Role Model/Hero

Students use their values to establish criteria to select their individual hero and/or role model and discuss issues of perfection and flaws and their own aspirations for the future.

Contents

Judy Blume by Camila Grunberg June 25, 2016
John Oliver by Jack Flesher June 12, 2016
Barbara Kaplan by Raven Kaplan-Karlick May 21, 2016
Albert Einstein: My Hero by Alma Karmina Eidus Kastan May 7, 2016
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler by Safia Singer-Pomerantz April 30, 2016
Srinivasa Ramanujan by Alexander Kol Harris March 5, 2016
Hobbes by Julian Gerber January 9, 2016
Misty Copeland by Maya Mondlak Reuveni October 3, 2015
Malala Yousafzai by Sofia Wilson May 9, 2015
Janusz Korczak by Liana HittsApril 26, 2015
Jackie Robinson by Austin Shatz November 22, 2014
Janusz Korczak by Benjamin Bottner October 11, 2014
Steve Jobs by Andre Schoolman May 10, 2014
Ellen DeGeneres by Liliana Franklin April 27, 2014
Oprah Winfrey by Samantha Streit April 5, 2014
Ellen DeGeneres by Anna Young September 22, 2013
Sandy Koufax by Alex Botwin September 21, 2013
Jon Stewart by Julian Keifetz October 13, 2013
Lady Gaga by Jolie Elins October 12, 2013
Sondheim and Einstein by Caleb Klein September 29, 2013
John Lasseter by Jordan Hallerman June 30, 2013
Helen Keller by Mazel Kaplan Karlick June 22, 2013
RuPaul by Adrianna Keller Wyman June 15, 2013
Miep Gies by Yelena keller Wyman June 15, 2013
Bette Midler by Georgia Dahill-Fuchel June 9, 2013
John Wooden by Lily Edelman-Gold April 20, 2013
Amanda Hocking by Olivia Alcabes November 17, 2012
Mel Brooks by Samantha Ross June 6, 2012
Bruce Morrow by James Ryan October 22, 2011
Nicholas Negroponte by Mattori Birnbaum October 23, 2010
Eric Clapton by Nicky Young June 13, 2010
Barack Obama by Alicia Blum May 8, 2010
Jane Goodall by Arielle Silver-Willner May 8, 2010
Mel Brooks and Al Gore by Isaac Mann January 17, 2010
Pete Seeger by Ryan Kramer December 5, 2009
Steven Spielberg by Yana Lyandres November 14, 2009
Norman Borlaug and Ellen Swallow Richards by Abigail Lienhard Cohen November 12, 2005
Sally Fox by Abigail Cheskis April 28, 2007
Emma Lazarus and Arthur Ashe by Alanna Olken November 5, 2004
Jonas Salk and Rebecca Gratz by Alex Rawitz February 23, 2008
Lazarus Zamenhof and Catherine Baldwin by Anschel Schaffer-Cohen June 3, 2006
Hank Greenberg and Deborah Batts by Ben Farber May 12, 2007
The Mythbusters – Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman by Benjamin Sternhell June 17, 2006
Sandy Koufax, Hannah Senesh, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Benjaim Weitz September 9, 2006
Samantha Abeel and Dr. Oliver Sacks by Danielle Nourok Ocober 21, 2006
Billy Crystal and Amy Goodman by Daniel Segan  June 6, 2009
Barry Scheck by Ethan Bogard September 13, 2009
Jill Abusch by Emily Dyke October 25, 2009
Reflecting on Various Possibilities by Gabe Zimmerman December 20, 2008
Why Albert Einstein Did Not Become a Bar Mitzvah by Irene Grosso March 19, 1999
Remedy, Rebecca Reynolds, and John Beltzer by Jason Cheskis April 2, 2005
Jorge Posada, Abe Lebenwohl, and Andy Warhol by Jonah Garnick December 1, 2007
Jan and Antonina Zabinski by Jonah Lieberman Flint May 16, 2009
Whoopi Goldberg by Kyra Zimmerman November 18, 2006
Barbra Streisand by Sabrina Frank June 16, 2007
Art Spiegelman by Sam Lewis June 9, 2007
John Lennon by Sophie Silverstein May 9, 2009
Barbara Walters by Yoela Koplow May 23, 2009


“Judy Blume,” by Camila Grunberg
June 25, 2016

When the time to pick a role model came my way I decided that I wanted to select someone who shared similar values with me. Naturally, I had several people who I admired, but none who truly felt like the ideal role model. After some searching, I came across Judy Blume, a world-renowned American author who has written novels for young children as well as adolescents and occasionally adults. Before I knew I would end up selecting her as my role model I had read some of her books both for school or for pleasure. I always admired her work, and felt that she was very honest. She created a nonjudgmental environment in which children could think about their feelings while growing up. Her novels address topics that children face in their lives such as bullying, parents getting divorced, and growing up. While writing her books she not only takes into account her personal life experiences but also those of her children.

In my opinion, a hero is someone who is recognized for being courageous and/or doing something outstanding in some way. A role model is someone whom you respect and want to be like. Judy Blume has had outstanding achievements throughout her life that have paved the way not only for a successful career, but also facilitated the development of her readers. Through her writing Judy Blume has influenced many children’s lives, including my own, which is why I admire her as both a role model and a hero.

Judy Blume was born on February 12, 1938, in Elizabeth, NJ. She was raised in New Jersey as well. She first got married in 1959 to John Blume from whom she got divorced in 1976. Together they had two children: Randy Lee, an airplane pilot (born in 1961) and Lawrence Andrew, a filmmaker (born in 1963). She then got married to Thomas Kitchens in 1976, and later divorced him in 1978. Judy Blume is currently married to George Cooper whom she married in 1987.

In 1961, Judy received a B.A. in education from New York University. This university named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1996, which was the same year that she was given the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. Some of her other recognitions have included the Library of Congress Living Legends Award and the 2004 National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Ms. Blume is also the founder and trustee of The KIDS Fund, a charitable and educational foundation formed in 1981 to encourage communication between children and their parents.

The KIDS Fund was financed with the royalties of her publication, “Judy Blume Diary,” an activity book created for aspiring writers where they can find inspiration in various quotes and photographs, as well as guidance on how to get organized. She created the “Judy Blume Diary” specifically to finance The KIDS Fund.

She serves on the boards of the Author’s Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Key West Literary Seminar, and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Judy Blume works hard against censorship because some of her books have been censored for being “inappropriate” in the eyes of some adults. Five of her books were censored at some point: Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Blubber, Deenie, Forever, and Tiger Eyes. Out of the five books above I have read two of them: Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and Deenie. In an interview with Alison Flood, published by The Guardian in July 2014, Judy Blume said, “My feeling in the beginning was wait, this is America: we don’t have censorship, we have, you know, freedom to read, freedom to write, freedom of the press, we don’t do this, we don’t ban books. But then they did.”

Over the years, more than 85 million copies of her books have been sold. Her work has also been translated into thirty-two languages. Each year she receives thousands of letters from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her.

In 1986 Judy Blume published a book entitled “Letters to Judy: What Kids Wish They Could Tell You.” It is not a novel but rather a compilation of letters written to her by children ten years and older, along with her responses. Some of these children felt rejected by their peers, by family members at home, or were hurt by life experiences. Judy Blume intended this book to help parents become more aware of their children’s needs. All the royalties she receives from the sale of this book are used to finance The KIDS Fund.

Judy Blume still keeps in touch with her readers through a blog she manages on her website, and also communicates through her twitter account.

While growing up, Ms. Blume was closer to her father, Rudolph Sussman, than to her mother, Esther (Rosenfeld) Sussman. Rudolph was a dentist and Esther, a homemaker. Judy realized that sometimes people would go to her father’s office simply to talk about their problems. This may have been how she first started to realize how important sharing your problems with someone else could be. Esther would read books to her daughter as she grew up. Judy very much enjoyed going to the library to read adult novels as well as children’s books during her childhood. She was also the coeditor of her high school’s newspaper. I find it interesting how literature was an important part of her childhood as well as her adulthood.

I have read three of her books, all of which I enjoyed very much: “Deenie,” “Superfudge,” and most recently “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” In this book Judy Blume used a combination of her life experiences along with her imagination. The story is about Margaret Anne Simon, a sixth grade girl who just moved from New York City to New Jersey. She is required to begin at a new school, where she has to make new acquaintances. Margaret struggles with the fact that her mother is Jewish and her father is Christian. Both of her parents allow her to make her own decisions about her religious beliefs, unlike her grandparents who believe that she belongs to their religion. Judy Blume herself grew up in a culturally Jewish household. Both her parents were Jewish.

I identify with some of the values I see in the way Judy Blume handled her career and personal life, such as:

Honesty: Judy Blume communicates what she truly believes even if it is not what others necessarily want to hear. For example, in the past she has written about adolescence, family dynamics, bullying, and racism. When criticized about her work, instead of changing the content of her writings to please her critics, Judy Blume continued writing with honesty.

Strength: Judy Blume faced hardship in her personal life such as being told early in her career that she would never be a good author, her first two marriages did not go well and she had breast cancer. Fortunately, Judy Blume had the strength to overcome such challenges and continues to pursue her dreams.

Perseverance: Judy Blume published her first novel in 1969. For the past forty- five years, she has had a very productive career despite the challenges she faced along the way.

Courage: Judy Blume had the courage to publicly address topics that were taboos at the time and continued writing even while some of her books were censored.

Open-mindedness: Judy Blume has addressed a wide range of controversial topics and has handled them all responsibly.

Family: The books Judy Blume published as well as her charitable work promote the well-being of children and their families.

This is an overview of Judy Blume’s life long accomplishments that make her such a unique role model and hero for so many people, and of how her values intertwine with my own.


“Barbara Kaplan,” by Raven Kaplan-Karlick
June 12, 2016

I believe that a role model is someone you look up to. My grandmother, Barbara Kaplan, who did good and important work her whole life, died last December. She is my role model.

My grandmother was very creative. She studied architecture, landscape architecture, and fine arts. She was a good person who loved her family and did many things to help her community, Jamaica Plain, in Boston. She was a community activist. When real estate developers had plans to sell the Coolidge Corner Theater, an art deco cinema showing art house films, she helped to preserve it as a theater so that members of the community would continue to have access to such films.

As the Executive Director of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, my grandmother helped renovate the former Heffenreffer Brewery, which became the original site of Boston Beer, now their showplace and where they brew their specialty beers. She helped to transform it into the hub of the community, along with many other successful businesses. This helped many local residents get jobs.

My grandmother also helped to convert the Angela Westover House, an eleven-bedroom, single-family residence in Jamaica Plain, into housing for low-and-moderate income elderly residents.

Like my grandmother, I aspire to do good works and to find my own way to help others in matters such as the arts and housing.

Because my grandmother wasn’t famous (she was never the next “big star”), and there wasn’t a huge amount written about her, in order to learn more about her as a person and activist, I sent out a questionnaire to some of her colleagues and friends. The first question I asked was, “What do you think inspired Barbara to become a community activist?” My grandmother’s friend, Terry, answered, “She was a very compassionate person. She felt strongly about all that was not right in the world and also had the energy and optimism to make changes. I suspect that her early sadness about the Holocaust in Europe made her extra aware of injustice. She began her community activism when she was raising her daughters in Newton. So part of it was being a mother and caring about where her children lived.”

Tom, another of Barbara’s many friends, said, “Barbara was born with a concern for justice, which may well be part of her Jewish heritage. She had a concern for beauty, which easily transformed into a concern for her environment. She loved people and surrounded herself with friends. One definition of community activism is the application of all these traits at a larger scale. I share my grandmother’s concern for people everywhere, as I see that many people don’t have access to food, housing, and health care, for instance.

The second question I asked was, “How did you feel when you were around Barbara?” Tom answered simply: “Loved.” Her friend Ruthie said, ”Barbara usually had a smile on her face. She was empathetic and always helped people solve their problems. She was selfless in that way.”

The third question was, “How do you think being a woman had an impact on her being a community activist?” Terry answered, “Part of her motivation was being a mother and caring about the community where she was raising children. Also she had a motherly, non-judgmental, taking-care-of-things-and-others way about her. She listened well, loved solving problems, and had feelings for people’s troubles, challenges, and accomplishments.”

Tom said, “I think Barbara had to expend a lot of effort in order to be heard and taken seriously, in large part because she was a woman. Experiencing that injustice probably heightened her awareness of the magnitude of injustice in everyday life.”

Diane, another friend, replied, “She felt strongly about women’s rights. I consider her a feminist.”

I always noted my grandmother’s compassion toward everyone. The first thing she did whenever she saw me was to give me a really, really big hug, which allowed me to feel her warmth and love.

The fourth question was, “How do you feel about the fact that she never became famous for her good works? How do you think she felt about this?” Her friend Fran said, “Barbara received recognition where it counted — from the organizations she helped grow. I don’t think fame was what she was after.”

Terry said, “She knew a lot of people and was happy to be part of many communities, but she preferred not to be in the limelight. She was a little shy. She was not motivated by fame or money.” I agree that one doesn’t need to be famous to help others. Being loved by people who appreciate you is a more important kind of reward.

The fifth question was, “What can you tell me about Barbara, not as a community activist, but as a person?” Mike, a colleague who became a close friend, said, “She was supportive to me personally at a very difficult time in my life. She comported herself with the utmost integrity. And she knew how to have fun!”

I believe that the way my grandmother felt about her friends is the way you should feel about your friends. I feel that way about mine. I try to be loyal and supportive to them at all times.

The sixth and final question was, “How do you think Barbara balanced work and family?” Her good friend, Ruthie, said, “Leaping through the air, spinning around, and, eventually landing on her feet, with loads of goodies for everyone.”

My grandmother accomplished so much in her life, and I believe that she felt loved and supported by those she loved. I certainly loved and admired her very much. I miss my grandmother every day and I know that my family and her friends do too.


“John Oliver,” by Jack Flesher
June 12, 2016

My definition of a hero is someone who has accomplished a task that you admire for its courageousness and selflessness. A hero, for me, would be many of the volunteers who worked for Doctors Without Borders who willingly went into countries suffering from the Ebola epidemic. A role model, for me, is someone who has traits that I admire and look up to, but not in the same way as a hero. A hero you look up to as someone who you believe did a truly amazing and great thing. A role model is someone you look up to and want to be like.

I look up to John Oliver as a role model. I chose John Oliver for my role model because he combines some of the important qualities that I admire in people, such as honesty, comedy, and a keen political awareness. I’m impressed by his ability to influence the public based on facts and analysis rather than simple propaganda.

John Oliver was born in the United Kingdom on April 23, 1977. During the mid to late 90’s Oliver was a member of the Cambridge Footlights, the comedy troupe which was run by students at Cambridge University.

After graduation, he first appeared in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival during 2001 as part of The Comedy Zone, which was a late night showcase of new acts. He played the character of an overly sleazy journalist. In 2005, he moved to New York to work for the Daily Show, where he was called the “Senior British Correspondent”. He got his big break in 2013 when Jon Stewart tasked him with taking over the show for nearly a month, while Jon Stewart directed his movie.

While working for the Daily Show, he met his wife at the Republican National Convention. How ironic. His wife was a medic in the Iraq War and she was campaigning for the Republican group known as Vets for Freedom. The group, despite being Republican, hid him from security so he could get into the convention, as he was scared of being deported for sneaking in. He gave her his email address so that he could thank her, and they started dating soon after that. As one article stated, true love conquers politics.

His wife is quite visibly a large influence on his charity work. Mr. Oliver has played a big role in charities like Stand Up for Heroes, a charity that is dedicated to helping post 9/11 veterans.

John Oliver currently hosts Last Week Tonight, which began in 2014. Although he was nervous about starting the show, Mr. Oliver stated, “I’m attracted to the challenge of it. I’ve always been attracted to the stupid thing to do.” Last Week Tonight is a political comedy show that illustrates the ridiculousness of certain elements of the political system in a humorous and comprehensive way. Whereas other political comedy shows such as the Daily Show or the Nightly Show or the Colbert Report cover multiple topics over an episode, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight focuses on one main subject, allowing for much more in depth analysis. Last Week Tonight has had a huge effect on Americans’ understanding of political issues ­ it has been named the John Oliver Effect.

There are many different times that we have observed the John Oliver Effect, and while none have had as large an impact as the net neutrality segment, which I will discuss later, here are some of the times his reports have had an impact. One example would be his piece on for profit universities, which not only heavily criticized student loans, but also lamented the sorry state of education in many of the for profit colleges. As a result of the piece, many federal crackdowns ensued against these schools. A final example, besides net neutrality, is that after his piece on Washington D.C. and its lack of representation in Congress, discussing the unfairness of what is essentially taxation without representation for people in D.C., a group of D.C. activists gathered on Capitol Hill and sang his comedic fifty states song.

John Oliver’s influence on the public through the John Oliver Effect can be seen most evidently in the net neutrality debate. For those of you who do not know about it, let me explain net neutrality. It refers to the debate over internet service providers and cable companies wanting to provide two different speeds of internet connection, one which would cost more money to use, so that people with more money would have faster and better access to receiving and sending information on the internet than people who couldn’t afford the increased price.

Whereas most of the public was unaware of the net neutrality debate and/or its significance, after John Oliver performed a segment on Last Week Tonight which covered the topic, the majority of the public finally became aware of the debate and the FCC received hundreds of thousands of messages, after he stated,

At this point, and I cannot believe I am about to do this, I would like to address the Internet commenters out there directly. Good evening, monsters. For once in your life, we need you to channel that anger, that badly spelled bile that you normally reserve for unforgivable attacks on actresses you seem to think have put on weight, or non-white actors being cast as fictional characters. We need you to get out there and for once in your life, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction. Seize your moment, my lovely trolls, turn on caps lock, and fly my pretties! Fly! Fly!

The huge number of messages ended up crashing the FCC website. This was a very important topic that many people either didn’t understand or weren’t aware of, but after John Oliver alerted the public to the issue, it massively influenced the outcome of the debate.

