The following essay on family values, including creativity, was written by Jackson Mossey, 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.
My family has many values. They range from education to entrepreneurship. Most of my family’s values have influenced me a great deal, while others are less important to me.
Education, chee-nuch, is of value on both sides of my family. There is an emphasis on having professional careers, but making lots of money is not the number one priority. People in my family hold jobs for which they have a lot of passion. Most have attended college. My Mom and my Grandmother Anna both have master’s degrees in social work and work as psychotherapists; my grandfather Gary earned a masters in writing and published novels and poetry. My aunt Sharon has a nursing degree. My paternal grandmother Shirley started college later in life and until recently was still taking classes. My Dad was unable to attend college because he couldn’t afford the tuition and had to work from age 16. He does value education, however, and closely follows my progress in school. My mom is a big reader, favoring books on evolution and psychology. Personally, I like to educate myself about current events and music.
Creativity, y’zeer – ah – tee- oot, appears everywhere in my family. My mom’s great Aunt Sherry made beautiful pottery; my great uncle Steve designs and makes all kinds of decorative stained-glass objects. My grandfather was a fiction writer; and my grandmother Anna designed toys, clothing and quilts for a children’s store she opened in 1970 in the East Village called The Chocolate Soup. Today she continues to be creative by knitting and telling great stories. My mother started making things from a young age; as a child she made dollhouse furniture, in her 20’s she made collages, and then she made jewelry that she sold at flea markets. Now, she taught herself how to sew and designs and makes her own clothing. My aunt Daphne is a photographer, my aunt Renee is a writer, my cousin Zoe is a filmmaker. My Uncle Luke writes poetry, and my step-grandmother Margo is an actress. Creativity is important because it adds color to the world. Without creativity the world would not have art or really any technology and gives the opportunity to think freely and expand on many ideas.
Another aspect of creativity in my family is music, Moo-see-ka. Going way back to 1890, Pinchuck (my maternal great, great, great Uncle) was a famous opera star in Eastern Europe. On the same side of the family is my second cousin Robin who is now a famous opera star in Berlin. Another musician in my family was my maternal great uncle Wayne. He was a professional organist in churches in Mississippi. My father Shelly started playing drums at age 14 and had his own band through his 20’s. He started me on the bongos at three months and I’ve always fooled around with drums, but I started playing seriously when I joined my middle school jazz band. I am now in 9th grade at Kaufman Special Music School, and I play with a few bands outside of school. For the past few years I’ve been playing in the subways as well. Music is important because it is a branch of creativity, an art form. For me, I grew up listening to the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, and I’ve always kept music very close to me.
My family values hard work, A-vo-dah ka-shah. My great, great Aunt Sherry shared with me stories of her early life growing up during the Great Depression. The family traveled from Europe to Ellis Island in 1922 and settled in Oil City, Pennsylvania where her father opened a general store. Her father persevered with the business until the 1929 stock market crash.
My Dad has valued hard work since he was a teenager. He started out as a bike messenger, and then went on to own several messenger services, a bicycle shop, and a bicycle advertising company. Currently he and my mother own Rolling Orange, a Dutch bike touring company. Incidentally, my parents met when my mother was a customer at my father’s bike shop in 1995.
For me, hard work comes in the form of practicing music. That is my passion. Hard work is important because it teaches you to put everything into your passion.
Another value is acceptance, has-ka-mach. Growing up sitting on the back of my dad’s recumbent bike riding all over the city, I had contact with people from all walks of life. My dad’s bike was very unusual and got a lot of attention so people often came up to us to chat. All sorts of colorful characters were drawn to us. From this experience, I learned that all people matter, and that everyone has their own story to tell, if you take the time to listen.
Both my parents value friendship, cha-vey-root, as do I. My dad has many strong friendships lasting over 40 years. He’s traveled with his friends, played music, and shared hard times. My mother’s friends are like family to her. She values her friends who share history and have been by her side through childhood, getting married, having a kid, and getting through illness. I value my friends because we share an appreciation for music, explore neighborhoods all over the city and find cool places to jam.
Entrepreneurship, yaz-moot os-keet, is another important value for us. Most people in my family are self-employed and run their own small businesses. My dad runs a bike tour company. My mother is in private practice as a couples’ therapist. My grandmother Anna had her own children’s store for 30 years. My aunt Daphne is a professional photographer. My uncle Andriga runs his own construction company. My cousin Book is a circus performer and does all sorts of circus acts on cruise ships and at clubs. My aunt Renee has an advertising business. My Grandmother Shirley, in the 1970’s, when she couldn’t get work, sold candles on the West Side Highway, and clothing at the Essex Street Market. The advantage of having your own business is that you can shape it to your own vision, and it can reflect your personality and your values.
In conclusion, my life would probably be very different if people in my family held traditional jobs. They have all been a great influence on me to put passion before money. Both my parents love the work they do. Their hard work, entrepreneurship, and creativity have influenced me to excel in the areas that I really love. This past year I have become very determined to expand my musical abilities. I look forward to returning to jazz camp and finding more cool places to play in the city. From interviewing my family, I learned a great deal about past generations and the values that sustained them. This has helped me identify my own values and gives me focus to move forward.