Singer Family Values (2015)

By September 11, 2015 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Family Values
The following essay on family values,  including courage, was written by Sophia Singer, 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.

Sophia Singer
September 27, 2015

Values serve as guidelines in your life. Values can be thought of as parts of your personality and describe the person you are. I only just began to understand my values when I interviewed my family members. I realized there were many similar values shared by several of my family members. I always knew I was part of my family but only when looking at these personal values, did I begin to see how I am truly connected to them. I feel I live these values every day. I am courageous like my grandparents and show my courage when I try something new; I am musical like my cousin Sammy when I go about my day; I love learning and trying new things; I love to laugh and make my friends laugh. My memory is important because I recall many things about my life, except my mom says I never remember to clean my room! Now I am following my family tradition of Bar and Bat Mitzvah.

Courage, O-Metz Lev, is very important to my family and me. In my opinion, being courageous means being brave. When I was entering a new school for 6th grade, I was nervous and didn’t know anyone. I was courageous enough to fit in and get along with everyone who had known each other for seven years. I made friends and got involved with activities. Also, when I was three (even though I don’t remember), I got on the bus to go to school. None of my friends went on the school bus until they were five!!!!

Both sides of my grandparents were brave enough to come to America for better lives and leave family members behind. My dad’s parents met as refugees in France. They were separated and my grandfather, Samuel, was in the Nazi labor camps for almost three years, and my grandma, Paulette, was hidden under a false identity by Catholics in France until World War II ended. They both promised to see each other again after the war. Finally the war ended and they got married in France and later moved to Brussels, Belgium. In the 1950’s, they left Brussels to come to America for better economic opportunities. They already had two children, my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Rita. Shortly after arriving in America, my dad was born. Although I never met my grandfather Samuel, I heard a lot about him over the years and I know what a brave man he was. I only remember a little about my Grandmother Paulette, but came to learn how difficult her life was too due to the events of WWII. But both of them proved that the worst horrors of war could be overcome with courage, a positive attitude and love of family.

My other grandparents also showed the value of bravery when leaving their families behind in England and making a new life for themselves in New York. They left for New York on their honeymoon in 1952. It was hard but my grandparents thought it was the right thing to do. They loved living in New York City.

I also know that my mom is very courageous. She decided in 2013 to have surgery so that she wouldn’t get breast cancer in the future. My Grandmother Trudie survived two types of cancer and my mom knew that having this kind of surgery was the right thing to do.

Music, Moo-see-ka, is very special to my family and me. Music shows my creative side and expresses who I am. An example of this is when I used to sing made up songs to my mom as I was getting ready for bed. This connects me to my dad’s side of the family because my aunt used to entertain people and make them laugh with her music and comedy. At school, I sing in the chorus and I got the opportunity to sing at Queens College with my friends.

On my dad’s side, my grandfather played the violin in the local symphony and at home most of the time. My dad and uncle played the clarinet and my aunt played the guitar. My Aunt Rita started her own band and even was a guest on a talk show back in the 1980’s. My Uncle Charlie plays the harmonica in his blues band and has made a couple of records. My cousin Sammy plays guitar in a local rock band in Detroit and we all hope he makes it big someday. On my mom’s side, my great-grandmother played piano and taught piano to children. Even though my dad doesn’t play an instrument, he always listens to Brazilian music and opera. Music is a value to me because it connects to my past generations and family.

Education, Chee-nuch, is important to everyone. People need a good education in order to have a good career. Learning doesn’t just happen in school. I’ve learned how to play basketball and get along with other people. One of the things that I most enjoy is learning foreign languages. I got this love of foreign languages from my dad who speaks French, Italian and Hebrew. I’ve studied French, Spanish and Italian. I feel it is important to learn languages so you can communicate with different people around the world and understand their language and culture.

I also go to a small school where I get more time to learn things and work with teachers when I need extra help. In my family, education is very important. Both sets of my grandparents did not go to college but they were very insistent that their children go to college and get a good education. In college, my dad studied French and Italian and uses his language skills when working privately with students, as well as at the United Nations where he teaches in the language program. My Uncle Steven studied computers before they were even popular and he now owns his own computer company. In the future, I hope I will be a film maker or work with computers. But first I need to continue getting a good education!!!!!