It is very important to me that the public be aware of certain issues. John Oliver, in a very funny way, comprehensively and widely informs us of these issues, an achievement I greatly admire. I have a strong interest in comedy acting and politics, and if given the opportunity, I would follow in his footsteps.


“Albert Einstein: MY Hero” by Alma Karmina Eidus Kastan
May 7, 2016

My Bat Mitzvah program asks students to discuss who their heroes are. I chose Albert Einstein as my hero. He was born in Germany in 1879. He was, perhaps, the greatest scientist of all time.

(SHOW CLASSIC PHOTO OF ALBERT EINSTEIN)

Like me, Albert Einstein was a secular, humanistic Jew. He believed in the good of people, rather than in a higher power. His parents were cultural Jews, not religious Jews. His scientific nature made him question all religion.

Another thing he and I have in common is that he had learning difficulties, as do I. He never let his difficulties get in the way of his intelligence and creativity. When he had an idea or belief, he pursued it. Like Einstein, I plan to overcome my difficulties in order to meet my goals and dreams.

My learning disability is dyslexia, which causes difficulties in reading. People with dyslexia process differently. We learn different strategies to break down words into readable units.

I had a difficult time attending public school. But now I attend Churchill, a private school for children with reading disabilities. Churchill has taught me many strategies to help myself. Every day, I’m encouraged to be creative and strong – like Albert Einstein.

Some people believe that he had dyslexia, like me. But this has never been proven. He had learning issues with his memory. For instance, he couldn’t memorize the months of the year. He left high school early, and then flunked his entry exam to a college of science. Yet, he always believed in himself.

Albert Einstein made some of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. He discovered the Theory of Relativity, which is about the nature and behavior of matter and energy. He created many other theories that proved that gravity, light, energy, and matter were all connected to each other. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for Physics.

(SHOW SLIDE OF ALBERT EINSTEIN RECEIVING THE NOBEL PRIZE)

Although I enjoy learning about science, I probably won’t become a scientist. I have other goals for myself. These goals could change. But, who knows? Even if I don’t become a scientist, I will always identify with Einstein. He never let his learning challenges get in his way. Nor will I.

Despite being such a famous scientist, Einstein could be very funny, which is another reason I identify with him. He once said, “Do not worry about your difficulties in math. I can assure you that mine are still greater.”

In addition to his scientific discoveries and strength, I also admire Einstein for his commitment to civil rights. I am Latina, born in Guatemala, and I know that Guatemalans and other Latinos have long been discriminated against. Even in New York City, my home, I need to be aware of the fact that one day I may experience racism.

In 1946, Einstein traveled to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. It was the first school in the United States to grant college degrees to black students. He gave a speech in which he called racism “a disease of white people.” He said, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.”

Einstein had experienced discrimination in his native country of Germany. He was in the U.S. when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He was fearful that if he returned to Germany, he would be in great danger. There was a price on his head in Germany. His summer home in Germany was raided and taken over by Nazis.

He stayed in the U.S. and became an American citizen in 1940. He lived and worked in Princeton, New Jersey.

Princeton was a segregated town, which made Einstein unhappy. He said, “There was no high school that blacks could go to until the 1940s.” He helped the African-American community.

In 1935, he met Paul Robeson, the famous singer, actor, and social activist, and they became great friends. Paul Robeson is my mom’s hero. It makes us happy to know that her hero and my hero were such close friends. They worked together against the Nazis, and racism in the U.S.

(SHOW SLIDE OF ALBERT EINSTEIN & PAUL ROBESON)

My rabbi, Peter Schweitzer, has a personal connection to Einstein. His mother’s family summered upstate with Einstein. I think it’s amazing that Florence, his mother, got to hang out with Einstein when she was a teenager.

(SHOW SLIDE OF FLORENCE & ALBERT EINSTEIN; SHOW SLIDE OF ALBERT EINSTEIN ON STEPS)

While I was working on this paper, my mom and dad wanted to give me a present to honor how hard I was working. Because my family is very big on humor, they gave me an Albert Einstein bobble head for Hannukah.

(SHOW SLIDE OF ALBERT EINSTEIN BOBBLE HEAD DOLL)

Albert Einstein inspires me with his confidence, intelligence, strength, creativity, humor, and belief in justice for all. I plan to live my life in the same spirit in which he lived his.


“Tina Fey and Amy Poehler” by Safia Singer-Pomerantz
April 30, 2016

When I started to write this essay I had to ask myself the question, “What is the difference between a hero and role model?” At the time, I thought these two were very similar, but after some thought and exploration I saw the difference. A hero performs an action that dynamically affects a group of people and that goes above and beyond a normal action of everyday life. A role model is a person one looks up to, admires, and perhaps aspires to be very much like. Heroes may be role models and vice versa, but they may also exist in separate categories. I chose to write about two women whom I admire and believe are role models and, surprisingly, choosing my role models wasn’t difficult.

When I thought of people I looked up to, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler instantly occurred to me. They are fierce women who embody qualities and values that I embrace: humor, artistic expression, hard work, independence, and ultimately bettering the world by bringing laughter to others.

This pair both grew up in suburban homes, Tina in Upper Darby, Philadelphia and Amy in Burlington, Massachusetts, very different from the urban lifestyles they established later. Tina Fey (Elizabeth Stamatina Fey), born on May 18, 1970, is descended from a Greek family and was raised by two working parents, Donald and Jeanec Fey. She attended The University of Virginia for college to study drama and, after graduating, moved to Chicago to pursue a career in comedy. There, she enlisted in comedy coaching at the Second City improv group and met Amy Poehler, while also balancing a full-time day job at the YMCA. After working and taking classes at Second City, Fey was promoted to the touring group that Poehler was a part of already. Later, Tina auditioned for Saturday Night Live (SNL), was hired as a writer, and eventually was advanced to head writer. In 2006 Tina left the show to work on her own show, 30 Rock, which she produced, wrote, and performed in – a rare feat for anyone, no less a woman.

Amy Poehler first discovered the basic idea of improvisation as a 4th grader in her school musical, The Wizard of Oz. In that play she was cast as Dorothy and on opening night delivered the line “Toto, Toto, where are you?” not realizing that she held the dog (a live dog borrowed from another student’s family for the play) in her arms. The audience laughed and it was at that moment that Amy realized that she liked getting a laugh and, more importantly, that she enjoyed being in charge of how she got that laugh. She discovered she could go off book if she wished, and this was an eye opening moment for her. During high school, Amy knew that she wanted to be involved with comedy or improv as a career. Later on, after Tina and Amy had been friends for many years and when Tina was the head writer on Saturday Night Live, she suggested that Amy join the cast. Poehler was initially hired only as a featured player, however, she was promoted to a full cast member during her first season on the show, making her only the third person to have ever have accomplished this as a newcomer. Like Tina, Amy also created her own sitcom, Parks and Recreation, in which she starred, produced, and wrote.

As comedians, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler embody all that is positive about humor and exemplify how humor is such an important value. Comedy can be used to enlighten people and, over eight seasons at SNL, Tina and Amy separately and together anchored the desk of Weekend Update. In every Weekend Update segment, news topics and international politics are dissected using humor. Sometimes it takes a humorous outlook on world events to see them in a new frame and to gain insight. These women were also constantly involved in political satire on SNL, which challenged popular ideas and pointed out the flaws in human nature and in those in power. Through their work and comedy, they helped illuminate some of the inequalities in the world, perhaps leaving us with a new perspective about ways to start to work toward change and social justice.

In addition, humor can enable us to get through difficult times by providing understanding and by giving people a respite from their burdens. Amy’ s debut appearance on Saturday Night Live was the first episode produced after the September 11th attacks in 2001. It was an episode in which the show and people were given permission to be funny and to laugh again. Although I wasn’t yet alive, I have seen clips of the show from that night and comedy definitely seems to have been a way in which people began to heal and start to feel somewhat normal again.

Furthermore, both Amy and Tina are headstrong, successful women who use humor in an intelligent way, and who also excel in an endeavor that is usually dominated by men. They have had to work even harder than their male counter parts to be taken seriously in the world of comedy, a generally male-dominated field. Others at the SNL writer’s table tended to label them as “cute” early on, and did not think women could be truly funny. Yet through perseverance and an underlying independence, values that are also crucial to me, both of these women were able to question and challenge their critics’ perception of them, prove them wrong, and pave the way for a sisterhood of women comedians to form at SNL. However, it is interesting to note that in spite of their trailblazing, all the late night comedy talk shows are still hosted by two Jimmys, Seth, Conan, and Stephen. This is the current state of affairs, in part because such late night hosting jobs still remain undesirable for many women since they require inflexible hours that make balancing work and raising a family a challenge. In spite of such hurdles, these two women have used humor to break through many gender barriers.

Still, through partnering on several projects they have been able to show the value of women working together and forming a sense of community, rather than competing against each other, in a male-dominated field. In Bossy Pants and Yes Please, Tina’s and Amy’s memoirs respectively, the authors speak repeatedly about women working together as a community, which ultimately counteracts sexism in the profession. They make an interesting point that men don’t feel the need to compete against each other in the workplace to the extent that women do. This competition may partially be due to external societal forces, but it is present nonetheless. As importantly, they have been able to go against the grain of some male comedians and demonstrate that you can be kind and positive role models while also being funny. I cannot remember a time when Amy’s or Tina’s humor was ever mean spirited, and they don’t rely on profanity or off-color humor against others to support their work.

Additionally, both Tina and Amy reach many people through their charitable work, and their causes are ones that I support. Tina works with the NGO Mercy Corps, which strives to end world hunger. Amy founded an organization, “Smart Girls at the Party,” which also runs an online show of the same name. The show aims to help girls find confidence in their dreams and talents, and in each episode Poehler interviews a girl with a “unique talent, community interest, or point of view.”  In the present-day climate, where celebrities so often lend their names and faces to causes without really being present to advocate for them, it is refreshing to see these women stand fully behind the beliefs and causes they promote.

Although I don’t watch a great deal of television, I am hooked on the comedy of these two women. Through watching them act and perform on SNL, 30-Rock, and Parks and Recreation I have learned some things about myself as well. I have discovered that I appreciate the dry humor of Tina Fey, and that sometimes by being brief and to the point I am funnier than if I told a long and complex story. I have learned that I may want to pursue a career in improvisation or comic acting one day, and that whatever I pursue I will do it with passion. My parents have always told me that I found subtle humor in things at a very young age. Even as a baby I would seem to laugh at the ridiculous aspects of everyday life that would not be noticed by other children my age, and I would find amusement and humor in the mundane things around me. I am not quite certain where my love of satire and comedy may take me yet, but I appreciate that I have these two trailblazing women, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, to look to as role models as I continue to discover my own identity.


“Srinivasa Ramanujan” by Alexander Kol Harris
March 5, 2016

Merriam-Webster defines a role model as “a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others,” and hero as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities” or “a person who is greatly admired.” Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician, is my role model. He hasn’t done any great or brave acts, but he has several qualities and behaviors that I try to emulate.

Ramanujan was born on December 22nd, 1887, in Erode, Madras Presidency, (now Tamil Nadu), in India, to a rather poor family. This poverty was something he must have worked hard to change and persevered to overcome, and that perseverance is one reason that he is my role model. Throughout Ramnujan’s childhood, his mother gave birth to children who died in infancy. A similar thing almost happened to him; he had smallpox as a child but recovered. He moved to different schools often, sometimes because his family moved, and once because his paternal grandfather, who was his caretaker at the time, died. Usually, his mother looked after him because his father worked. He first began to showcase his mathematical and academic talents at the Kangayan Primary School. In December 1887 (just before he turned 10), he passed his primary examinations in English, Tamil, geography, and math with the highest scores in his district.

By age 13, Ramanujan mastered a book on advanced trigonometry by S.L. Loney and was discovering sophisticated theorems on his own. At age 14, he was receiving academic awards and merit certificates, and he helped his school with the logistics of assigning its 1,200 students (each with their own needs) to the school’s approximately 35 teachers. I find his incredible abilities at a young age enormously impressive, and realize the hard work he had to do to achieve them.

Soon, something very important happened. At age 16, Ramanujan obtained from a friend a library-loaned copy of A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics. The book contained 5,000 theorems, which he reportedly studied in detail. The book was accredited with “awakening the genius of Ramanujan.”

Ramanujan was awarded the K. Ranganatha Rao prize for mathematics upon his graduation from the Town Higher Secondary School in 1904 by the school’s headmaster, Krishnaswami Iyer. Iyer introduced him as “an outstanding student who deserved scores higher than the maximum possible marks.” He received a scholarship for the Government Arts College, Kumbakonam. However, nobody is perfect, and Ramanujan was so focused on math that he completely neglected his other subjects and failed most of them, losing his scholarship in the process. I can relate to this, and I think it’s good for me to have a role model I know is human. To idolize a godlike, flawless, human being, and to try to emulate him, would be impossible, and unhealthy to strive for, since you can never be perfect.

In August 1905, he ran away from home (likely seeking another opportunity) and soon enrolled in Pacchaiyappa’s College in Madras (now Chennai). He again excelled in math, but did badly in other subjects. He failed his Fellow of Arts exam in December 1905 and again a year later in 1906. He left college without a degree and pursued mathematical research independently, living in extreme poverty and often on the brink of starvation. I admire how, dipping in and out of poverty, Ramanujan still had the motivation to continue.

On July 14th, 1909, at age 21, he married a ten-year-old bride, Janaki Ammal (the age differential was the norm in India at the time). Soon he began looking for a job. He stayed with friends in Madras while going door-to-door looking for a clerical position. To supplement his income, he tutored some students at Presidency College who were studying for their F.A. exam. Late in 1910, Ramanujan fell ill, possibly as a result of a surgery earlier that year; he soon recovered.

Afterwards, he convinced R. Ramachandra Rao (district collector for Nellore and secretary of Indian Mathematical Society), with the help of V. Ramaswamy Aiyer (deputy collector and founder of Indian Mathematical Society) to give him work and financial aid. Ramanujan, with Aiyer’s help, got his work published in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society.

Of one of his early papers, ‘“Some Properties of Bernoulli’s Numbers,’” Journal editor M.T Narayana Iyengar wrote: “Mr. Ramanujan’s methods were so terse and novel and his presentation so lacking in clearness and precision, that the ordinary [mathematical reader], unaccustomed to such intellectual gymnastics, could hardly follow him.” Ramanujan continued to provide problems in the Journal until early 1912.

Soon after, he took a temporary job in the Madras Accountant General’s office, which lasted for a few weeks, and then got a job under the Chief Accountant of the Madras Port Trust as a Class III, Grade IV accounting clerk. He easily completed work that he was given, and his boss, Sir Francis Spring, along with Narayana Iyer, a colleague and treasurer of the Indian Mathematical Society, encouraged Ramanujan with his mathematics.

In the spring of 1913, Narayana Iyer, Ramanchandra Rao, and E. W. Middlemast presented Ramanujan’s work to British mathematicians. One, M. J. M. Hill of University College London stated that “Ramanujan’s papers were riddled with holes,” and that “Ramanujan had a ‘taste for mathematics, and some ability,’” [but] he lacked the educational background and foundation needed to be accepted by mathematicians.” Hill did not offer to take on Ramanujan as a student, but he “did give thorough and serious professional advice on his work,” and, with the help of friends, Ramanujan drafted letters to leading mathematicians at Cambridge University. Ramanujan was able to continue after being rejected by experts in England and India, and was able to take criticism and move forward. I am not very good at taking criticism myself, and his willingness to accept it is something I am definitely trying to emulate.

The first two professors returned the papers without comment, but the third, G. H. Hardy, was very impressed. Hardy asked J. E. Littlewood, a colleague, to look at the papers. After discussing with Littlewood, Hardy stated the letters were “certainly the most remarkable [he had] received.” On February 8th, 1913, Hardy wrote a letter to Ramanujan, “expressing interest in his work,” and Hardy contacted the Indian Office to plan for Ramanujan’s trip to Cambridge. However, his parents were against it, and in accordance with his Brahmin upbringing, he refused to leave his country to go to a foreign land. Hardy’s relations with him worsened after he learned this, but soon, he agreed to go to because his parents were no longer opposed. His mother “had a vivid dream in which the family Goddess, the deity of Namagiri, commanded her ‘to stand no longer between her son and the fulfillment of his life’s purpose.’”

Ramanujan boarded the S. S. Nevasa on March 17th, 1914, and arrived in London on April 14th. He collaborated with Hardy and Littlewood in Cambridge for almost five years. Over this time, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science (later renamed PhD), elected to the London Mathematical Society, became a Fellow of the Royal Society (the second Indian to do so), and “became the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Additionally, his work was not just confined to one field of math; he “made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions.” He was able to achieve so much in just five years in England, a testament to how hard he worked.

Ramanujan had health problems his entire life, and living far from home and obsessed with math, his health worsened in England. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a severe vitamin deficiency and was confined to a sanatorium. He returned to Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency in 1919 and died in 1920, at only 32.

His obsession with math and neglect of everything else may have made Ramanujan a flawed person, but he was still persevering and hard working (he compiled nearly 3,900 results in his short lifetime). And while I may not be the mathematical prodigy that he was, I can still try to emulate his perseverance and hard work when facing seemingly impossible challenges, in school and in life.


“Hobbes” by Julian Gerber
January 9, 2016

Ever since I was about six years old I’ve been reading Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip telling the story of a hyperactive kid, Calvin, and his stuffed tiger/imaginary friend, Hobbes. From such a young age, Calvin and Hobbes has influenced me, which is why I can now say, with no doubt, that Hobbes is my role model. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a hero is someone you admire for his or her acts and achievements. However that’s not the way I think of Hobbes. He is not particularly courageous and has never done an act of bravery. The reason I admire him is because of who he actually is and not just what he has done. Hobbes is my role model because of the many values that are subtly shown throughout the comic, which are values that resonate with me. You can see these specific values through Hobbes’s sarcastic remarks and philosophical questions. The commentary he creates expressing those values is a way to shine light on a matter in a way that I know and respect. On a more personal note, I relate to Hobbes because sometimes he’s cautionary and other times he actually is like Calvin. However, Hobbes has a balance of those two characters which is what I have as well.

