The following essay about decoding Jewish humor was written by Mia Shonbrun Siege, 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 last 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.
Dictionary.com says, “A role model is a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.” I think, although that is true, a role model can be a person who has done things with their life that you don’t want to imitate exactly, even though you might share their values. For example, I consider Tina Fey my role model, but I don’t want to be a comedy actress or writer. However, I do want to grow up to be as creative, independent, and determined as she is.
Since Tina Fey, born Elizabeth Stamatina Fey, was young, she wanted to be a comedy actress or writer. Although her parents weren’t in the entertainment industry, they exposed her to comedy from a young age. They snuck her into the movie, Young Frankenstein, and let her watch shows like Saturday Night Live and The Honeymooners. She went to a theater camp every summer. Today, Tina Fey is one of the most famous women in comedy. She has been in many movies. She has written many movies and shows. She is especially famous for being the first woman head writer for Saturday Night Live and she has won many awards for her work. She is well respected by the industry and she is known by many fans.
In addition to all of her performances in the arts and writing, Tina Fey has also supported many charities, including the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the Alzheimer’s Association, Autism Speaks, Clothes Off our Back and GLAAD.
There are many reasons why I admire Tina Fey. One of those reasons is that I share some of the same values she has and I admire her personality and what she’s done with her life. We share the value of charity, Tz-dah-kah, because Tina Fey and I both think giving to others is important. We share the value of creativity, Y’Tzeer-Ah-tee-oot because she has done a lot of work in the arts, for example with acting and writing movies and TV shows. We share the value of independence because Tina Fey worked hard to move from Pennsylvania to New York City, all alone, in her 20’s to get where she is today. She worked at many jobs before she found the one meant for her.
Not only do I share values with Tina Fey but I also admire how she handles setbacks and failures. She has made many movies and TV shows, and some of them didn’t do well, but she kept writing and performing. For example, on her first sketch with Saturday Night Live she got no laughs. But she didn’t give up. She kept writing and performing and she ended up getting a Writers Guild Award for her writing on SNL. She got terrible reviews on her first few seasons of 30 Rock, but she believed in herself and ended up winning several Emmy awards for it. Even a few of her movies did badly. But with all of that, she didn’t let it bring her down, and she doesn’t let other people’s low opinions break her.
She is one of the most famous women in comedy, and is also loved by many. She is loved for how different she is from everyone else in Hollywood because of how human she is. Most people, especially women, in Hollywood are seen as “plastic” or fake, but Tina Fey comes off as real, flaws and all. She wears glasses and makes fun of herself like a real person. This is also an example of independence because she doesn’t act the same way that others do, but instead she does her own style of comedy and self-presentation.
Tina Fey has also had terrible things happen to her. When she was a kid, a stranger slashed her face, which left her with a large scar near her mouth. For most people this would be traumatizing and they wouldn’t want to talk about it, let alone allow it to be seen by millions of viewers. As a child, Tina was confident and didn’t care about her scar, at some points she would even forget it existed. But when she started in TV she began to notice it again but she stayed confident and never let it affect her. In Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, she said, “Most people never ask, but if it comes up naturally somehow and I offer up the story, they are quite interested. Some people are just dumb: ‘Did a cat scratch you?’ God bless. Those sweet dumdums I never mind.” She is able to feel confident about herself and laugh off other people’s criticism. She does not let it break her, and she has also found ways to joke about it.
Another reason why I admire her is because of how willing she is to be “bossy” and a leader, even if she gets sexist comments and gets judged for it. The stereotype of a woman in charge is a bitch, but Tina Fey has conquered that term and shows me that I can take charge without being afraid of people stereotyping me. For example, when Tina Fey was talking about her book she said, “When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way.”
As I am studying theatre tech at LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, I’ve realized that because of my size and gender people may over look me or not take me seriously. But Tina Fey has taught me that that is unacceptable. Thanks to her I am inspired to speak up in doing what I love to do.