mandy because one of the values that mattered most to them was having their children be successful in school so they could go on to be successful in life. My Dad worked hard in school and like Papa he got into a very prestigious college and then continued on to earn an M.B.A. at UCLA. After graduating, my Dad teamed up with a few friends from college and together they started their own business. They became very successful and to this day my Dad continues to be an entrepreneur and has achieved everything he has by himself. My Dad is an example of how working hard can make such a huge difference in a person’s life.

Another important value in my family is honesty. (Ken-noot). My own experience with this has been my mother telling me that if I tell the truth the outcome will be much better than if I lie. Unfortunately, she has had to tell me this many times throughout my life. For example, when I was in fifth grade I told my mother that my teacher said we didn’t have to do a current events assignment that week. My teacher sent home a note saying that I did not complete the assignment and that she expected the students to get their assignments done. My mother was upset and disappointed with me not so much because I didn’t do the assignment, but because I lied about my teacher saying we didn’t have to do it. The importance of honesty is something that my maternal grandparents always stressed with their children, including my mother. It’s a value that my mother has passed on to me.

One of my favorite values is an appreciation of humor. (hu-mor) I like to think of myself as one of the funniest people in my family and I owe a lot of my sensibility to my Dad. My family and especially my Dad’s side have a history of looking at life with a sense of humor and for making and enjoying jokes.
I’m proud to say that my family looks at life optimistically as a result of an excellent sense of humor.

Different comedians like Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, and Seth McFarlane are an inspiration to me because they look at life positively so that when times are rough, laughter can be the best cure. It’s these kinds of people that make me feel like I should be a comedy writer.

Finally, the most important value I’ve learned is Justice and Fairness (tzeh-dek). In the late 1960’s, my mom grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and there weren’t that many Jewish students at her school. There were times when kids would make fun of her and bully her because she was Jewish. They’d also throw pennies at her while at school. It was an attempt to stereotype my mother with the idea that Jews are supposedly cheap and like money. Being treated this way by her peers was confusing and hurtful.

Because my mom was ostracized, she understood what her nanny, who was African American, felt when she encountered racist people. Her nanny’s name was Seola, and on Sunday’s she would take my mom to the nearby Baptist Church in Providence.
My mom loves soul music and loved the music at the church. My grandparents also thought it was a culturally enriching experience for my mom.

My mother and Seola were very close – she even helped teach Seola how to read. One day when they got on the bus to church, a guy called Seola the N-word .Seola told my mom not to pay attention to the guy, but my mom didn’t listen. She went up to him and pushed him! A powerful sense of justice is still strong in my mother, and by sharing stories like this with me, it’s helped me understand the importance of Justice and Fairness. I strive to be a person that accepts of all types of people.

Looking at the experience of my great-grandparents as immigrants to this country, I think it shows that they always had determination (Hech-leh-tee-yoot), and were not afraid to leave their country to strive for a better life. They’re proof that if you have a goal, and you’re motivated, you can achieve great things.

Also, I’d like to add that kindness (Cheh-sed) is a personal value of mine. For example, when Papa was visiting recently, I didn’t allow him to buy me a Linzer Cookie because I was uncomfortable letting him spend money on me because he was a guest in my home. Also, I sometimes go to 7-11 with my friends after school. If my friends are low on money, I’m happy to treat them to a drink or snack. It makes me feel good to show kindness to the people I care about.

In conclusion, I realize that the values that are important in my family are important to me, and in many ways make up what I believe in too. When I wrote this, I was about to leave for camp for 7 weeks. Learning about my family’s values helped me feel prepared to think for myself and fend for myself while I was away from home.