The comic writer and artist, Bill Watterson, created Hobbes. Watterson was born July 5th, 1958 and grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He attended Kenyon College and received his Bachelor’s degree in political science. While he was in college, he developed his art skills by painting Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on his dorm ceiling. He also contributed some comics to the college newspaper. While in college, Watterson hoped to become a political cartoonist. One week after his college graduation in 1980, he was hired as a political cartoonist for the Cincinnati Post. However, it didn’t work out because he had very little knowledge of the local politics and he was fired within six months. After that, he worked for four years at a small advertising agency where he made grocery advertisements.

Calvin and Hobbes was syndicated by Universal Syndicate from November 18th, 1985 to December 31st, 1995 which is when the comic strip stopped. Even though Calvin and Hobbes was a very popular comic strip, for much of his life, Watterson was a recluse refusing many interviews. He even refused to attend some award ceremonies for cartoonists even though he had won. In addition, he never sold his characters to create merchandise. Watterson was completely against that type of publicity. He wanted his publicity to be from the work and not from the advertising. This shows that he didn’t want to devalue the art of his comics by mass-producing characters. For him, it was less about the money and fame and more about the work. This resulted in Calvin and Hobbes being less widely known than Garfield or Peanuts. I respect Watterson for holding on to his principles.

According to Nevin Martell, author of Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, Hobbes is named after the famous philosopher Thomas Hobbes as an allusion to Watterson’s political science class at Kenyon College. In a way this makes sense because some of the tiger Hobbes’s actions parallel the philosopher Hobbes’s beliefs. Thomas Hobbes states that man’s nature is violent and that we need a controlling government to contain us. This isn’t really something you would expect from a stuffed tiger in a comic strip. Like his namesake, Hobbes attempts to control Calvin’s sometimes impulsive and irresponsible intentions and actions. However, unlike the adults in the comic, who try to restrain Calvin, Hobbes, though criticizing Calvin’s choices, still accepts and embraces Calvin for who he is.

But we have to remember that in reality Hobbes is just a figment of Calvin’s imagination. Whatever Hobbes does or thinks is actually just another side of Calvin, which is why I also think that Hobbes may represent Calvin’s conscience. For example, on many occasions Calvin is going down a steep hill on a sled or a wagon, but Hobbes always regrets doing it and on some occasions simply hops off of the wagon before the inevitable crash. So if Hobbes does represent Calvin’s conscience, then that shows Calvin’s reasonable side asking him “What are you doing?!” Another way Hobbes represents Calvin’s conscience is that Calvin never has any motivation to try hard and get something done. Calvin has no internal motivation, he needs someone else to tell him why he should do something well. I believe Hobbes is both an external and internal motivation because Hobbes is, though sarcastically, trying to get Calvin on the right path and get him to focus. He is also the internal motivation because, as I said before, Hobbes is a figment of Calvin’s imagination, so if Hobbes is trying to get Calvin to get work done, then really it’s just Calvin’s reasonable side being shown.

Hobbes is my role model because of the way he uses his common sense. For example, in one strip, Calvin has submitted a poster for a “best slogan for road safety” contest. His slogan is, “Be Careful or Be Roadkill.” He is so sure he is going to win and become rich and famous from it. In one panel, Calvin is saying how fun it is to win, when Hobbes brings him back down to reality and says, “But we haven’t won yet.” This shows that Hobbes is using the common sense that Calvin is not using, in order to look at all the possibilities. Another example is when Calvin has made the “world’s biggest snowball.” Calvin goes on to say that he can’t wait to throw it at someone. Hobbes bursts Calvin’s bubble by pointing out the fact that he can’t pick it up and he would be better off just leaving it there for someone to walk into. This is also an example of how Hobbes’s comments and actions bring Calvin back down to reality. Therefore, Hobbes’s sarcastic commentary and use of common sense often show the possible problem or outcome of one of Calvin’s ideas.

Another value Hobbes conveys is the importance of education. This may seem odd because Calvin, on many occasions, doesn’t try hard in school and just doesn’t particularly care about learning. However, as I said before, Hobbes sometimes tries to be that external motivation and tries to help in any way a stuffed tiger can. One example of this is when Calvin is with Hobbes waiting for the school bus and Calvin goes on a rant saying he doesn’t want to go to school and is being forced to go against his will. As he puts it, “My rights are being trampled!” Hobbes then says, “Is it a right to remain ignorant?” Calvin responds to this by saying, “I don’t know, but I refuse to find out!” This rhetorical question shows that Hobbes believes that Calvin is being ignorant and is pointing out that he should go to school.

In another example similar to this, they are riding in a wagon down a hill together and Calvin is explaining how he failed a test, but he doesn’t care because of his priorities. Hobbes then says, “I never really thought of ignorance as a quality of life issue.” This again shows how Hobbes does not believe that ignorance is something to live by. Another example is when Calvin needs to do a research project on bats. He’s complaining about not knowing anything about bats when Hobbes says, “I guess research is out of the question.” This sarcastically implies that Hobbes thinks Calvin should actually try to work on it. In another panel Calvin suggests they take a break because they are done. Hobbes points out that all they have is one fact that Calvin made up: that bats are bugs. Calvin then says it’s okay because he has a “secret weapon”: a clear plastic binder, which Calvin thinks will make it seem professional. Hobbes then sarcastically rolls his eyes and says, “I don’t want co-author credit on this, ok?” This shows that Hobbes believes that you can’t just depend on how something looks; you also have to do the work and get it done, which is something Calvin has no interest in doing. Though Calvin couldn’t care less about a good education, Hobbes is always trying to get him to at least try

Hobbes does, at times, go along with Calvin. However every time he does do this, there is a limit and line he won’t cross. For instance, on many occasions, Hobbes is sledding down a hill with Calvin. But as the sled is about to go off a cliff, Hobbes has the sensibility to jump off right on time. I relate to this because I have fun and I have done Calvin-like things, but I also know that there is a line and I don’t cross it. Having that line shows how I’m like Hobbes.

Hobbes is able to use his sarcasm and humor to illustrate to Calvin the importance of education and using common sense. The real reason I think of Hobbes as a role model is not the funny methods that he uses to rein Calvin in, but because of Hobbes’s way of using his sarcastic humor, common sense, and intellect to create a commentary on what is going on. Hobbes is able to humorously critique impulsive and non-thinking ideas and sarcastically suggest the common sense solutions. This affirms my own viewpoints, beliefs, and values. That’s why Calvin and Hobbes is so funny to me, because it’s so relatable, accurate and aligned with what I think. Watterson is able to portray his own point of view in a way that I relate to: by using intellect, common sense, and humor.


“Misty Copeland” by Maya Mondlak Reuveni
October 3, 2015

When you hear the word ballerina, what does that make you think of? You’re probably thinking of a tall girl with a long neck, tiny waist, slim hips, thin thighs, and long skinny arms. Now keep imagining this girl, except look closer at her skin color. As much as it might be hard to admit it, you probably see this girl as white. Misty Copeland, the first African American soloist in 20 years in American Ballet Theater (ABT), struggled with her skin color for most of her life. It wasn’t until she became older that she had issues with her body.

Before I researched Misty Copeland’s life, I just thought that she was an amazing dancer, but after reading her book “Life in Motion” I realized that there is an inspiring story behind her current success. I consider Misty Copeland as a role model for a lot of reasons. She decided to be an example for other little girls of color who wanted to dance. She knew that she could be someone great and she took that opportunity and the risk of losing everything along the way.

I am impressed by her perseverance through everything and everyone who tried to knock her down. She could have given up at any time, but she chose not to. She started off not knowing anything about dance much less Ballet. But once she discovered Ballet she instantly fell in love with it and something clicked for her. When she started she didn’t know any technique, her family had barely any money, she was tiny, she was older than the other girls, and she was black. With so much working against her she needed a lot of determination to succeed.

Misty Copeland’s childhood was not easy. She grew up in Kansas City, Missouri with five siblings, and her mother was constantly moving the family to live with different husbands. Some of these husbands put her family in a dangerous situation because they were abusive to her mother, and to her siblings. This caused her mom to sometimes tell her siblings to pack silently, and get ready to move again. They moved from home to home and eventually lived in a rundown motel, the whole family in one room. This was not easy for Misty or her siblings, and caused her to have strong anxiety. Misty did not know her own biological father until she was much older.

When she was in 7th grade, Misty tried out to be captain of the drill team. She was inexperienced and nervous, but she gave it her all. Then she was informed that she got it! From there, she became popular. Lots of people wanted to hang out with her and Misty wasn’t necessarily used to all of that attention.

On the drill team there was a girl who danced Ballet. She showed the girls on the team how to do certain moves, and Misty started enjoying it. One day Elizabeth Canteen, the coach of the team, told her that she thought that Misty had the perfect physique for Ballet, and natural ability. Elizabeth knew that every day after school Misty had to go wait with her siblings at the Boys and Girls club for their mom. She told Misty that Cindy Bradley, a friend of hers, taught a Ballet class there and she thought Misty should go try it out. Misty was very hesitant at first, but decided to go and see what it was like. When she got there, she became very scared and shy. She saw girls wearing leotards, tights, and Ballet shoes. All she had were gym clothes. These girls looked much taller than she was. She sat in the back bleachers, and just watched for a week. One day Cindy went over to her and asked her what she was doing. She explained how Elizabeth told her to come and check it out. Cindy brought Misty to the front of the class and started bending her into many positions. Misty didn’t have to strain or struggle to be able to do these. It came naturally to her, and it was evident on the girls’ faces that they were jealous that they couldn’t achieve the Ballet positions so easily.

As Misty started enjoying Ballet more and more, she started to discover that she did have the perfect body for dance, and she was perfect as a dancer. As much as Ballet was a positive part of her life, her home life still wasn’t good. Her mother was still legally married to the husband they just moved away from, and her mother and siblings didn’t understand that she was becoming more and more serious about Ballet. It seemed like the only other person who understood that she loved Ballet and was truly good at it was Cindy.

Misty started to become really serious about dance, and understood now that she could truly become a professional ballerina if she worked hard at it. However, Misty had a lot of disadvantages. Most professional dancers start dancing when they are around the age of two, age seven at the latest. Misty started dancing when she was thirteen. She had no idea about technique, and a year before she didn’t even know what Ballet was. This only made Misty work harder, and want it more.

One day Cindy explained to Misty that she wanted her to go to her professional dance studio. However, Ballet was going to get really expensive and Cindy knew that Misty’s mother was not going to be able to pay for all of it. Cindy went to Misty’s mom and told her that she thought it would be a good idea for Misty to move in with her family. She said she would pay for all of the expenses for Ballet, and take care of her everyday needs. Misty’s mom was reluctant at first, but realized that it was the best thing for her daughter. So Misty packed the very little that she owned and moved in with Cindy, her husband, and their three year old son.

Right away Ballet started getting a lot more serious for Misty. Every day after school she would go to Cindy’s studio and dance for hours and hours. The more serious she got, the more she realized that people saw her as an outsider simply because she was black.

Misty Copeland had to grow up quickly. Suddenly she had to choose between her mother and family or her career. She went from living with her family to living with Cindy in a Jewish household sharing a room with only one other kid and getting a lot of personal attention. Something that Misty might not have realized as a child was that as much as Cindy was doing this for her, she was also using Misty to promote her own dance studio. Living with Cindy was a wonderful experience, but every time she visited her mother and siblings she could see that her family was struggling and also felt resentment toward her.

At first Misty benefited from her body shape and look, but as she reached puberty she was shocked to find that everything had changed. She wasn’t going through puberty on her own so her doctor put her on birth control pills. This was even harder for her because puberty was condensed into two weeks instead of the usual lengthy transition. She still had the same determination and skill, but she had a different body than she had been used to since she was a little girl. She was already self-conscious and shy, but now there was the emotional factor of going through puberty so late and so quickly as well.

Eventually Misty’s mom and Cindy had a huge legal battle over who was Misty’s guardian, and who would control her life. Obviously this was extremely hard for Misty because these were two women who she loved very much and she had to choose between them. This brought a lot of attention to the Copeland family and put her in the public eye in a way she didn’t want to be. In the end things worked out and Misty moved back with her mother and kept dancing. However, Misty Copeland would never get over that loss.

Over the next five years many opportunities and struggles occurred in Misty Copeland’s life. She traveled to different dance programs, she was accepted into ABT’s summer program, she had a series of mentors within ABT, she was cast in a few major roles where she experienced racism, she had a major injury from which she recovered with lots of hard work and physical therapy, she made friends, she started to accept her body, she grew as a dancer, and eventually became a principal and finally a soloist for ABT. Later in her career she decided she wanted to give back to the community and did a series of fundraisers for artistic development for low income children.

Misty Copeland is a role model to me for so many reasons. For one thing we share the values of friendship and loyalty. Misty Copeland had a lot of friends, and she was loyal to her mother and family even when she was devoted to Cindy. But mainly I admire her perseverance. There were so many opportunities for her to stop everything and just give up, but she didn’t. She only worked harder. She had an incredibly hard life filled with so many obstacles, but she didn’t use that as an excuse to quit. She took her anger and sadness and used it in her dancing, which only made her better.


“Malala Yousafzai” by Sofia Wilson
May 9, 2015

Malala Yousafzai. This is a name that would not have been familiar to me a couple of years ago. In October, 2014 Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against oppression of young people and for children’s rights to education.

Malala was born and raised in Swat Valley, in Mingora, Pakistan. Malala had a passion for school, but the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group, did not want to give her the chance to realize her love for education. On October 9th, 2012, at the age of 15, the Taliban shot Malala in the head at point-blank range while she was riding the bus home from school; it’s amazing that she survived this. You might have expected that the shooting would defeat Malala, to make her hide under a rock, but what inspires me, and so many others, is that Malala continues to speak out and fight for girls and women’s rights.

At first, it was hard for me to think of a role model or hero. At the beginning of this process when I was asked if I had any idea of whom I wanted to pick as my role model, I had no clue. When I think of a hero, I think of someone who is admired for their courage or great achievements. When I googled “what is a hero?” I read: “a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” This astonished me. Typically a man? In 2015 in the United States, this is the definition of a hero? Malala is a girl who has modeled great courage and achievements; I think Malala is noble in a way because she has high morals and principles. I think heroes and role models definitely overlap. A role model is someone that you look up to, someone who you would like to emulate. I feel like Malala is both a role model and a hero. She inspires me with her resilience and bravery. Malala is an amazing young woman who is admired all over the world for standing up for her beliefs and not keeping silent.

Mingora, Pakistan, is where Malala grew up. Mingora is the capital of Swat Valley. Swat Valley is still a beautiful city, but after the Taliban took control in 2007, the peaceful city of tourist attractions and amazing weather became an area with a military presence. There were bomb blasts and kidnappings. In the book I am Malala, (which I suggest all of you read) Malala talks about her city as a “garden,” with wildflowers, orchards of delicious fruit, and rivers full of trout. Malala lived in Mingora, which used to be more of a small town but many people from surrounding villages started to move in, which led to its becoming more of a crowded and busy city.

Many of the rich people of Pakistan would come to visit Swat on holidays to enjoy the beautiful scenery, and festivals with music and dancing. Swat used to be separate from the rest of Pakistan. It was once its own state. When India became independent from the British and was divided in 1947, Swat combined with the newly created Pakistan.

In ancient times Swat was a Buddhist kingdom. Their kings ruled the valley for many years. Islam came to the valley during the 11th century. General Islamic beliefs revolve around the commandments and will of their one and only God (Allah). The belief is that judgment is based on a person’s sincere repentance and righteous deeds.

Between 2007 and 2009 the Taliban extended influence across Swat. After elections in 2008, the government of Pakistan and the Taliban negotiated a treaty to restore peace in the area. However, the Taliban did not follow the plan. People kept dying in front of Malala’s eyes. Then Benazir Butto, the first prime minister in Pakistan, and a woman, was also shot and killed. Malala looked up to this woman, and she was moved by her motivation. No one was safe anymore after Butto’s death. Malala’s heart sank. Killing women was against the Pashtunwali code, which is an ethical code that has governed the life of Pashtuns for many centuries. Many people were shocked when Benazir Butto was murdered.

Yes, it may seem obvious that my life and Malala’s life appear to be so different, and we have grown up very differently, but we definitely have similarities. Malala is double-jointed, and loves cupcakes; she even loves Shrek, and watching Master Chef, a cooking show. I found it so funny that we had these little things in common. What really connected for me, though, was the way Malala and I have a true passion for helping others.

Malala’s perseverance also greatly inspires me. She is her own self, but the way her parents raised her definitely impacted her beliefs and way of thinking. Ziaudinn (Malala’s father,) is probably the reason that Malala went to school in the first place. (video clip of Malala’s father)

Something that definitely stuck out to me from these short videos was when he said, “I didn’t clip her wings.” By creating the Khushal public schools (which started out just for girls) Malala, along with many other girls, was given the opportunity to learn and grow. Ziaudinn is the owner of the school and an educational activist himself. The Taliban even threatened him. They said, “Stop this or you will be in trouble and your children will weep and cry for you.” This didn’t stop Malala or her father. Even though neither of them really wanted to show it, they were scared, of course. They just didn’t let their fear get in the way. (video clip of her thoughts on fear)

When I looked at my values, I definitely found some connections. Malala’s father accepted her as a person. He didn’t give up and say, “my daughter is a girl, I don’t want her to rise up.” This reflects their value of determination; he and Malala were determined to get all girls to go to school no matter what stood in their way.

On January 15, 2009 all girls’ schools were closed by the Fazlullah, the head of the Taliban. It was announced on the radio that televisions were not to be watched, because TV showed the Westernized world where women were doing something other than working at home. It hurt Malala to think about not going to school, not having her books and not seeing her friends. When I think about Malala’s school experiences compared to mine, there is a big difference. I grew up knowing there was no doubt I was going to school, I didn’t even give it a thought. Malala didn’t have that choice. We grew up with different opportunities, rights and taboos.