Memory, Zee-ka-rone, is important to me visually and mentally. When people tell you their memories, you can connect with them and relate with your own memories. Both of my parents have fun memories. My mom remembered her parents telling her about their lives in England and about their own parents. She also remembers Passover and having big Seders with her family. My dad remembers having a happy childhood and doing fun activities like hanging out with friends and listening to rock and roll music.

My family also had some scary or troubling memories. My Uncle Steven recalls being scared when he and my grandpa took their boat out and they got lost or ran aground. My mom’s Uncle Arnold was scared when he had to be evacuated as a child during World War II in London and had to live with a different family for a long time. My dad’s parents strongly remembered the Holocaust. They had rough times and hated all of the cruel things that happened. But they decided not to share these harsh memories while raising their children and wanted their children to have happy memories and think about positive things. We were sad when my Grandma Trudie began to lose her memory about two years before she passed away. She could remember stories from her childhood and things about me when I was a baby but could no longer remember something I had just said. Memories are important because they express ideas about a person in many ways and can give you a better idea about that person’s upbringing and style.

Humor, Hu-mor, is important to me because I can express my feelings in humorous and funny ways. For example, I like to watch shows such as the Simpsons and I understand the funny jokes. Humor helps me feel better during a difficult situation. For instance, around the time when my grandma died, we went out to dinner and I ordered a children’s sized steak. I ate it very quickly and then commented that the steak was too small. This made my Uncle Steven laugh and he felt better during that sad time. In May 2014, we went to the same restaurant and I ordered that steak again. Uncle Steven asked my mom if the steak would be big enough for me. This shows how we connect with each other in a humorous way.
It is good to make people laugh because then you can share your happiness with people and goof around about things that don’t matter much. This was evident in my family. My mom and her family used to watch British comedies and TV shows together. For my Aunt Rita and Uncle Charlie, laughter was very important except when they had to work. My Dad says I’m goofy and we like to laugh a lot together.

Hard work, A-vo-dah-ka-shey, is important to me because when people work, they show their effort and how much they care about what they are doing like I do. For several years, I had to have speech therapy so I could pronounce certain words properly. Finally when I was in 5th grade, I was done with therapy which showed the results of my hard work.

My family also has a history of hard work. My dad did a lot of studying. In fact, even though he was a good student, he made it tough for himself, especially with homework. He would sometimes get sick if he didn’t have perfect grades! My Uncle Steven used to help my grandfather by putting up the paneling in the apartment which was a lot of work. My mom’s first job was babysitting and she made only $1 an hour. So, as you can see, hard work is common in my family.

Tradition, Ma-sor-et, shows your customs and your upbringing. A tradition in my family is having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. My parents and their siblings had the more traditional American Jewish Bar or Bat Mitzvah with Hebrew prayers, Torah reading and a big party. But, my Grandpa Stanley did not have a Bar Mitzvah until he was in his 50’s. He couldn’t have a traditional Bar Mitzvah growing up in London because he turned 13 during WWII. So, one day, when he was in Brooklyn, he had to make a delivery to a rabbi’s home. The rabbi asked my grandfather if he said his prayers that day and my grandfather said no because he was not a Bar Mitzvah. The rabbi gave my grandfather prayers to recite and told my grandfather he was now a Bar Mitzvah.

My Grandmother Trudie and her cousin June celebrated their Bat Mitzvahs as part of a group event in their synagogue in England. My mom even found her mom’s Bat Mitzvah certificate. Cousin June told me she doesn’t really remember much about this event, other than having cake and tea afterwards.

My cousin Sammy did not have a traditional Bar Mitzvah, either. When my Grandmother Paulette passed away, my cousin Sammy recited special prayers with a rabbi and became a Bar Mitzvah at that time at the age of 14.

I am really happy to be carrying on the tradition of having a Bat Mitzvah and value the connection I make with my family. Having a Bat Mitzvah shows I’m continuing the tradition of celebrating and starting to become an adult. My Bat Mitzvah with the City Congregation is different from the one my parents and a lot of my friends had because this process shows that I am able to express my feelings and learn about myself and what is important to me as I become a more responsible person.