Learning to Appreciate Family: A D'var Israel from Alona
Beth Tzedec
Apr 3rd 2020

I’m going insane at home right now. Can you relate? At some level I guess you can.

The result of the COVID-19 situation is that you have to stay at home most of the day, if not the whole day. You can’t see any of your friends and colleagues, and you can only see your family.

If that’s not enough, you have to see those same people, that have this special way to get on your nerves in a way no one else can, all the time!

I must share with you that with all of my love to my family, I find it especially difficult.

Ever since I can remember, I have considered myself an “outside person”, always rushing between school to my youth movement, between my job to my friends. I would find myself coming back home late quite often, not before 10:00 p.m.

Recently, around last year, I realized that maybe it’s not that I’m not at home a lot because I’m a busy person, but rather I am a busy person because of my need not to be home much.

I love my family a lot, but it’s not the easiest for me to get along with them.

When I was four my parents divorced, and I had a hard time handling it at first. The fact that I was an only child didn’t help because whenever I felt stuck in the middle between my parents, I didn’t have a sibling to share the feeling with. Sometimes, I would find myself more involved than I think a child should be.

Growing up, I attended the weddings of both of my parents, twice the bridesmaid of course, and I met my two older step-sisters - my step-mom's daughters, and my two young half sisters, one from each parent.

I found myself living two different lives in my two different families.

In one family, I was the older sister, with more responsibilities around the house.

In the other family, I was one of four, quieter, less noticed.

I felt sometimes like I had two different personalities; like I was a different person in each house.

My father moved to his wife’s house so I found myself living in two different places physically as well- Haifa, my hometown, and Zichron Yaakov, which is half an hour away.

Even though I had two families, I haven’t felt like I completely belong with any of them. I felt like I’m wandering from place to place, without a place to call my own. I don’t blame anyone for that, that’s just how I felt.

When I was in seventh grade, my safe place became my grandfather’s house. In seventh grade in Israel, you need to do a project called “roots project”, of researching and learning your family’s history. My grandfather Avraham and I bonded through that and learning his story made me respect him and appreciate him much more. Ever since then I made sure to visit him once a week, until I left to be a shinshin in Toronto.

I found my place with my friends, where I can be who I want to be and not who I was. Sometimes I found myself jealous in the relationships my friends had with their family members.

So slowly I started to live my life more at school, my youth movement, my job or my friends than at home. I chose the majors that challenged me the most because I like challenging myself, so as a result, even when I was home, what I did was mainly studying.

At the end of the year I put my entire life, including my family, on pause and moved to Toronto.

Being far away from my family for the longest time I have ever been away made me think. 

I could reflect on my relationship with my family from a different point of view. 

I feel like I went through this process of growing up that made it easier for me to see their perspective, especially with my mother. 

We always had a hard time understanding each other, and this year I learned to attribute some of it to the cultural differences between us, as she grew up in the Soviet Union and I in Israel.

The distance made me appreciate my family much more.

Furthermore, I learned this year a lot about the importance of family.

I have earned two new families for life. My host families.

I was so amazed to enter those new families, to see how they operate as a family, to see the relationships they have with each other and to develop relationships with them. 

I was inspired by them, not only by their generosity and warmth, but also seeing how a family can be and should be.

I learned about the importance of family quality time, I really wanted to spend my free time with them and I realized this is also the way it should be with my actual family.

They made me want to be better.

I also felt, and still feel, like I gained another family within the amazing Beth Tzedec community.

I always felt welcome, always felt included and like everyone was taking care of me. 

I have learned so much from each one of you about caring, asking and making someone feel special.

In conclusion, I feel like I have learned the meaning behind the value of family this year, being as far as you can be from my actual family. 

I learned about the importance of having someone that has your back, like Gal.

I learned about loving, accepting each other with our flaws and enjoying the precious family time from my host families.

I learned about caring, supporting and giving from you.

So please do me a favor and use this time the coronavirus has given us to cherish your family, okay?

Spend time together, laugh together, learn to get to know each other better.

Because I can tell you for sure that’s what I’m doing here in Israel.

Shabbat Shalom, and please keep in touch!