For me, this resonates with the value of freedom. What is interesting is that Malala and I experienced freedom in different forms. I have it, and she wanted it. I have grown up with the right to education, but Malala grew up in a place where many girls didn’t even get this chance. But she wanted it badly.

After it had been announced that all girls’ schools were to be closed, parents took their children out of school because they were scared. Malala said she thought the Taliban was trying to make the girls in Pakistan into identical “life-size dolls”. She wasn’t going to let this happen. When her school closed, Malala wouldn’t stop learning. She was given an English comedy called Mind Your Language, which helped Malala with her English.

Finally, the day Malala could go back to school came. Fazlullah surprisingly agreed to let girls under ten years old go back to school. Madam Maryam, Malala’s teacher, sent out a message to all of the older girls in the upper school inviting them back to school, without wearing their uniforms, because they would be noticed. They did this as a silent protest, and to protect the girls.

Malala kept going to school, but nothing seemed to get better. People were beaten in public, and the Taliban kept bombing schools. In 2008 the Taliban bombed two hundred schools! That is when Malala realized that she had to speak out. She used her voice for all of the girls who wanted to speak out but couldn’t. Malala spoke out to local and national TV channels, radio, and newspapers. (video clip re: raising her voice) It really impresses me how Malala not only had strong feelings about certain things, but she shared them with the community in a peaceful but effective way. When she spoke out she had to put her worries about the Taliban in the back of her mind– worries that she or her family could get killed. She risked her life for what she knew she deserved: her rights, an education, and to be herself. (NY Times video)

Of course this caught up to her; the Taliban noticed that a young girl had been speaking out about education and they didn’t like it. On October 9th, 2012, Malala and her friends got on the small bus to go home after school after having just finished their final exams. A young man stopped the bus and asked if they were from the Khushal School. Another man leaned into the back and asked, “Who is Malala?” The next thing she felt was the crack of three bullets.

After Malala had been shot she immediately was taken to New Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, unconscious, and all of the transportation costs for treatment abroad were paid for by the government of Pakistan. Malala had to pass the hours by writing in her diary and watching TV, waiting for her family to visit her, because her family continued to be at high risk. After 16 days her family finally came to Birmingham, and they were reunited. After many different operations, Malala and her family finally formed their own new home in Birmingham, England. (VIDEO CLIP)

As I said before, I find it so interesting how Malala and I are so similar yet so different. Malala is just a regular girl too. In her book, Malala remembers when she was younger and she hated her nose and other parts of her face. Once she was shot her face changed a bit, but she said, “a funny face in the mirror is simply proof that you are still here.” I definitely think Malala and I share the values of determination, acceptance, bettering the world, and friendship. While Malala and all of the girls at their school were being threatened and were scared, they kept their friendships strong.

What I find so fascinating is that even AFTER Malala nearly died from a gunshot, she kept going. She stayed true to her beliefs. About a year later Malala spoke at the UN. She now has an amazing non-profit organization called the Malala Fund that publicizes, invests, and advocates for the empowerment of girls through education. (video clip from U.N. talk)

I have to be honest. When I started writing this paper I only knew Malala as the girl who was shot by the Taliban. She is more than that. She inspires me because of the way she persevered, for herself and for the millions of other suffering girls. I of course live in different circumstances, but Malala has inspired me to keep on doing what I am doing, even if something horrific gets in the way. I would also love to do the type of work Malala and her organization do; it brings a smile to my face to change someone’s life.

Malala is not only a role model for me; she is a role model for the world. Next time someone tells you that Malala is “the girl who got shot be the Taliban,” you should say “yes AND, she’s the girl who has made changes around the world.”


“Janus Korczak” by Liana Hitts
April 26, 2015

Though heroes and role models are often seen as being the same, they actually are quite different. A hero is a person who, in the opinion of others, has model qualities, or has performed a courageous or valiant act and is regarded as a model or ideal, such as saving someone’s life or sacrificing something that is important to you for someone else. Role models are people who you personally admire and want to be like in one or more ways. They may not necessarily be famous or looked-up to by others.

I have selected Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish educator, and a pediatrician, who sacrificed his own life during the Holocaust, dying with the children that he tried to protect. He is a true hero for the sacrifices that he made and a role model for the accomplishments that he achieved in his lifetime.

Janusz Korczak to me is actually both a role model and a hero. I see him as a hero because he sacrificed his life, to die with the children he took care of. That to me is very heroic. He is a role model because he sets a good example for anybody to follow because he took up the work at an orphanage even though it wasn’t necessary for him to do so. In that, he thought of others and how to help them in any ways possible.

Korczak accomplished many things throughout his lifetime. His story starts in Warsaw, 1878, born into the family of Józef Goldszmit, a respected lawyer, with a very educated family. Though he was born into an observant, Jewish family, later in his life he became agnostic, and did not really believe in the existence of God. Therefore, he did not believe in forcing religion upon kids, his orphans. His father got sick in 1890 and was sent to a mental hospital where he died six years later in April of 1896. Janusz was not born as Janusz. He was born as Henryk Goldszmit. He didn’t really change his name. Janusz Korczak was his pen name. He wrote books about his medical experiences.

From 1898 to 1904 he studied medicine at the University of Warsaw. After his graduation, he became a pediatrician and started working at a children’s hospital located in Warsaw. After the war he continued his medical practice in Warsaw.

In 1907–1908 Korczak went to study in Berlin. In 1911–1912 he became a director of Dom Sierot in Warsaw, the orphanage of his own design for Jewish children. He took Stefania Wilczyńska as his assistant, a woman he met while working for the Orphan’s Society in 1909. In his new orphanage he formed a kind of republic for children with its own small parliament, court, and a newspaper. This was important because the “republic” gave the children a sense of belonging and a place where their voices could be heard and matter. He reduced his other duties as a doctor.

In 1926 Korczak arranged for the children of the Dom Sierot to begin their own newspaper, the Mały Przegląd (Little Review), as a weekly attachment to the daily Polish-Jewish Newspaper Nasz Przegląd (Our Review). In these years, his secretary was the well-known, Polish novelist Igor Newerly.

During the 1930s he had his own radio program where he promoted and popularized the rights of children. Between 1934–1936 Korczak traveled every year to Palestine and visited its kibbutzim, which led to some anti-Semitic commentaries in the Polish press. Still, he refused to move to Palestine even when Stefania Wilczyńska went to live there in 1938. She returned to Poland in May, 1939, unable to fit in, and resumed her role as Headmistress.

In 1939, when World War II erupted, Korczak volunteered for duty in the Polish Army but was refused due to his age. He witnessed the army’s takeover of Warsaw. When the Germans created the Warsaw ghetto in 1940, his orphanage was forced to move from its building, Dom Sierot at Krochmalna 92 to the Ghetto. Korczak moved in with them.

On August 5th or 6th 1942, German soldiers came to collect the 192 orphans and a dozen staff members, to transport them to Treblinka, an extermination camp. Korczak had been offered sanctuary on the “Aryan Side” by soldiers but turned it down repeatedly, saying that he could not abandon his children. On August 5th he again refused offers of sanctuary, insisting that he would go with the children. The children were dressed in their best clothes, and each carried a blue knapsack and a favorite book or toy.

Korczak stayed with his children until the very end. He died on August 10th, 1942 at the age of 64 at the Treblinka extermination camp, but he was very noble and kept his head held high even as he was being killed. That is something so remarkable that many wouldn’t even want to think about if they were in his shoes.

Korczak’s story is truly inspiring. It should make people stop and think about how grateful they are to be living in today’s modern society. No one, and I mean no one, would want to be in his shoes. There are still many Holocaust survivors alive today and you can ask them about their experiences if you meet one. My grandmother is one of them.

Janusz Korczak is a hero for helping poor, powerless little orphans from the goodness of his heart, not looking for a financial reward. He is my role model because I personally want to be a doctor when I am older. According to my research, he was a fantastic doctor and I think that that is amazing. The final reason is that he marched with his head held high, even as he was walking to his death. He stayed optimistic until the very end. I admire that. These values apply to both a hero and a role model, some of them more hero-like and some more characteristic of a role model but I think that both are applicable. Janusz Korczak is the true definition of a hero and a role model for me. Knowing about him has given my life more value and for that, he is my hero.


“Jackie Robinson” by Austin Shatz
November 22, 2014

I’d like to start by sharing a quote from Jackie Robinson that I really like:

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.”

This quote hit me as something I would really like to emulate. Through my research of Jackie Robinson I realized he is not only my role model but also my hero who I admire for his outstanding bravery, courage and achievements. Jackie Robinson is most famous because he broke the color barrier in baseball, which of course has had a huge positive impact on thousands and thousands of athletes ever since and helped make America a more integrated society. Jackie always showed he was determined to pursue his goals with a positive attitude even when the road to them wasn’t easy. Going through life with a positive attitude and resilience seems to me like the right way to go and I hope I can continue to develop these qualities as I get older.

I really admire Jackie’s determination. He went through many troubled times but never let adversity get the better of him. Most people think he only had tough times in dealing with racism as the first black player in the Major Leagues, but this is not true. Jackie dealt with challenges throughout his life. As a child, Jackie was raised by a single mother along with his three siblings and they were the only black family on his block. Still he made it to college at UCLA where he was the first person to earn a varsity letter in four sports. But then he had to leave college due to financial difficulties and he joined the Army. Jackie Robinson received an honorable discharge from the army after he refused to move to the back of a segregated bus in another example of his personal strength.

On the day he was first to report to the Minor Leagues for the Dodgers organization Robinson endured several instances of racism. He and his wife Rachel were bumped off two different flights and then had to take a bus for the last leg of the trip and they were moved from the comfortable reclining seats in the front of the bus to the seats in the back of the bus. Jackie Robinson later said that he had been ready to “explode with rage,” but he knew one outburst where he gave into his feelings could have blown the whole Major League opportunity and jeopardize the chance for all blacks who would follow. This is what he was thinking when he moved to the back of the bus and made the best of it. I am impressed by the way Jackie handled these two bus incidents with different kinds of strength. In the army example he stood up to racism by not moving seats. When on the bus to the Dodgers team facility Jackie moved seats because that was the best choice in that moment to help others.

When he accepted the offer to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson understood the impact his decision would have. According to his daughter Sharon Robinson, in the book Jackie’s Nine, Jackie Robinson did not accept the offer hastily. He thought long and hard about whether he could succeed in taking on this important challenge.

While breaking the color barrier is what Jackie Robinson is most famous for, I found it very interesting to learn that he kept trying to help the world after his baseball days in ways that perhaps are a little more relatable for me, or someone like me, to emulate. For example, he was very active in the civil rights movement and even hosted Martin Luther King, Jr. for a big fundraising picnic at the Robinson’s family home as the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Robinson helped emphasize that anyone can raise money for a cause we believe in. I have seen this myself up close during fundraising efforts my family has undertaken and the work my mom has done for our schools.

Much of Jackie Robinson’s work life after baseball had to do with helping African Americans and other poor people get better jobs or have access to affordable housing. Jackie’s first job after baseball was as VP of Personnel for Chock Full O’ Nuts where he was the first black vice president of a major American corporation, breaking yet another barrier. In that role he pushed hard for more hiring of minorities. Jackie’s last job was to run the Jackie Robinson Construction Company, which built housing for low- to moderate-income people. Even in his last farewell to baseball, when in failing health he was honored during Game Two of the 1972 World Series, Jackie used the occasion to deliver a message. In his speech he said “I want to live to see a black manager in baseball.” While others might have just enjoyed a moment of recognition, Jackie used the moment to again demonstrate he was thinking of making the world better for other people. He makes us all think about whether the work we do for a living is good for the world.

After baseball Jackie continued to face many challenges. Through them all Jackie maintained a positive, can do attitude. He still faced racism and was not allowed to join his local country club in Connecticut and played the public golf courses instead. A number of his business ventures were not successful. Also, Jackie had numerous serious health issues towards the end of his life. Worst of all, his son Jackie Jr. became a drug addict and then died in his early twenties in a car accident. None of these obstacles stopped Robinson from continuing to work on the goals he set for himself. And none of these things turned him into an angry or negative person. By all accounts he remained a positive person until literally his last moments when he had a heart attack on the way to work. In fact, his ability to keep a positive attitude, no matter what, was one of the main reasons why Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers asked him to be the first black player in the Major Leagues.

One thing that I learned in researching Jackie Robinson that really excited me was that his family continues to make the world a better place through The Jackie Robinson Foundation. The Foundation is based right here in New York City and provides scholarships and mentoring to future African American leaders. In 2008 the New York Times said the Foundation “might be the best educational effort in the country.” James Blake, an American professional tennis player, is one alumnus of the Foundation. To help me understand the ongoing impact of Jackie Robinson, my dad arranged for me to interview Lauren Booker, who is a Jackie Robinson Scholar, to learn about how the Foundation affected her life. Lauren applied for and was rewarded a scholarship by the Foundation and with it she went to Yale. The Foundation taught her about leadership, networking and giving back. Happily for Lauren, her fiancé was also in the program and that’s how they met. Lauren’s corporate sponsor was Goldman Sachs and after college she worked for them for five years before going to business school at Harvard. After graduating from Harvard Lauren probably could have had any job she wanted and she chose to work for the Omidyar Network, where she invests in small companies that change the world. She was extremely nice and sounded very much like a leader when I spoke with her. Lauren told me that she embodies Jackie’s legacy every day at work. She is a living example of the ongoing impact of Jackie Robinson.

This project made me think a lot about making a difference in the world and the importance of positivity. As I was writing this paper last spring, two things happened that made it real for me. The first was the story about Donald Sterling of the LA Clippers basketball team and how it was revealed he was a racist owner. NBA players carried on the tradition of Jackie Robinson by standing up for their rights and being determined to secure a fair outcome without resorting to violence to solve the problem. The other event was personal. I broke my arm two days before a vacation and two weeks into my soccer season. I was disappointed but I stayed positive by cheering on my teammates and making the best of our family trip. One of my goals, as I become an adult is to remain positive, even through tough times.


“Janus Korczak” by Benjamin Bottner
October 11, 2014

I chose Janusz Korczak to be my role model/hero because I think he is a great man. He spent his whole life working with children, especially orphans.
I’m very interested in Janusz Korczak’s life because of two reasons. #1: I was an orphan and lived in an orphanage. Janusz Korczak spent much of his life working with children in the orphanage that he ran on Krochmenela St. in Warsaw. #2: He believed in fair treatment for children. I believe in this too.

I discovered Janusz Korczak when I was in Israel last summer. I needed some English books so my mother took me to a bookstore. I bought a book called Kaytek the Wizard, written by Korczak, because the main character Kaytek is the name of one of my friends. Kaytek was a boy who, in the eyes of adults, except his grandmother, couldn’t do anything right. He was always getting himself in trouble. One day, he realized that he possessed magical powers. All Kaytek had to do was to wish something and it would come true. This is every child’s wish.

The story was great and I read Korczak’s bio on the back of the book. It said he ran an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland. The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and in 1940 they forced Korczak’s orphanage to move to the Warsaw ghetto. Korczak’s friends offered him refuge, but he insisted he stay with the children. On August 6, 1942, Janusz Korczak and the children went to their death in the Treblinka death camp. They were believed to be gassed upon arrival.

Janusz Korczak was born as Henryk Goldszmit in Warsaw, Poland on July 22, 1878. He believed in children’s rights from the beginning and often noticed the children on the street. His family were secular Polish Jews. He grew up in a wealthy household. When he was around 12 his father became sick, and was admitted to a mental hospital, and died 7 years later. To help his family, he started tutoring students. Janusz Korczak first studied medicine, but was always fascinated by children, especially street children. They became his passion. He wrote about them in novels, and after practicing medicine for a couple of years, he dedicated his life to making their lives better.

When Korczak was 20, he entered a literary contest, and used the name Janusz Korczak instead of his own, Henryk Goldzmit. He is better known as his pseudonym Janusz Korczak, a name taken from a 19th century Polish novel.

After graduating medical school Korczak worked as a pediatrician at a Jewish children’s hospital in Warsaw. While working at the hospital, Korczak took a year’s leave and studied in Berlin and worked for the Orphan’s Society.

In 1912 Janusz Korczak became the director of Dom Siriyot, an orphanage he designed for Jewish orphans. He remained the director until his death. Janusz Korczak believed in the value of bettering the world – tikun olam. When he began running his orphanage he bettered the lives of those children by far. Before they had to beg and starve on the streets, but after Dr. Korczak took them in, they had a place to sleep, three meals a day, and they were away from the elements. He introduced the idea of progressive orphanages and schools and he trained teachers and stood up for children’s rights in the courts.

In 1919 he wrote his famous book “How to Love a Child.” It was like a constitution for children’s rights. His ideas were put into practice in his progressive orphanages. A progressive orphanage is an orphanage where the children’s feelings and thoughts are listened to and where staff members always show love, care and respect to orphans – forgiveness is the golden rule.

Janusz Korczak wrote two books of fiction. Besides “Kaytek the Wizard”, he wrote another great story called “King Matt the First”. The story of King Matt reflects Korczak’s desire for children to have more control over their lives. King Matt was a 12 year-old child when his father died and he inherited the throne. He ruled very wisely and very foolishly too – but he always learned from his mistakes. In his orphanage, just like in King Matt’s story, Korczak had a children’s parliament where they would make many decisions themselves. They ran their own newspaper too. I later learned that these books were the books that Korczak wrote in the orphanage.

Korczak’s orphanages (he also directed one for Christian orphans) were unique because of how they were run. For example, if an orphan broke the code of conduct there were no harsh punishments but the child was taught a lesson not to do that again. This rule applied to everyone in the orphanage including Korczak. The orphanage was like none other. It was basically a democracy. There was a parliament, and a judicial system. Korckzak and the orphans also made a set of laws that everybody had to follow in the orphanage. This made it safe for everybody who lived in the orphanages.

