The following essay on family values, including honesty, was written by Alexander Kol Harris, 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.
Alexander Kol Harris
March 5, 2016
For this project, I have conducted interviews with my family members and have learned some interesting things. While I learned much about my family’s history, I also learned much about its values, and have begun to think about my own personal values. This essay will focus on some of my family’s central values; hard work, honesty, family, recreation, creativity, humor, friendliness, and education, as well as ones that I find important: forgiveness, preparation, organization, and calm in stressful situations.
The first strong value in my family is hard work (A-vo-dah ka-shey), and there are an abundance of examples, particularly my great-grandparents. My dad’s grandfathers, Seymour Harris and Nieman Kolsky, began working early; Seymour in a factory at age 16, and Nieman at around the same age. My mom’s uncle, Seymour Fradin, worked in the Army and put himself through medical school. My dad’s grandmother, Mollie, worked at age 14 during a time when it was unusual for women to work, and my mom’s grandparents worked hard together running a women’s clothing store. Still, these are only a few stories, as many more of my family members worked hard for an education, a better life, and much more. Almost all of my family members work hard on something, including me. I work hard to get good grades in school, and to do well in my various interests outside of school, such as fencing and chess. Not only is this value important to my family, it is important to me, and this is not uncommon at all, as many of my family members influence my values.
My second value is honesty (Ken-oot). I know my family is made up of honest people. My parents have taught me to be honest, and tell me that’s how they were raised. Honesty is important in my schoolwork, and with others. I don’t cheat on tests, and I don’t lie to my friends and family members.
Our next strong value is family (Meesh-pah-cha). Growing up, my dad saw his family every weekend; either his mother’s or father’s family. One story on my mom’s side that reflects family involves her uncle Irving. He once found a $20 bill on Saturday (Shabbat); since he was religious he did not take it. Later he came back for the money, and instead of keeping it for himself he gave it to his mom. Another story from Mom’s side is of her grandmother, Anna Resnick, and her father. He gave her money to immigrate to America by herself, and when the Depression hit, he again sent her money for her family. Family is also important to me. I am very close with my parents and often visit my father’s mom. Family is also an important aspect of the next value, recreation, in that recreation in my family often involves several family members; uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and more.
Recreation (B’loo-ee) is also important to my family. Many relatives on my dad’s side fished and clammed, were involved in sports, or had other hobbies. My mom’s aunt, Shirley, had brothers who, when they were children, raised pigeons in a pigeon coop. Also, my mom’s uncle, Edward, was an excellent marbles player. Recreation is important to me since I play many sports, including fencing, football, and several others. There were also those who had more artistic and/or creative recreational hobbies, making my next value, creativity, important.
Creativity (Y’tzeer-ah-tee-oot) is my family’s next value. Every member of my family expresses creativity in some way. My family has musicians, singers, painters, drawers, sewers, knitters, model makers, gardeners, photographers, and writers. Music is especially important, as many of my family members are involved in music in some way. My father, his twin brother and their father were all good musicians, and my father’s uncle, Gordon, is an excellent singer. I also express creativity, mostly in school, through writing or music.
You can find out quickly that my next value is important to my family: humor (Hu-mor). Most of my family members are very funny, and we often use humor to keep our spirits up during events almost impossible to get through otherwise. When my Dad suffered a leg injury, joking about it helped him push pass the pain and frustration. A more specific example of humor is my father’s father, Saul, who frequently wrote song parodies for physics and public health service conventions. Humor is important to me as well. My parents tell me I am funny, and whether or not nobody else thinks so, I enjoy making people laugh.
Another value that you can easily see is important to my family is friendliness (Y’dee-doot). Stories involving friendliness in my family also are not easily remembered, but my dad describes it nicely. He states, “Our family always tried to be open, and treat people how they [themselves] want to be treated. We had few enemies.” This becomes apparent soon after meeting any of my family members. They all have an innate skill to quickly become friends with anyone they are introduced to. I find friendliness to be important. I am outgoing, and I can usually strike up a conversation quickly with anyone I am introduced to.
My final family value is education (Chee-nuch). My parents both graduated from college, and my mom has a Masters degree. Also, all of my grandparents graduated from college, and my father’s father and my mom’s parents have Masters degrees. One can assume they wanted these degrees for better jobs and economic opportunity. Good grades have been important to my family for a long time, and they are important to me too. I am academically motivated, and try to do my best on every assignment, as I also want a better future for myself.
There are also values that are important specifically to me. They include forgiveness, preparation, calm in stressful situations, and organization. I often am forgiving, usually of myself, but sometimes of friends. If I make a mistake, I need to move on, and if my friends make a mistake, they are still my friends. I have needed to develop the value of preparation recently as my school workload and number of tests has increased. I want to get good test grades, and for that, I need to prepare. I have needed the value of calm in stressful situations since I often lose items. If I panic and don’t think rationally, I will never find anything. However, the necessity of this value has decreased with the recent development of my next and final one, organization. At the beginning of 6th grade, my workload drastically increased, and I had more items, such as binders, folders, and notebooks, that I could lose. I needed to quickly become organized to prevent losing anything important and suffering academically.
In conclusion, there are many values that are important to my family, and they all help shape me. There are also values that I have developed on my own. Many of them grew out of necessities based on my environment. All of these values are important to me, and they all play a part in making me who I am. This essay helped me realize that.