The following essay about family values, including love, was written by Jordan Klein, 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. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.
A value is something you hold close to you, or keep in mind when making a decision. Values can be passed down through your family or you may come to have a value on your own. When you have a value, it is something that matters to you, and maybe only you. A value works best if you stick to it in challenging moments. If at a moment you forget about your values and do something uncomfortable, you will notice.
From my father’s side I believe in being close to your loved ones (kir-vah meesh-pa-cha-teet). I don’t think I could ever live without being with the people I love. On my father’s mother’s side the trauma of the Holocaust made Mama, my father’s grandmother, cling tightly to her immediate family. Mama, or Rhoda was sent with her sister to America from Hungary in 1938. She had to leave her parents and her brother’s family behind, then she found out that they had been killed in Auschwitz. This loss of family made Mama hold on more tightly to the family she created. This was passed down to my grandmother and my father: they cling very tightly to family members.
I also believe in education (chee-nuch) like both sides of my family. I want to have the fullest education possible so I can not only learn math, science and English, but friendship, respect, and how to behave like an adult. On my father’s side, my grandfather talked about how he was encouraged to do well in school, so he passed this down to his children. My aunt and father both did very well in school, and I will do my best to uphold that tradition. On my mother’s side, grandpa Marvin was always very interested in my mother’s academic performance and he had every confidence that she should’ve gotten a 100 on every test. When she would come home with a 98 he would ask her, “What happened to the other two points?” It was funny! He wasn’t mad at her, he believed she could accomplish the highest level in anything she did.
Like my mother and even more so like my grandmother I believe in safety and security (bee-ta-chon). I want to make sure that my family is safe and, as this ties in with closeness, they are happy. I can always know I’m safe when I’m with my grandmother. When we cross the street she still grabs my arm to make sure I’m safe. My family makes a lot of jokes about how Grandma is so cautious, but I know we are so thankful for her protection. I think Grandma is like this because one day when she was 11 she entered the building where she lived and a stranger in the lobby grabbed her. Fortunately a neighbor came out of her apartment and he ran away. This experience still makes her scared, and therefore she is very protective of what she has, especially family members.
I believe in confidence and self-acceptance (ka-ba-lah atz-meet). I believe that when you are worried about how you look or if people accept you, you are just wasting time. I believe in just loving yourself and enjoying who you are. You only have so much time on earth, you must enjoy every second of it just being yourself. My grandmother and mother tell a story of my great-grandmother Jeanne saying, “Always walk into a room with your head up high, and you’re always as good as or better than everyone else in the room.” Every time I hear this I think that she was 100% correct, you need to just believe that there is no one that can have any power over you and you are great.
I also value creativity (y’tzeer-ah-tee-oot). I think a world without creativity would be bland or dull. Creativity is what make things exciting! Sometimes you have to use your imagination to make things better — that’s when creativity comes in. Being creative will get you to so many places in life. I think I really get this from my brother more than anyone. My brother is super smart, and has the best imagination I’ve ever seen. We have this Lego loft together where we build buildings, Jedi temples, Stark Towers, apartments, and so much more. But above all my brother can see something he wants to build online, and turn it into something so great, personal, and creative. He has a Lego Appa, a flying bison, from Avatar the Last Airbender. This project did take a few days, but when he was done… it was so great, and creative.
Also I think friendship (cha-vey-root) is one of the most important values. This does tie into closeness, but friendship is so important to me because friendships can stay with you for life. I know my mother has friends from high school, college and her year abroad, but most importantly she met her husband in high school. My father and mother were very close friends in high school (along with Kelly, my parents’ best friend), and they even have notes that they wrote to each other during college. This is why I believe in friendship so much, because I know that friendships can really last for all of life. Also all of my grandparents tell me about their friends from when they were younger. My grandmother on my dad’s side talks about how she belonged to the Y, and that’s when she met Gramps, but they were only friends, definitely not dating according to her. She didn’t meet him again until she was in college. That’s when they started to date. She was also in a club called The Jubilees. They had jackets and they went to the dances and had fun. My grandfather on my mom’s side talks about how he had 15 friends, they all had jackets numbered from 1 to 15, and they all went to college. He still sees them individually occasionally. All of these stories tell me about how important friendship is to all of my family.
Also, I value humor (humor) like my mother. I think that you must laugh in order to find the light in dark or sad times. When something goes wrong, or not the way you expect, you need to be able to turn to someone close to you and laugh together. My mother talks about how her grandma, Jean, was a hilarious person. She loved to make fun of herself and allow everyone to laugh at her expense. Grandma Jean even got them laughing at the idea of her own death by having them choose in advance what items down to her belts and shoes, each of them wanted. Uncle Clifford developed a post-it system. He chose her shopping cart. Uncle Steven and Grandma Joyce also joke about the scariest ideas, like Uncle Steven’s epitaph, or how the message on his tombstone will say, “Be careful, don’t trip on the tree roots” and Grandma’s will say, “I hope you’re still laughing at me.” Haha! Bad things happen in life, but if you can laugh you can tolerate it.
This leads me to love (a-ha-va). In my family love is a big thing. No matter what you are, who you are, and how you want to live, you are loved in our family. Everybody is different, but that is what makes you, you! In my family you are loved for your differences, you are loved for you personality, and you are loved for you. All of my grandparents have very loving marriages and were loving parents. I know from my own family that Mom, Dad, and my dog Shug are very in love with each other. The three of them kiss together all the time. But seriously, my mother tells me that her parents had a very loving relationship and that she learned what a true marriage looks like from them. I can tell my parents love each other. When you love someone your inner self can come out. You do this because you are comfortable with the person you love. I see this in my parents every day. To quote Moulin Rouge, “the greatest thing you will ever learn is to love and be loved in return.”
Through my family research I have learned about all the hard, sad, and memorable times in my family’s history. My family has shown me that we are tough, and will do anything to protect, and be with the people we love. I’ve seen that many values were passed down from one generation to the next. Now that I am aware of our values, I will do my best to uphold them.