In those days children were to be seen, not heard. If you stepped out of line in any what way you may have been beaten. Korczak did not agree with this sort of punishment. He believed that if you talked to a child and made them feel like they were heard, then you could really teach the child what he/she did wrong. This method is called progressive education. Janusz Korczak liked this idea very much. He also believed that forcing religion on children was wrong.

Janusz Korczak stands out to me because of the values that we share. A big value that we share is courage. When my family came from Europe to America, they had to have courage. They had to leave their home, and go somewhere new, to a new culture, language, and way of life.

Janusz Korczak was very courageous. He knew that he would be killed in a gas chamber, and despite being offered the chance of safety, he went with his children to die with them. This is what I believe to be a courageous act. He showed a different kind of courage that most of us will ever know.

I think my courage is more ordinary. I have courage because I am willing to go first before anyone else. I am also not afraid to talk to people and ask for what I want and need. I had fears when I was a little kid, usually with sports and physical activities, and my mom would whisper into my ear: “You are very courageous, see what you are doing, and look what you can do.” This helped calm me down. I was about nine when I started climbing trees and poles. This was the time where I really started to lose my fears and show more courage.

Another value that both Janusz Korczak and I would agree on is community. My mother has shown her value of community by sending me to a school that emphasizes community and core values. Janusz Korczak made a community in his orphanages. The orphanages (a bit like my school) had a set of core values, and everyone knew everyone. When a new child came to the orphanage, Korczak would put another child, who was at the orphanage a year or so, in charge of the newcomer, and would help them around for the first few weeks. I have helped my school community by doing community service and working with younger students. I helped them with their academics, played with them and got them to talk about themselves and tried to be a good role model.

Janusz Korczak believed in bettering the world/tikun olam by improving the lives of orphan children. I too believe in the idea of tikun olam. I have worked in soup kitchens, visited Senior Centers, volunteered to help out after Hurricane Sandy and I donate to charities such as Heifer International for every holiday occasion. Bettering the world is an every day act that we should all do. It means showing kindness to strangers, trying to see others beyond yourself, and most importantly showing kindness and respect to those closest to you.

These are three values that I know Janusz Korczak and I share – courage, community, and bettering the world/tikun olam.

The end of Korczak’s life demonstrated how he lived his life. He was so dedicated to making life better for these children that he was willing to die with them. If you knew that you would die, would you leave the children? Anyone would probably say “No!!!”, but I think this is a hard question. It does seem heartless, but the Nazis were scary people. One flip of the wrist and you would go to the gas chamber. These children were not even yours. Humans (like any other animal) have a strong instinct to live. Why not? So my big question is this: If you were in Janusz Korczak’s shoes and you knew you might be killed, would you leave these children and go to safety, or would you stay with them and die? This is something I couldn’t stop thinking about when I was reading his biography.

I think Korczak’s choice to go to the gas chambers with the kids was an act of bravery, love, and dedication to these children. To me he is someone, who has done a huge tikun olam because his actions are so inspiring. It’s intriguing that someone could be so selfless.

Janusz Korczak bettered the world of orphaned children by taking them in from the streets, giving them a home, food, and LOVE. He believed and fought for children’s rights, emphasizing how children should be treated.

I know I’m only a kid and haven’t done that much to make my mark on the world. What Janusz Korczak’s did was big – bigger than life as my mother says. I don’t know if I will achieve such a big accomplishment in my life like his, but I think he is a good role model to follow no matter how big or small a mark we make on this world.


“Steve Jobs” by Andre Schoolman
May 10, 2014

I like to “think different.” I like math, building things, taking things apart, seeing how things work. There was someone else who “thought differently,” and because of him, everywhere we go today, almost everything we do has been touched by him, my hero/ role model. Life would be very different if it hadn’t been for the unorthodox genius of Steve Jobs.

We know him as the face of Apple Computers, but his reach has gone farther than that. Not only was he a businessman, but he was a visionary, inventor and creator. He once said that he looks at where things are going, not where they have been.

As an individual, he was very “flawed,” which means that he was like us all – he had his strong points and what we as outsiders can call personal failings. Again, as with us all, how he did his job and how he related to other people was very complicated and I’ll get to that later.

But his legacy is his creativity and intelligence, and I bet if I met him I would want to get to know him. How could you not want to get to know a person whose ability to “think differently” led to such amazing changes in the four or so decades since he tinkered with computers in his parents’ garage? I believe this because when I look around in the subway, or on the street, or even as we get out from school, I see people having a great time with something that he created. That’s why I’m thinking, “What would the world have been like without Steve Jobs?”

Other than my obvious obsession with anything touch-screen and computer-oriented, one of the main reasons I picked Steve Jobs as my role model was that if he had an idea he did not let it fade away into oblivion. He made it into reality. That is what I wish to do when I grow up.

The second main reason I chose Steve Jobs as my role model occurred to me when I read this quote by him: “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

This is what I think of when I think of Steve Jobs – he was someone who explored what he wanted to explore, thought about how his products would affect other people and despite sometimes hurting people along the way, he ended up using his imagination and creativity to change the way we live. He didn’t play down the importance of what he did. Here’s something he said: “What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

Many things that we look at these days have in some way been directly or indirectly affected by Steve Jobs. For example, when you use your Smartphone, something everyone but me, it seems, has. Or, the Ipad, to read or play games while riding on the subway. Any touch screen when you go into a restaurant, a store, the doctor’s office. The touch screen, the instant access to the Internet. Even when my mom asked a policeman for an address, he took out his Smartphone. Everywhere. I don’t even know what life was like before devices that had Steve Jobs’ imprint. I also have Steve Jobs to thank for some of my favorite movies, thanks to Pixar, the animation company he funded – The Incredibles, Toy Story, Finding Nemo….

Jobs seemed to “think different” from the get go. Maybe relevant, maybe not, he was adopted. He didn’t respond well to authority, something an author called “his refusal to be corralled by the status quo.” Here’s a bit of his biography.

He was born on Feb. 24, 1955 and was immediately adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. At age 30, he met his birth mother and sister, who’s a famous writer.

At age 12, he got his first job at computer maker Hewlett-Packard after calling the owner.

When he was 19, he went to India to find enlightenment and became a Buddhist.

He died of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 5, 2011. At his death, he was listed as either primary inventor or co-inventor of 342 patents, from the Mac and iPads, to the glass staircases in the Apple stores, to the packaging of the iPhone box.

Like other late bloomers, for example, Einstein who supposedly didn’t speak until age five and spent his time as a patent clerk, Jobs wasn’t a great student. But his parents indulged his interest in computers by letting him build things in their garage. By 19, in 1974, he had dropped out of college and gotten a job at Atari, the electronic games company. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell said in a new book that Jobs dressed like a slob, was difficult to get along with and offended some of the Atari employees so much that he was asked to work at night when no one else was around. I don’t think Jobs minded. I think this gave him the means and opportunity to let his “different” thinking blossom even more.

Jobs used his experience at Atari to help mold the new culture of Apple, which he and childhood pal Steve Wozniak started in 1976. He used some Atari pieces in their earliest Apple computers. Jobs wanted to make work seem like play, as it was at Atari. There were pizza and beer parties and beach get togethers. It was also expected that Apple employees would work 24-7, just like Jobs did.

Jobs not only wanted to change technology, he wanted to change design. He studied calligraphy, and this helped in his designs of all of his devices. Most importantly, he wanted to create a club for the different thinkers who reshaped society. He wanted the Apple users to be the coolest people around. When the “Think Different” ad campaign came out in the late 1990s, its stars were Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, and Amelia Earhart, people who Steve Jobs considered visionaries.
J
obs had his own role models. One was Land, who created Polaroid Corp., and also created night vision goggles, bombs and target finders. Dylan was a role model because he used words for creative thinking. And also the Beatles – “four people who kept each other’s “negative tendencies in check,” showing that, “Great things in business are never done by one person, they are done by a team of people.”

As Humanistic Jews, we speak a lot about values. So, what were Steve Jobs’ values and how did they affect his life and his legacy?

Creativity: As “Star Wars” creator George Lucas said, “he saw the true potential in everything he touched and never compromised on that vision.” Apple, Macs, Ipad, Ipods…..the list goes on. He had the idea, and while he may not have built the item himself, he was able to get people to build and design computers and other items based on his visions. Finally, he had a thought to change the world, and so he created (or designed) things that seemed like they came from science fiction, like computers and Internet based technologies.

Honesty: Maybe Steve Jobs was too honest. He told people what he thought and sometimes was very harsh. He had fights with people at Atari, Microsoft and even Apple Corporation, which fired him in 1985.

Far from perfect on a personal level, he was said to be a negative person and when it came to friends, he also betrayed people. In one huge example, when he and Steve Wozniak were creating the first Apple computers, he took all of the credit even though Woz, as his friends called him, really was the designer. On the day Steve Jobs died, he took a walk with Woz and when his friend was tired, and said let’s go back, Steve Jobs didn’t listen and kept going.

He denied having fathered a daughter until the mother of the girl went public. Then he acknowledged the girl, and later named a computer after her, the Lisa.

You could say one of his values was bragging: He appeared to have a huge ego, or as you’d say, was full of himself. He was personally selfish and a bragger. He said about iTunes, for example, “This is landmark stuff. I can’t overestimate it.” He also thought of himself as a leader and told other people that to be successful, “don’t be a follower, be a leader.”

In conclusion, Steve Jobs to me was a person who had amazingly creative thoughts and did great things. He helped create and design technologies that are so much a part of our lives today that a whole generation does not know what life was like before touch screens and “i” anything. He is my role model because he didn’t just have an imagination, but he put it to work. There is no other person that I believe fulfills this role besides him. And again, I say: “ where would the world be without Steve Jobs?”


“Ellen DeGeneres” by Liliana Franklin
April 27, 2014

My definition of a hero is someone who saves people from a burning building or a crashed plane or just someone who has a BIG impact on your life. When I hear the word hero, I immediately think of Superman or Spiderman or Batman. My definition of a role model is someone who you look up to or admire for something that they have done for the community or just in general. To me, a hero can be a role model but a role model does not have to be a hero. I do believe a person can be a hero or role model and can have flaws and weaknesses. Look at Superman, for example; he was a big superhero and his biggest weakness was a rock, Kryptonite. Nobody is perfect and flawless. I myself have flaws. I also have a role model.

My role model is Ellen DeGeneres, the well-known stand-up comic—but her humor and fame are not what initially drew me to her. I picked Ellen while looking for a role model who seemed to love animals as much as I do. During the process of picking someone I thought of many people, ranging from Jane Goodall, for my love of animals, to singers, for my love of music, but I picked Ellen because she had so many qualities I admired. As I researched Ellen, I learned that we had other special things in common in addition to loving animals—like humor! She also is brave and generous and kind, and wants to better the world, which are things I value.

Ellen has donated a lot of money to charities and foundations, many to help animals. In 2010, she served as a campaign ambassador for Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-a-Turkey Project asking people to adopt a turkey instead of eating one on Thanksgiving. She has supported the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. On one website, I found a letter Ellen wrote to fellow pet lovers. In the letter she wrote about how you should treat your pets like you would like to be treated. She has become a part owner of the pet food brand, “Halo,” in hopes for all animals to be the healthiest they can be. On the Ellen Show website there is a section called “Going Vegan with Ellen” that promotes meatless Mondays and features vegan recipes.

As I said, Ellen is generous. In addition to helping animals, she helps babies by supporting Project Cuddle, which rescues babies and has a 24/7 hotline. Other causes she has helped include victims of Hurricane Katrina. She raised $7 million for a Hurricane Katrina relief fund. She also supports Peace First, which teaches children to work together to solve conflicts and become leaders.

Ellen DeGeneres was born on January 26, 1958. She was born and raised in Metairie, Louisiana. Ellen’s mom, Elizabeth, was a speech therapist and her dad, Elliot, was an insurance agent. Her brother, Vance, is a musician and a producer. Ellen’s nickname was “Tilly Mint.” She did not finish college. She dropped out of the University of New Orleans after the first semester. Ellen did not know what she wanted to do. She painted houses, did clerical work in a law firm, sold clothes and vacuum cleaners, and worked as a hostess, waitress, and a bartender. She started doing stand-up comedy in New Orleans at small clubs and coffee houses. Eventually she performed nationally, and then won a competition sponsored by Showtime that led to her being named the funniest person in America.

After the Showtime competition she was invited to go on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This was a breakthrough for her career. On Carson’s show, she had the distinction of being the only female comic to be welcomed by Carson to sit on the famed “couch” on her first visit. On the show, she did a funny skit where she pretended to have a phone conversation with God. I thought maybe you would find it funny to see this 3-minute video because she pokes a little bit of fun at having a relationship with a supernatural being.

As many of you probably know, Ellen went on to have several television shows. The first was “These Friends of Mine” (later renamed “Ellen”) and then “The Ellen Show,” and eventually the show she has today, “Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Many people also know her as the voice of Dory in the hit Disney movie, Finding Nemo. Others may know her for another reason: Ellen announced openly on television that she is a lesbian. I love her for her bravery. Many people would not come out openly on television or in general that they are gay or lesbian out of fear of being judged negatively by their peers and the community.

Ellen announced that she was a lesbian on her show “Ellen.” Forty-six million viewers watched the show, called “The Puppy Episode.” Because she did that, the Chrysler car company withdrew their ads from her show and a television station in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to air the episode. The “Ellen” show was canceled the next season but the episode won a Peabody award.

Ellen has won many other awards. She was nominated for 11 daytime Emmy awards and won 25 Emmys in the first three seasons of her talk show. She also won the 2012 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She was named “Woman of the Year” by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals); won Teen Choice and People’s Choice awards; was named by Forbes magazine as one of the top five influential women in media and by Time magazine as one of the Top 100 influential people; and voted favorite T.V. personality in a Harris Poll, winning over Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno.

Ellen uses her talk show to help people out. She has celebrities and everyday people come on her show to share interesting stories. Her mom is a regular in the audience. She has had celebrity guests like Madonna, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and First Lady Michelle Obama, and also people who have been victims of bullying and discrimination and who lead organizations that help the world, like the Humane Society. She uses her show to tell the world about important things and to make a difference. She has dedicated shows to breast cancer awareness and global warming.

Even though Ellen never graduated from college, she was invited by Tulane University to talk at graduation in 2009. I would like her to talk at my graduation! I watched an excerpt from her speech. She was funny but also was kind and caring. While speaking to the graduates, Ellen told them many motivational things:
“Live your life with integrity. Don’t give into peer pressure to be something you’re not,” she said. “Live life as an honest and compassionate person, contribute in some way…follow your passions, stay true to yourself,…” and my favorite, “Never follow someone else’s path; unless you are in the woods, and you are lost, and you see a path; then by all means, you should follow the path.”

I’m not sure where my path will lead—maybe it will be long and winding—but I hope to find my own road the way Ellen did. In that same graduation speech Ellen said that when she was young she thought the most important thing in life was to be famous, to be a star. Now she knows that it’s more important to be a good person and make a difference in the world. I think she’s right, and that’s what I hope to do— though being famous would be cool too!


“Jon Stewart” by Julian Keifetz
October 13, 2013

As I approached my 13th birthday I realized that my idea of the kind of person I’d consider a hero or role model was changing from when I was younger. When I was younger, the type of person I would have probably named as a hero were athletes. I’m still a huge fan of players like Carmelo Anthony, David Wright, and Eli Manning. But being a fan of an athlete is different than finding someone that you would like to model your life after. The athletes could all be considered heroes in the sports they play, but the influence they’ve had on my intellect can’t be compared to someone like Jon Stewart. To me Jon Stewart is a huge inspiration in my life, and I consider him an MVP — the most valuable pundit and most importantly amazingly funny. Jon Stewart’s combination of wit and intelligence along with his personal background, make him someone I can identify with and am inspired by.

Jon Stewart Leibowitz was born in 1962 in New York City and then grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Jon was raised in a Jewish family and when he was 11 years old his parents divorced. Following the divorce, his father was no longer a presence in Jon’s life.

Jon also faced anti-Semitic bullying at Lawrenceville High School. Most likely as a way to cope with these challenges, Jon became the funny man at school. I can relate to his experiences because my parents are also divorced and my father lives in another country and I rarely speak to or see him. I find that comedy is the best medicine for when I’m down. I share my father’s interest in politics and when I watch Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” it can make me feel closer to my Dad.

With a reputation for being a funny man in school, Jon moved to New York City in 1986 with the plan of becoming a comedian. It took him an entire year to gain the courage to get up on stage. I can understand how he may have felt since the few times that I have had to speak in public I’ve felt very intimidated. Its one thing to give a speech in front of an audience but the prospect of standing alone on a stage and trying to make the audience laugh is downright terrifying. The fact that Jon was able to conquer his fear and eventually become a regular at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village shows his determination and courage.

Stephen Colbert, one of Stewart’s closest friends and colleagues, told the NY Times that “ Jon’s ability to consume and process information is invaluable.” What Colbert means is that Stewart has a gift for finding the true meaning and identifying the false claims that many politicians make. Stewart’s brilliance is illustrated by his point of view. Not only does he find the true meaning and reality about politics, he manages to finds ways to make hilarious jokes about it all.

Jon Stewart uses his incredible comedic gift to contribute to the social discourse. He may have his own TV show and be rich and famous because of it, but its not fortune or fame that drives him. He offers his audience a chance to better our country and helps us be deeper thinkers. This is why Jon Stewart is my role model.


“Lady Gaga” by Jolie Elins
October 12, 2013

A role model is often defined as someone who you wish to be like. I feel that it can also be someone who does things that you find cool. Most often role models are found when younger kids look up to the older kids around them, but it doesn’t have to be like that. A role model can be someone of any age, who you admire and/or aspire to be like. Lady Gaga is my role model because I admire everything she does and what she is. Not only do we share values, but I admire the messages she sends. I hope that someday, I can be as influential as she is and be able to use my influence for good things.

Lady Gaga might not be a typical role model because she is a pop singer, or maybe because her clothes are so outrageous. But in many ways, she is the best role model. Because she is a pop sensation, she is better able to spread her messages than almost anyone else. Not only her music, but even her clothing sends messages. And the messages she sends are ones of anti-bullying and being who you truly are. She has helped so many people in so many ways.

One value I share with Lady Gaga is determination. When she started, a lot of people told her that she was not good enough to be a singer. She did not listen to them and just continued trying. One of her professors at NYU told her that her voice was too “theatrical” to be a pop singer. I’m really glad she didn’t listen. Lady Gaga had other obstacles that her determination enabled her to overcome. Bullies once stuffed her in a trashcan, but she didn’t let any bullying get to her.

Also, she went through a period when she used cocaine. She soon realized that being a true artist would not include doing drugs and was able to quit. She tells all of her “little monsters,” which is what she calls her fans, what a bad experience it was and not to do drugs. She also struggled with bulimia. She said, “I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night.” It was hard, but because she was so determined to succeed, she got through her eating disorder and is now very confident about herself.

Another value that I share with Lady Gaga is family. She is very close to her mother, and stays in contact even when she is on tour. Her father has a restaurant named Joanna after his sister. Whenever Lady Gaga talks about how she started she says that her family was a big part of it. Even when she is mad at her mother, like the time her mom cut her hair when she was sleeping, the story behind the song, “hair”, she always loves her.

I also share the value of honesty with Lady Gaga. She is always honest about what she believes in and what she does. She doesn’t hide her beliefs just because they might not be considered right by other people. For example, after narrowly avoiding a big religious scandal over her “Judas” video, which some said had an anti-Catholic viewpoint, she decided to talk about it even more, saying, “The influence of institutionalized religion on government is vast. So religion then begins to affect social values and that in turn affects self-esteem, bullying in school, teen suicides, all those things.” She could have left the topic alone, but decided to share her opinion and risk more hate instead.

Lady Gaga does a lot of good. After the earthquake in Haiti, she donated all the money from one of her concerts and all the revenue from her online store for that day and raised about $500,000 for Haiti relief. When the tsunami happened in Japan she tweeted a link for Japanese prayer bracelets to her nearly 29 million followers that helped fund efforts to respond to the disaster. She also started a foundation called the Born This Way foundation that is helping so many people. Its mission is “to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated… creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world.”

Lady Gaga also worked with Viva Glam to create a lipstick and lip-gloss to help find a cure for AIDS and HIV. She says about the lipstick “I don’t want Viva Glam to be just a lipstick you buy to help a cause. I want it to be a reminder when you go out at night to put a condom in your purse right next to your lipstick.” Not only was this a statement about responsible conduct; she also gave all the money from the makeup to funds for research.

One of Lady Gaga’s biggest messages is about bullying. She feels strongly that bullying is wrong and should be stopped, and asks her little monsters to help her end bullying. She also tries to spread the message that when someone is bullied, they shouldn’t let it get to them. They should just continue being themselves and realize that they are better than anyone who is a bully. Sure, these may be common messages but Lady Gaga has the power to really spread them and she uses it. That’s what matters.

Lady Gaga wears some pretty different clothing. At first a lot of people thought she was crazy because of her eccentric clothing. Now people are more used to it. A lot of her clothing sends messages. For example, she wore an outfit made entirely of meat to the 2010 MTV awards. Earlier she had been with soldiers who had been discharged because of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. When asked about the dress she said “It is a devastation to me that I know my fans who are gay … feel like they have governmental oppression on them. That’s actually why I wore the meat tonight.” After saying this, Ellen DeGeneres, as a vegan with concerns for animal rights, addressed the topic and Lady Gaga said “It’s certainly no disrespect to anyone who’s vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth. It has many interpretations, but for me this evening, it’s ‘If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re gonna have as much rights as the meat on our bones.'”

Lady Gaga is an amazing role model with great messages. It doesn’t hurt that I love her music too. She has helped so many people and I hope will continue to do so. I love what she stands for and believe that she has changed the world. Not only does she donate to charities but she actually helps individual people. Help doesn’t have to be money. It can be anything, including the knowledge that someone believes in you. Through her messages, her foundation, and even the website she created, littlemonsters.com, where everyone supports each other, she has changed many lives. I hope to one day be able to make as big a difference in people’s lives as she does now.


“Sondheim and Einstein” by Caleb Klein
September 29, 2013

The Oxford dictionary defines “hero” as a person admired for great deeds and noble qualities, or is the chief character in a play or story who does great things. A “role model” is defined by the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy as “a person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate.”

To me, a hero is someone who you want to be like, and that you have great admiration for. A hero in stories is also a person who saves lives, or stops other lives from being harmed. Some of my favorite heroes from the storybooks are Hercules, Odysseus, Theseus, Perseus, Robin Hood, and Percy Jackson. A majority of these heroes are Greek, and have special qualities or powers. I added Robin Hood to this list because of his good will and quest for equality. My favorite of all of these is Theseus, because when he is old enough, he sets out to seek his father’s kingdom, and finds the people in despair. He volunteers to help them against one of the worst monsters in all of Greek mythology, the Minotaur. The value he has that makes him my absolute favorite hero is humility, because he steps out to help others and practically gave himself a death sentence, all for the sake of his father’s people, so he didn’t think of himself as more worthy than any other person who lived there.

In my view, a role model is someone you look up to, because they live lives that you think are amazing, and somehow their lives help you along the winding path of your life. I can determine if someone is a role model for me when I notice that I want to be similar to that person. For example, I want to have the creativity of J.K. Rowling, and the humility of Rafael Nadal.

For my role model paper, I have chosen to discuss two people: Stephen Sondheim and Albert Einstein, because they each reflect an intellectual passion of mine– theatre, literature, and music; and logic and scientific studies.

Stephen Sondheim was born in New York City on March 22, 1930 on the upper west side of Manhattan into a very troubled family. When his parents divorced, Stephen Sondheim and his mother moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he sewed dresses that his mother designed. While there he attended the New York Military Academy and George School, where he wrote his first play “By George!” at the age of ten. Around the time that his parents divorced, he became friends with James Hammerstein, son of the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who later on became one of his many role models. Stephen Sondheim hated his mother because he felt that she treated him like a servant. It is reported that when his friends once gave him a plate as a gift, he wrote back saying, “Thanks for the plate, but where’s my mother’s head?” Because of his troubled relationship with his mother, Oscar Hammerstein became like a second father to him, and this relationship got him started in his playwriting career.

In one of his most famous works, as the lyricist for West Side Story, he expressed the values of equality and acceptance. The whole story is about a lack of equality and acceptance between the Jets and the Sharks, or the Americans and the Puerto Ricans. This theme suggests to me that Stephen Sondheim, himself, may have experienced a lack of acceptance.

I admire Stephen Sondheim because he is never afraid to express his feelings in his work. For example, when he wrote Into the Woods, so many of the songs were about the characters’ experiences of growing up, like the songs, Giants in the Sky, I Know Things Now, On the Steps of the Palace, and It Takes Two. They all are about seeing the world from a new perspective that the characters never could have imagined before their experiences with giants, spells, the wolf, and unbelievable and difficult journeys. I imagine that at the point that he wrote these lyrics, he was remembering his own experiences as a child, and how difficult it was for him. This music reflects the values of courage, determination, creativity, and intellectual passion.

My other intellectual passion, science, is also an important part of my life. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists, was born in Ulm, Germany, March 14, 1879. He had a sister Maja, who was known as Maria. He led a fairly normal life until he dropped out of high school before he graduated in order to leave Germany. It is known that even though Einstein was one of the most amazing geniuses of modern times, he did not perform very well in school! So, after he left Germany, he joined his family in Italy, where he enrolled in a new school. He then moved to Switzerland and had his first child a year later, out of wedlock—which at that time was considered unacceptable, with his future wife, Mileva, and he later put his daughter up for adoption. He eventually divorced Mileva, and married his cousin, Elsa.

In 1915 he wrote his miracle paper on light quanta and relativity. He continued his career in scientific studies, but was interrupted during World War II. He moved to the USA, where his wife Elsa died. Three years after Elsa’s death he signed the letter to FDR urging research into the atomic bomb. After World War II his ideas were not believed to be true because he was Jewish, and they were called “Jewish ideas.” In 1952, he was offered the presidency of Israel, but he declined. Three years later he died of a ruptured aneurism at the age 76. His ashes are scattered along the Delaware River, and his brain is preserved for medical research.

Albert Einstein impresses me with his overpowering knowledge of physics, and all things scientific. What I truly admire about him is his ability to question things that hardly anyone could even think about, for example, when he questioned the science behind a solar eclipse. It is also very impressive how determined Albert Einstein was, that he still continued his work, despite his experiences of others doubting him. He also follows his intellectual passions because throughout all his hardships, he continued on with his work, and became the most famous scientist in the world.

Albert Einstein was a non-religious Jew, but when he was 12, he wanted a bar mitzvah and his parents, although they were non-practicing Jews, allowed him to begin his bar mitzvah preparations. While he was working on his bar mitzvah studies, he got involved in his early scientific studies. He began to feel that his scientific studies proved some of the bible stories to be impossible, so he soon decided to stop his bar mitzvah practice. Later, as an adult, even though he wasn’t a religious Jew, he still supported the Jewish people.

Stephen Sondheim had very little exposure to Judaism as a child. He had no bar mitzvah, and did not enter a synagogue until the age of 19. His mother, Etta Janet, despite a religious upbringing, wanted little to do with religion as an adult and therefore limited her son’s exposure to Judaism.

Throughout my experience writing this essay, I have learned many things about myself, and my religious beliefs. I also learned about my intellectual passions in researching these two people, for example, there is pain and suffering behind the scenes of creativity and invention, and concern about whether or not people will like what you create. I also learned what my role models think about Judaism, and I learned a little bit more about how I think about Judaism, myself. For example, Albert Einstein decided not to have a bar mitzvah because of his growing fascination with science and logic. But, he was still very supportive of the Jewish people, and still called himself “Jewish.” This affects me because I, myself, am not very religious either, but am still very affected by what happens to the Jewish people in the world, both today, and historically. Stephen Sondheim and Albert Einstein inspire me, and show me that you should not let go of your intellectual passions because they may turn out to be your greatest traits someday. I hope my intellectual passions turn out to be just as successful as theirs.

In conclusion, these two men, Stephen Sondheim and Albert Einstein, are famous people with strong passions. I look up to them as my role models because they are like the two halves of me, and I hope to follow in their footsteps, to create my own special career and follow my passions.


“Oprah Winfrey” by Samantha Streit
April 5, 2014

Oprah Winfrey explains that when someone receives, it is that person’s responsibility to give back. “When you learn, teach. When you get, give. That is how you change the world. One life, one family at a time.” I always try to follow these ideals, and Oprah is a true example of someone who actually lives these words. To some people, Oprah is a role model, someone who they want to be exactly like. However, Oprah is my hero. I might not want to be a talk show host or own a television network, but I do strive to apply the same values she teaches in my own life.

I admire Oprah’s ability to take risks (l’kee-khat see-koo-neem) and that is why she is a hero to me. She doesn’t care what other people say when they try to push her down. Oprah follows what her heart says and not what society tells her to do, and this is how I plan to live my life as well. Everything Oprah has done was a risk. Moving from a news reporter role to becoming a groundbreaking talk show host, performing as a leading actress, and running her own network helped her to become the richest African-American in the world. These are all risks that worked out and make Oprah my hero.

Hope (teek-va) is a value that Oprah and I both appreciate. Oprah lived through a horrible childhood and if she can still have hope in her life, everyone else can too. Oprah was born in Mississippi on January 29th, 1954. She lived in a poor neighborhood and her life was extremely difficult. Her 19-year-old cousin and other family members sexually abused her many times. In addition to being abused, she felt unloved by her mother, who never showed any affection towards her, and unwanted by her father, who abandoned her. She was treated differently because she had a darker skin color than her family members. Oprah used drugs at various points in her life, and even had a miscarriage after one family member impregnated her at fourteen. She lived with her grandma starting at age four and a half because her mother sent her away. However, her grandma helped to inspire her, give her confidence, and make her believe she could do and be whatever she wanted. Oprah’s grandma’s confidence in her gave her hope. Later on Oprah said, “There is always hope. I didn’t grow up in the projects, but I am the perfect example of someone who came up from zip.”

Oprah and I both remain hopeful through difficult situations even though they may differ. My grandma on my mom’s side passed away when I was ten and my grandpa on my mom’s side passed away when I was almost twelve. Though these situations were extremely difficult, I know my memories of them will always be with me. Staying hopeful about the future and reminding myself what my grandparents did for me and how much they loved me helped me deal with this loss. Additionally, when I hear about mass shootings or families destroyed by hurricanes, I know the affected people’s lives are shattered. I realize that I have an easy life and am fortunate. I appreciate my life more and hope that things will be okay for others. I stay positive and optimistic that life will proceed.

Another value that Oprah and I both believe in is education (chee-nuch). Though Oprah left Tennessee State University in 1975 without finishing her degree, she returned eleven years later in 1986 and received her honorary college degree and gave the commencement speech at graduation. She also donated eleven scholarships in her family’s name because Vernon Winfrey, the man that Oprah always considered to be her father, had always wanted her to finish her college education. Not many people would do that. Oprah thrives on providing education to all those in need. She began a foundation called the “The Oprah Angel Network,” which raises money for up to 127 projects, including education and literacy endeavors. One such project was building a school for girls in Africa. She even began a group for young underprivileged African-American girls called “The Little Sisters,” in which Oprah encouraged the girls in the group to set high standards and go for their goals. One of the two rules was to earn good grades. She wanted to show girls that they needed to have a solid education in order to succeed. Oprah said, “If you do not read or do math…if you drop out of school…And if you get D’s or F’s on your report card, you’re out of this group. Don’t tell me you want to do great things in your life if all you carry to school is a radio.” Although she may be strict, all Oprah wanted to do was push them to have the best life they could possibly have and she, as I do too, knows that education is an important key to the future.

Education and hope are crucial in life, but my passion for the arts (oh-mah-noot), supersedes both, and Oprah is a true champion of the arts. Oprah had her own television show for twenty-five years but wanted to achieve even more. She became the first African-American to buy her own show, and later, the first to own a television network. Oprah strived to achieve even greater things and began to act. She has said that she “feels unbelievably happy when she is acting.” When I go onto a stage, all I feel is joy. The stage, for me, is where I feel the most like myself. This is the same effect the camera has on Oprah.

Oprah received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, and earned two Emmy awards. When Oprah believed there were not many roles for African-American women, she bought the rights to the books Beloved, by Toni Morrison and Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, and she turned both into films. Her love of the arts, combined with her drive to succeed and risk taking, helped her do this. She created so many more opportunities for others (and for herself) to be a part of the arts. Acting and being on television are some of Oprah’s greatest passions and I will also continue to do what I love to do, act and be a part of productions.

Although Oprah is one of my heroes, like all people, Oprah has flaws. One flaw is that she doesn’t admit to failure. For example, her Little Sister’s group did not work out because she was too busy to give it the attention the way she intended, but Oprah would not give up or admit defeat. However, this group ultimately failed and it took Oprah a long time to let it go. Additionally, Oprah likes to publicize her charitable donations. She can hold grudges, like deciding not to have children due to her relationship with her mother. She was worried that horrible things would happen to her children, the same way they happened to her. She also can be known to exaggerate things for publicity, like details about her upbringing. It is okay for Oprah to have flaws because everyone does. She is a human and makes mistakes and I admire her for being able to fix her problems and move on despite these mistakes. She has learned from her flaws and continues to improve as a human being because of them.

From this and other aspects of Oprah’s life, there are lessons to be learned. Oprah is her own boss. This takes courage to do alone. Many people would lose confidence or stop trying after problems occur. Whatever Oprah dreams, she makes happen. I can imagine her going to sleep, creating a “to-do” list. Her “to-do” list is to not just “walk the dogs,” it is as incredible as “win an Academy Award” and Oprah works hard to make it happen. Even recently, Oprah refused to stop following her dreams after she was done being a talk show host. She followed through with her love of acting and created the Oprah Winfrey Network. She was the first talk show host to do so. Although the network had lower ratings than expected when it was first released, she was persistent and achieved her goals.

Tzedahkah, however, is the most important lesson that Oprah exemplifies. In Hebrew, Tzedahkah means, “giving back.” Oprah donates an immense amount of money in a variety of ways, such as giving her audience amazing gifts, supporting her family, creating schools, funding various projects, and more. When Oprah thinks about her career, she does not think about the money she earns. Rather, she thinks about the lessons she learned and shared, and how she can touch more lives and give more back.

It is clear that Oprah wants to live a life that can inspire and make a difference. Oprah is my hero for this reason. She has encouraged many to “live their best lives,” and said, “My goal is to uplift, encourage, and empower people. I make no bones about really wanting to make a difference in the world.” I hope that I, too, can be someone who inspires others and makes a difference. I want to be on this Earth for a reason.


“Ellen DeGeneres” by Anna Young
September 22, 2013

There are certain personal values that should fall into place when you’re picking a role model. Mine are humor, music, helping people, tradition, loyalty, diversity, creativity, and education. There’s one person that really sticks out in my mind with these traits: Ellen Degeneres. She’s definitely humorous, she’s creative and loves music, she cares about education and she’s always helping people, she’s loyal to her beliefs and uses her celebrity to fight for everyone to be treated equally.

Ellen started as a comedian in clubs. She then went on to have her own sitcom, Ellen. Now, she has her own comedy talk show. Ellen was sheltered growing up and says that nothing was talked about in her family. She didn’t even know the Vietnam War was going on. It is impressive that now she connects with the entire world. As she grew up she created her own life. Her life is different from her family’s; she is different from what she was raised to be.

One thing I admire about Ellen is that she always finds the light in the dark. She expresses important things with humor, which takes a lot of creativity. For example, in one monologue she talked about how BIC made “Pens for Her,” which came in pink and purple. She added, “Before that, we were only allowed to write in lipstick and tears”. She also talked about the new Honda car called “She’s,” The company claims it has a climate control system that improves your skin quality, and a windshield that prevents wrinkles. Ellen said, “I’m sure they’re already working on a newer model that dispenses Midol and has a built in GPS system that helps you find a man.” She talked about a new computer called the “Floral Kiss” that comes pre-installed with a scrapbooking app, and a daily horoscope checker. Ellen said, “I checked my horoscope, and guess what it said: today your progress as a woman will be set back 92 years.” Ellen uses comedy to get across her point that everyone should be treated equally.

I also love Ellen because she loves music, like I do, and she promotes new musicians. She had her own record label. Justin Bieber even made his U.S. television debut on Ellen.

Ellen is always helping people in need. She has invited many deserving people to the show. She has surprised them with things that they need most like a new car, money, or a house renovation. She has given people money for their kids to go to college. She has also given directly to underprivileged schools. Ellen definitely cares about education. She spent a whole month surprising teachers and principals with funds for their schools. Ellen has changed peoples’ lives by giving them things they depend on: money, shopping sprees, and things to keep the kids healthy. Ellen believes that people who are less fortunate should not be treated any differently than people who are fortunate. She has recently been helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy by rebuilding their houses.

Ellen DeGeneres is loyal to her beliefs. She doesn’t care what people say about her. If she wants to do something, she does it. Ellen was loyal to her beliefs when she came out publicly. She said she was tired of being ashamed of who she was and didn’t really know why she was ashamed. Her manager then said that if she was going to come out, her character on the sitcom should too. Ellen said that Disney thought that would be too big of a risk. She told Disney, “Please let me do this because I am the one risking here, you know you can just put another show on if it doesn’t work, but it’s my life…” She had a belief and she stood behind it, and because she stood behind it, others stood with her.

One day, Ellen’s monologue was about a group called “One Million Moms”. This group of women wanted people to stop shopping at JC Penny because Ellen, their spokeswoman, is gay. Now, I’m not gay but if I were in that position, where I was getting that much hate for something I didn’t really have the power to change, I might have stepped down from the job. But Ellen didn’t. She stood by her belief in equality and diversity, and a lot of other people joined her. In fact, many people said that they were going to shop at JC Penny even more often. She proved that if you stay loyal to a belief, you can help make change in the world. As Ellen grew older, she realized that she should not be ashamed of who she is. Ellen made it clear that she wanted to be treated equally for who she is.

I don’t know if I would call Ellen a women’s rights activist, because she helps people other than just women. But I can definitely call her someone who is making a difference for women. Because of Ellen’s sheltered background she didn’t even know that a women’s movement existed. However, now she has changed a lot of things for women, and she did that by using something she is good at: comedy. She uses comedy to make the serious topics she is dealing with more friendly and entertaining. We all know we pay attention more when ideas are presented in a way that keeps you engaged. Ellen uses comedy and people like her and are interested in what she is saying. She gets people to actually listen.

Almost all of my values fall into place with Ellen. She is humorous, she loves music, she’s always helping people, she’s loyal to her beliefs, she’s creative, and she cares about education. She uses the celebrity she has achieved to create a better world. She uses her power to show other people that they have their own power. She never gave up even when people doubted her, and that is why I admire Ellen DeGeneres.


“Sandy Koufax” by Alex Botwin
September 21, 2013

A hero is someone you admire, but don’t necessarily want to be like. A role model is someone you respect and want to emulate. I chose Sandy Koufax as my hero and role model because I admire and respect him. I also wanted to find someone who was an athlete who also had values that I could relate to. After researching Sandy Koufax, I realized we had similar backgrounds. We are both athletes and we are both baseball pitchers. Koufax also was very good at basketball, and I’m playing basketball for my school team this year. Koufax and I were both raised in Brooklyn and we are both Jewish. I also discovered that we have similar values; we stand up for what we believe in and we both believe in the fair treatment of others. Sandy Koufax never forgot someone’s kindness and if you were his friend you were his friend for life. Koufax never let his fame define him. He was a Jewish boy from Brooklyn when he started becoming famous, and he was that same Jewish boy when he was done.

So after all that, you may be saying to yourself, “Who is Sandy Koufax?” Well, Sandy Koufax was one of the greatest left handed pitchers to ever play the game of baseball. From 1961-1966, while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was unhittable. Willy Stargel, a great home run hitter for the Pittsburg Pirates at that time, said that trying to hit a Koufax fastball was like trying to drink coffee with a fork. Koufax wasn’t always a great pitcher, and in fact, when he first came up in the major leagues, he was awful. The funniest part of all of this is that he wasn’t even supposed to play baseball.

Let’s go back and start from the beginning. Sandy Koufax was a Jewish kid who grew up in Brooklyn, with his mother, Evelyn, and stepfather, Irving Koufax, who thought Sandy would be a doctor or a lawyer one day. They were not a very religious family and would only go to services on the High Holidays, but never on Friday nights. They observed Judaism more as a cultural practice than as a religion – sound familiar? As one of his high school classmates explained it, “You’re Jewish but you don’t hold it up. … You were Jewish because you were born Jewish. … Because you were from Brooklyn. … You were Jewish by osmosis. You grew up in a shtetl.” This non-observant stance made what he did later even that much more impressive.

Koufax was a great all-around athlete. He played basketball, as well as baseball, for Lafayette High School in Brooklyn; he even made the papers when his high school basketball team played the New York Knicks. The players on the Knicks had to knock him down in order to stop him from scoring, but there were rumors around that this Jewish kid from Brooklyn could also really throw a baseball. Koufax played baseball in the Brooklyn sandlot league. He originally played second base because he couldn’t hit very well, but later played pitcher when they needed someone to pitch. He never showed off or bragged about his talent; he just went out and did his best.

Major League Baseball scouts came to Dyker Field in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn to watch Koufax pitch to his friends in some sandlot games. One day Al Campanis, a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers, invited Koufax to Ebbets Field for a tryout with the team. After batting just one time against him, Campanis asked Koufax to join the Dodgers. The 19-year-old said yes and became a Brooklyn Dodger. His stepfather, Irving Koufax, really supported his desire to play professional baseball, and he was there when Koufax signed his Dodger contract. In his autobiography he mentioned his relationship to his stepfather and said, “When I speak of my father, I speak of Irving Koufax, for he has been to me everything a father could be.”

For the majority of his rookie season, Koufax spent most of his time on the bench. It was 1955, and the Dodgers had a shot to win the National League Pennant. Koufax was too unpredictable as a pitcher to play much. He couldn’t throw strikes and walked many players. He was over-throwing and had no control. Besides having trouble pitching, Koufax also kept to himself and didn’t have a lot of friends on the team. Many of his teammates made fun of him behind his back because he was Jewish. In the 1950s, just like today, there were very few Jews in baseball. This was one of the reasons why Koufax became close to the black players on his team like Jackie Robinson, Joe Black and Roy Campanella. He saw himself as a minority just as they were.

In 1957, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, but Koufax still struggled. In 1958 he threw more wild pitches than any other pitcher in baseball. He was also second in the number of walked batters in the National League. Koufax was frustrated by his lack of success but he kept trying. Finally in 1960, Koufax went to the Dodgers’ general manager, “Buzzie” Bavasi, and asked either to be traded or to be allowed to pitch every day. Buzzie put Koufax into the regular starting rotation with Don Drysdale and Don Newcombe, the aces of the LA Dodgers pitching staff. Buzzie hoped that they could show Koufax how to relax. It didn’t help, and at end of the 1960 season Koufax ended up with 8 wins and 13 loses. After the last game he threw his jersey away and considered quitting. During the offseason, Sandy Koufax decided to give baseball another chance. He worked out and refocused on becoming a better pitcher. Many years later he was asked why he came back for the 1961 season and he said, “I wanted to give it one more chance, I was determined to be the pitcher I knew I could be.”

At spring training 1961, Koufax showed up to play, but his performance was still the same, and by the end of spring training nobody knew what to do to help him. Then, in one preseason game against the Twins, when Koufax walked three batters in a row and loaded the bases, the catcher Norm Sherry walked to the mound and yelled at Koufax. He said, “Kid, just put it over the plate. Let ’im hit it. We got 9 guys on this team who can field.” Koufax must have heard those words 1,000 times, but for some reason this time it was different. He took those words to heart. He then struck out the next three batters with the fastest pitches he had ever thrown, and for the rest of the day Koufax pitched like an ace. He struck out 8 batters and threw his first no hitter. By the end of 1961, Koufax had broken the National League record of 269 strikeouts in a season. For the next 6 years, Koufax was the best pitcher in baseball, but after each game he had to ice his arm because it would swell up to the size of a grapefruit. Koufax had arthritis in his left elbow, which caused it to swell after each game. The arthritis got so bad that he was not even able to hold things in his left hand. He had numbness in his fingers, but he never missed a start in his entire career.

In 1965, the Dodgers went to the World Series. The first game fell on Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day for Jews, and Koufax was supposed to pitch. He decided that because he was Jewish, and Jews were not supposed to work on High Holy Days, he would not pitch in that game. He had not pitched on Yom Kippur in previous years but this time it fell on game 1 of the World Series. It wasn’t an act of defiance, it was his way of saying to the world that he was Jewish and this was what Jews do on Yom Kippur. He was not an observant Jew, and for the record, he didn’t even go to services that day — he just stayed in his hotel. He was not the first Jewish player not to play on Yom Kippur — in 1934, Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers did not play — but Koufax was the starting star pitcher for the Dodgers in the World Series, and he stuck to his principles. It made him a hero in the Jewish community by showing the world that it was okay to be Jewish and stand up for his beliefs. They talked about him at every temple that day. Rabbis now had a role model that they could hold up to their congregations and say, ” Look at Sandy Koufax, he is a successful baseball player and a good Jew!” It showed him as a man of character, because he stood up to the anti-Semitism of the time by doing what he believed was the right thing to do as a Jew. He once confided in a rabbi he knew and said,” I’m Jewish. I’m a role model. I want them to understand they have to have pride.”

At the end of the 1966 season, with a league-leading record of 27 wins, 9 losses, 317 strikeouts, 5 shutouts, 27 complete games and an ERA of 1.7, Koufax decided to retire. He had a choice to continue playing and possibly lose the use of his left arm or retire and keep it. So at the height of his career he retired. Soon after, he signed a ten-year contract with NBC to be an announcer for the Saturday baseball game of the week. He quit that job before the 1973 season. He spent many spring trainings in Dodger Town in Florida giving advice to young pitchers on how to throw the perfect fastball. Since the Dodgers moved their spring training facility to Arizona, Koufax spends time now with the Mets at Port St. Lucie. His high school friend Fred Wilpon is the owner of the Mets. He will still do occasional fundraisers for friends and former teammates but he never wanted to have his fame exploited.

I chose Sandy Koufax as my hero because he is a person of his word. He never compromised his beliefs, even if it meant making other people upset with him. He is a great friend to all that truly know him. Nobody has ever had a bad thing to say about him. I admire him because he didn’t play in the most important game of his career because Yom Kipper was on the same day. He started out as someone who was just a regular human being but became one of the greatest pitchers of all time. He never forgot where he came from and never forgot who his friends were. This is why Sandy Koufax is my hero.


“John Lasseter” by Jordan Hallerman
June 30, 2013

After discussing with Rabbi Peter what defines heroes and role models, I know that the two can have similar traits, but are not the same. Heroes are known for one act in which they were brave or heroic in a time of need. One example of a hero in our modern society is Captain Chesley Burnett Sullenberger, who is known for landing US Airways flight 1459 on the Hudson River. Captain Sully is a hero because of the heroic act he performed to save all of the people aboard the plane, before leaving the plane himself. He was the last one out, and his quick thinking saved everyone onboard.

A role model, on the other hand, is a different story. Role models are people who are admired for everyday things, like starting a charity, and raising money for a specific cause or making great advancements in a certain field. These are all the qualities of a role model, and qualities of people we may hope to be like. One example of a contemporary role model is Steven Spielberg. Mr. Spielberg is not only a great film maker, but he has used all of the profits from some of his biggest movies, like Schindler’s List, to donate to charities like the Shoah Foundation, which preserves stories of Holocaust survivors for the future. These examples show that a hero is admired for usually one heroic act, while a role model is someone who pursues a career that you may hope to have, as well as someone who represents your core values.
I knew when I first heard about this project that there were a lot of people to consider, since I had to pick either a hero or role model. Yet, for a large part of the process, I always had John Lasseter in the back of my head as a role model choice. He has been an inspiration for me ever since I could talk, and still is today. I picked him not only because he is a pioneer in the field in which I hope to have a career, but he is also a humanitarian, devoting his time to helping the cause of pediatric diabetes. He seems to embody my core values of hard work, determination, and family.

Ever since I could speak I have been a huge fan of Pixar and Mr. Lasseter in particular. When I was 3 and just starting Pre-K, my teachers asked my mother to bring in something to share with the class that told them a little about me. Some kids brought their favorite toy or book; instead, I brought in a whole presentation on Pixar, by printing out photos from their website. It didn’t stop there. For my whole life I have loved Buzz Lightyear. When I was younger, every time a new Buzz toy came out I had to get it, especially the one from Toy Story 2 with the blue belt. I remember going on movie websites with my dad reading articles on Toy Story 3, from it being postponed, to hearing that it was going to happen. I even got the special lamp that features Buzz skateboarding on a small red car. For Halloween, two years in a row, I went as Buzz Lightyear while my friends went as Power Rangers. I also saw the exhibit Pixar: 25 Years of Animation at MoMA when I was only 5 years old. Pixar has been my life for as long as I can remember. Now, I continue to follow Pixar through social media and magazines, eagerly awaiting every film and DVD release.

The creative director and co-founder of Pixar animation studios is Mr. John Lasseter. He was born in a little place called Hollywood, CA on January 12, 1957. Ever since he was little, John wanted to be an animator. He spent his childhood and teen years drawing and learning about animation, soon realizing that his love for the art would pay off. John finally got his big break when he was hired by Disney Animation. There he witnessed the development of one of the first computer animated movies: TRON. John Lasseter was incredibly fascinated by this new wave of entertainment and spent his days at Disney thinking of innovations to advance the animation world, which had always been done in 2d. Sadly, before he got the chance to begin testing his ideas, John Lasseter was released from Disney, with a dream and no job. Yet, he didn’t give up; instead, he kept on moving forward. Over the next 10 years, Mr. Lasseter would meet such visionaries as Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull, who helped him push towards this new way to make an animated feature.

In 1986, Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm Computer Graphics and turned it into what would become Pixar Animation Studios. From then on Pixar created such acclaimed films as Toy Story, and Monsters Inc., winning countless animation awards and grossing millions. John Lasseter had finally achieved his dream of creating the first computer animated film, and more.

In addition to his work, Mr. Lasseter lives with his wife Nancy Lasseter and their 5 sons ranging in age from 14 to 33. In 2003 Mr. Lasseter’s 9-year-old son Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. “It’s something that no parent ever wants to hear,” he said. “To hear that your son or daughter has a life-threatening, lifelong disease—news like that just shakes your world.” Mr. Lasseter and his wife spent the next several weeks researching Type 1 Diabetes. “I wanted to know the whole history of diabetes,” Mr. Lasseter said. “I wanted some perspective on how far we have to go to find a cure. Looking at Sam, who was so scared….as a parent, it just rips your heart out. That feeling, that moment, I still haven’t been able to shake it. One of the things you go through is to think, ‘Man! If there’s a way I can do anything so this doesn’t happen to other families in the future, then I’m there! Just show me what I can do!”

Soon all of Mr. Lasseter’s Pixar colleagues began sharing their own diabetes experiences and support. One important friend of Mr. Lasseter was John Ratzenberger. Mr. Lasseter said, “John (Ratzenberger) helped out a lot with emotional support. We talked a lot, and he started introducing us to a lot of great people. It’s a wonderful community, the people who are working for a cure for diabetes.”

After Sam was diagnosed, John and Nancy Lasseter quickly decided to use their future films as a means of helping to raise money and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Through different events, such as a $500-a-seat dinner and auction at Pixar Studios, which was highlighted by a sneak peek at “Finding Nemo”, Mr. & Mrs. Lasseter were able to raise nearly a million dollars for various diabetes foundations.

Mr. Lasseter’s success is a product of hard work and determination, two of my personal values. In the words of John Lasseter himself, “I believe in the nobility of entertaining people and I take great, great pride that people are willing to give me two or three hours of their busy lives.”

His actions as a father assured me that he was someone that I could call a role model. John Lasseter knew he wanted to do something at a very young age, and he didn’t stop until he achieved that goal. I hope to do the same thing when I grow up, by being an animator, and the kind of person who will always be there for my family and friends.


“Helen Keller” by Mazal Kaplan Karlick
June 22, 2013

For many Bar and Bat Mitzvah students beginning the hero/role model essay involves researching and investigating many people before they identify one who can be their hero or role model. But for me, it was easy! Helen Keller has always been my hero! It began when I was in kindergarten and Ms. Farkus read us a story about Helen Keller. Since then, I wanted to read more, and I wanted to know more about Helen Keller’s life. She remained my hero since I was little, because I always admired her actions. She was courageous overcoming many obstacles during her life. It is unusual for a person to stay someone’s hero for so many years except when they make a big impact on their life, like Helen Keller had on me. She changed the way I think about blind and deaf people because now when I see someone who is blind and deaf, I think about all that Helen Keller accomplished. She changed my behavior towards others too. Once I saw a man who was blind and deaf, on my way home from my friend’s house. Rather than ignore him, I tried to help him. Helen Keller helped people and believed in people just like her teacher Anne Sullivan believed in her. Anne believed in Helen Keller, and as a result, she accomplished many achievements.

Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27th, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. In 1882, she became ill with a very high fever and as a result she became blind, and deaf, and because of this she couldn’t learn to speak. She was so frustrated by not being able to communicate, she often became aggressive. On several occasions, she became violent and almost killed both of the family servants by choking them. As a result, her father and other family members wanted to put her in an asylum, an offensive term for an institution for people with psychiatric disorders. Helen Keller’s mother, however, did not want her to go to an asylum. She read about the rehabilitation of another deaf and blind girl and believed her daughter could be helped as well. She contacted Alexander Graham Bell who was involved with education and the Oralist movement. The Oralist movement worked to reintegrate deaf and blind people into society by teaching them to read lips through touch, by placing their fingers on the lips and throats of the speaker and spelling words into their hands with a manual alphabet. Alexander Graham Bell told Mrs. Keller to contact the Perkins Institute to look for a teacher. The Director recommended Anne Sullivan, who in 1887 was hired to teach Helen Keller.

From my research about Anne Sullivan, I discovered that unlike Helen Keller, who grew up rich, Anne grew up poor, living in a poorhouse as a child. Anne Sullivan was blind due to untreated Trachoma, which is a bacterial infection we call Pink Eye. In 1880 she was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind. She was at the Perkins School for 6 years. While she was there, the teachers had to help her learn to control her behavior. The teachers also recognized that she was smart and encouraged her to tutor younger students. While she was there, she had eye surgery and became partially sighted. She graduated as the valedictorian of her class at age twenty. The Director of her school offered her the opportunity to travel to Alabama to become the instructor of a deaf and blind six-year-old girl named Helen Keller. Anne Sullivan agreed to become Helen’s teacher and stayed with her for the next 47 years, becoming her lifelong companion.

Ms. Sullivan helped Helen Keller to begin to learn to speak and communicate with others. It was very hard but she finally did it. In the late 1880’s to 1890’s there was much discrimination against blind and deaf people. That is why Helen Keller’s success was so courageous. Standard views at the time were that blind and deaf people were disabled and should be put in an asylum. This is what gave her father the idea. However, with the assistance of Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller was able to conquer her obstacles, living a good long life as an educator, activist, and journalist. She taught at many schools for the deaf. Helen Keller died on June 1st, 1968.

Helen Keller overcame discrimination by learning language so she could do things that hearing and seeing people could do, like read and write. She overcame limitations by learning sign language, by learning to read and write Braille, and also learning to speak. She attended Radcliffe College, which is a college for speaking people, and graduated in 1904.

Then Helen Keller helped other people overcome discrimination. She helped them realize disabilities don’t define you. Helen Keller helped others by making speeches around the world. On her 1937 world tour she gave 97 speeches in 39 cities. She traveled across five continents and 35 countries. She worked with an organization called the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind, which in 1977 changed its name to the Helen Keller Institute. Helen Keller worked to treat blindness, and worked on blindness prevention around the world. She also helped create one standard “language” for books. Braille was one of 5 different systems of raised print, but in 1931 she helped make Braille the universal system. By educating speaking and blind and deaf people about everything a disabled person could do, she worked to help sighted people overcome their discrimination against blind and deaf people. This helped empower the disabled to believe that they were capable of becoming whatever they want to be. She also fought for women’s right to vote, child labor laws, and birth control. She was a public socialist so the Nazis burned her books. The FBI monitored her in the McCarthy era, but her disabilities protected her from public denunciation.

Helen Keller accomplished a lot in her lifetime. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904, when few women went to college. She became a socialist, a suffragist, an activist, a journalist and an advocate for the handicapped. She wrote a book about her life. She was an educator at many schools including The School for Young Ladies, and Radcliffe College. She also helped found the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is a national organization working to protect individual freedoms and rights through public education, advocacy, and through legal action. Founded in 1920 to fight against unlawful searches and seizures occurring in the aftermath of World War I, it still exists today to protect individual liberties.

Helen Keller was not without flaws. She could be naïve. Sometimes she seemed to care more for ideals like peace and justice than she did for people. She denounced capitalism, but she liked to live well; she was beautifully groomed and her homes had fine furnishings. Right after the death of her companion, Polly Thompson, Helen Keller, angry that Polly had left her out of her will, began wearing Polly’s $8,000 mink coat.

Helen Keller’s groundbreaking actions serve as inspiration for other blind and deaf people. With her as a role model, many disabled people are able to pursue different careers including becoming artists and musicians. Some musicians include Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder. I was so surprised when Ilana, my mentor, told me that Stevie Wonder is blind. I saw him on TV at the Billboard music awards when he won the Icon award. He performed, and then received his award. He looked at the audience, the award presenter and the award. It all looked so natural. My not realizing he was blind until weeks later when Ilana told me that he was blind, and we watched it on YouTube, highlights how well he blends in and functions like a sighted person. That is great and shows how far blind people have come thanks to the foundation laid by Helen Keller.

As you can see Helen Keller is a hero because she has helped many people and she had a great productive life. Her accomplishments inspire me to help others who are less fortunate than I am. But mostly she inspires me to be the most that I can be. To me that’s her most heroic quality!!


“RuPaul” by Adrianna Keller Wyman
June 15, 2013

Though heroes and role models are often seen as being the same, they actually are quite different. A hero is a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities, or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. Heroes and role models aren’t perfect; they can have flaws.

The person I chose to write about is RuPaul. Some of the values he has in common with me are creativity, freedom, and hard work. Some more of his values are respect, courage, fairness, humor, self-acceptance, and truthfulness. To learn about his life and values, I read his autobiography, “Lettin’ It All Hang Out.”

RuPaul is the first drag queen to be well known in mainstream culture. His current show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” recorded the highest-rated series premiere in Logo’s history. RuPaul was also signed to a modeling contract for MAC Cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel.

RuPaul was born November 17th, 1960 as RuPaul Andres Charles, in San Diego. His parents divorced when he was seven. His family was poor and his mom was very violent. RuPaul was teased a lot growing up. People called him a sissy and made fun of him for being feminine. When he was little, he knew something about him was different from everyone else, he just didn’t know what.

When he was fifteen, RuPaul moved from San Diego to El Cajon with his sister Renetta and her husband Lawrence. He didn’t fit in at his high school at all. The next year, Lawrence decided to move them to Georgia, where RuPaul started going to the Northside School of Performing Arts. It was the first time he had been around people like him.

One of RuPaul’s big flaws is his former drug abuse. He started smoking marijuana when he was ten, and continued into his twenties. When he lived in New York City during the 80’s, he also used other drugs and drank.

RuPaul’s life has been one creative project after another. It seems to be the value that his whole life is based upon. His life was unhappy until he started at the performing arts high school, were he was with other black students and other kids who were artistic. It was here that he also started wearing clothes that he had made. In his autobiography, RuPaul wrote, “I would think nothing of going to school in stripes, plaid, and a cowboy hat.”

Since graduating, RuPaul has worked in almost every aspect of the performing arts. One success from his long career is his music. He has released many albums and singles. It impresses me that he can write all of these songs, and in addition has had so many other creative outlets, including writing two books. He is definitely a very talented, inspiring, and creative musician and songwriter.

His most recent big accomplishment is his show “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, which is now in its 6th season. It features drag queens competing in different challenges for the crown and title of America’s next drag superstar. On the show, RuPaul often finds ways to help the contestants to deal with issues that have to do with being drag queens. For example, several contestants spoke to him about being bullied while growing up and about difficult relationships with their families. Stories like this remind me of the stories I heard about my own family during the time of the Holocaust. The contestants on the show were often bullied or put down for being different – my family was mistreated for being Jewish.

The second value RuPaul represents for me is hard work. Until RuPaul became a superstar, he never had it easy. For example, when he was 15, RuPaul left his mother so that he could make a better life for himself.

When he was 21 and living in Atlanta, he wanted to be on TV, so he wrote to a public access show and convinced them to let him perform. Not only was RuPaul hard working, he was also driven. He also became an actor in The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Atlanta, formed a musical group called the Uhauls, and was in movies.

When he knew he needed to be in New York City, he worked a lot of low paying jobs in order to follow his dreams. He worked as a coat check, started Disco 88 nite at the Pyramid Club, became a go-go dancer in drag and appeared on TV, sang and made several albums, and was featured in the famous documentary film, Wigstock, which led to big opportunities that propelled him into the public eye. This is inspiring to me because hard work is an important value to me and my family. When I moved to New York in 2008, I had difficulty making friends, but I worked hard at it and after a while I had a good group of friends.

RuPaul represents my value of freedom because he has always pushed to be himself no matter what other people thought of him. He followed his own dreams instead of doing what other people expected. He became a dancer, dressed flamboyantly, and wore makeup, things that were considered traditionally female. He started to dress in drag and moved around a lot to pursue his dreams.

RuPaul definitely helps people, especially young people, who are dealing with issues of gender. If people feel that they are different and are having trouble fitting in with gender rules, it can help them to see someone like RuPaul being well known, mainstream and accepted for who he is. Though he dresses up in drag, he sometimes also performs as a man. RuPaul was the first drag queen to really get famous and introduce more people to the world of drag.

RuPaul has his flaws. Nevertheless, I still believe he is a good role model for me. We have many values and beliefs in common, and I look up to him a lot. He inspires me to be myself and do what I want to do no matter what other people think. For example, I dye my hair even though some people don’t like it. He shows me that if you work towards a goal and don’t give up or get discouraged, it can be possible. After writing this paper, I think that RuPaul is definitely more of a role model for me than a hero. He is a real person, someone to be emulated. In time, he knew what he wanted and who he wanted to be and did it. He is my inspiration.


“Miep Gies” by Yelena Keller-Wyman
June 15, 2013

The terms, “heroes” and “role models” are often interchangeable. In reality, a hero does one brave or “heroic” thing and a role model represents values that you agree with and uses them throughout their life. That is not to say that someone cannot be both a hero and role model.
A woman named Miep Gies is both a hero and role model to me. Gies was a gentile (non-Jew) who hid Anne Frank and her family during the Holocaust. She was a hero to the Frank family, along with the others she helped to hide. Although this doesn’t directly affect me, I still feel that this was a very heroic and brave act. She is a role model to me because I respect her values and share some with her. Miep Gies has many values that make her a role model and hero.

Miep Gies had a very interesting life. She was born in Vienna, Austria in 1909. However, she was sent to the Netherlands when she was 11 years old , after the First World War, because Miep Gies was undernourished and wasting away. A family , strangers, took her in. She was supposed to have only stayed for 3 months, but ended up staying for another 3 months, and another 3, and so on, and never went back. These people became her family. When Miep was 24, in 1933, she started working for Otto Frank. She had met her future husband, Henk, earlier in her life and had kept in touch. In 1937, Miep and Henk were invited for dinner at the Franks’ house. It was there that she met Anne and her sister Margot, and Otto’s wife Edith. Although Miep Gies was not Jewish, she did not support Hitler and his ideas.

In 1940, Miep, still working at Travies and Company with Otto Frank, moved with the company to a new location. This is where the Frank family would later hide. Also that year, Hitler and his German soldiers were attacking Holland. Miep and Henk found rooms to live in, which they rented from a Jewish woman. Miep had been asked to join a girl’s Nazi group, but she refused. Because of this, she either had to return to Vienna in 3 months or marry a Dutchman. She and Henk had wanted to marry, so they decided to get married soon and did so on July 16, 1941.

Anti-Jewish laws had already been passed in Holland. In 1941, a new law was passed. All Jews had to have a ‘J’ on their identity cards. They weren’t allowed to have pet pigeons, which could be used to carry messages, or have access to their bank accounts. Jewish children had to go to separate Jewish schools. Some people, including Miep, were not happy with these new rules. She felt the Germans were trying to isolate the Jews and force them into poverty. In July of 1942, Margot Frank got a postcard saying that she was being shipped off to a work camp. The Franks decided to go into hiding. Miep and Henk helped to carry what they needed to their hiding place, which was in the storage rooms in the back of the office building. Meip started bringing supplies to them. She was risking her life. If a non-Jew was caught helping to hide a Jew, they could be killed. Miep wanted to help them anyway.

Miep helped the Frank family and the others in hiding throughout their time in the annex. She brought them food even when she could barely get enough food for herself and Henk. She brought them news. Miep helped other Jews find places to hide. She and Henk even housed someone for some time. All of these were putting her and Henk’s lives at risk, but they did it anyway. She was one of the Franks’ only contact with the outside world. She was their lifeline. She didn’t just keep them alive, she tried to make their time as enjoyable as possible. Miep brought them presents, slept over, and answered all of their questions. She allowed them to live and gave them hope.
Unfortunately, their good luck ran out. On August 4, 1944, a German man came with a gun. He knew about the Jews in hiding. He took the Franks along with others who were hiding there, but he let Miep go. The Jews were taken to concentration camps. Miep went upstairs to the annex and collected Anne’s diary and other papers. She didn’t read them; she put them away for when Anne came back. Unfortunately, only Otto Frank made it back. Miep gave him the writings and he later published them.

Miep helped Jews and sympathized with them even though she wasn’t Jewish. I think being taking in by strangers when she was just a girl and in need of help caused her to want to help others, regardless of who they were. Her brave actions show many important values, including equality. I also believe in the value of equality. Miep Gies treated everyone the same, even the people who others were treating unfairly. This showed that Miep believed in equality. Miep also exhibited charity. She helped people who were less fortunate than she and thus kept them alive for many years. Miep also lied when necessary. This kept her and the people she was hiding alive. It was illegal to help to hide a Jew. She was breaking the law and lying to the government. However, lying is sometimes necessary. Miep put so many people before herself. She was feeding 10 other people when it was hard enough to get food for one. These are some values that illustrate why Miep Gies is a hero, role model, and a personal inspiration to me.


“Bette Midler” by Georgia Dahill-Fuchel
June 9, 2013

“role model n.
A person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate.” For me, Bette Midler is a role model. We share some of the same values and interests, and I admire her for her charity work and accomplishments. Bette Midler is a triple threat. She is an amazing singer and actress, and of course during those two journeys, she has also danced. She is not known for dancing, but she has dance experience. Me, I am a dancer. I dance six days a week and have performed a number of times. I relate to Bette Midler because we both love sharing our different gifts with the world.

Bette Midler grew up in Hawaii with her parents and her siblings. Bette Midler was named after Bette Davis, however her mother spelled Bette wrong so now we know her to be Bette Midler.
As a teenager she went to Radford High school. In 1961, she was voted most talkative! She attended The University of Hawaii and majored in Drama, but only for three semesters. She did not graduate.

In 1966, Bette played an extra on a movie called “Hawaii” in which she had to play someone who was seasick. She relocated to New York City with the money she made from “Hawaii”. Unfortunately, New York did not have a friendly greeting for Bette; while performing, her sister Judith came to see her and was hit and killed by a taxi. This was a hard time for Bette. She remained in New York and continued developing her career.

Bette Midler is Jewish. She felt that Hawaii was an anti-Semitic place. Their family was the only Jewish family in her neighborhood. Growing up there, feeling like an outsider must have been difficult. Despite that stress, Bette Midler still seemed to do pretty well for herself. She does a fabulous Sophie Tucker impression for which she is quite famous. In fact, her own daughter is named after Sophie Tucker. Her daughter’s name is Sophie Frederica Alohilani von Haselberg. Bette Midler married Martin Von Haselberg in December 1984, and Sophie was born in November 1986. Sophie graduated from Yale in 2008 with a degree in Sociology. Not too shabby, I might say.
Bette Midler has had an amazing career singing, in movies, and on Broadway. Interestingly, the gay community helped her get her start as a singer. She was known for singing at the Continental Baths in New York City. She got a nickname singing there: Bathhouse Bette. It was a bathhouse where gay men went. This is where Bette Midler was discovered for her singing talents.

Many, many people adore her voice. Some of my favorite songs are: Wind Beneath my Wings, From a Distance, and Friends. These songs are beautiful and have a lot of meanings. I interpret From a Distance to be about setting your goal, and seeing where you are now, and realizing how to get there. In the song, she sings, “From a distance, there is harmony.” To me, that is saying that in the present there is no harmony, however, if you press the zoom out button and step back for a second, you can see that in the future, harmony can exist. In Wind Beneath my Wings, she sings “It must have been cold there in my shadow, to never have sunlight on your face.” That is the first line in the song. To me, this means that even if you are treated better than someone else or you are recognized more than that other person, the person who is not being recognized may mean a lot to you.

The amazing thing about abstract songs is that they create an opportunity for anyone to digest the lyrics and express what the song means to them. Bette Midler’s work is meant not only to listen to but also to inspire. When I listen to Wind Beneath My Wings, I start relating the lyrics to my life. I think about who is my hero in my life, rather than “wow, this music is pretty.” I think about if I am the wind beneath someone else’s wings, or who I am supporting, or is there someone I barely talk to who I have made an impact on?

Bette Midler’s first breakthrough movie role was as Janice Joplin in The Rose. However, the first role she ever played was Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway in 1965. She has also been in lots of movies; some of my favorite movies are Outrageous Fortune and First Wives Club, which are hilarious. Bette Midler is the exotic plump person she is in these movies and I love watching her in them.

Bette is an amazing performer. She has similar characteristics that she brings to most roles she plays. For instance, she walks a certain kind of way. A little bit like a pretty poodle. She speaks a certain way, with a kind of freedom and wildness. These small things make a big difference in her characters. They make her funny. The best word I can think of for Bette Midler is “exotic”: a foreign animal ready to pounce on opportunity for greatness. People say that both my brother and I have great presence on stage. While watching Bette Midler, I can definitely say that she has lots of presence.

Bette Midler supports gay rights and marriage equality, just like I do. I think anyone should be able to love who they want and marry who they want without anyone breathing down their neck all the time about it. Bette Midler actually wrote a very powerful letter to George Bush about marriage that is available on the Internet if anyone would like to read it.

Bette has done lots of charity work. She is most famous for founding the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995, and she still leads that organization today. The NYRP helps revive parks and places that need to be restored, for instance low-income areas. This is a very successful and effective organization. Bette Midler actually said, “I was so upset; I didn’t sleep for weeks… People were throwing their garbage out the window, leaving their lunches on the ground. Finally, I realized I needed to actually do something – even if it meant picking up trash with my own two hands.” Bette saw an opportunity and seized it.

Bette Midler and I share lots of characteristics. We are both Jewish, we perform, and both support gay rights and marriage equality, and probably more that I don’t even know about yet. She is an amazing actress, singer, mom, and more. She has done important charity work with the NYRP; also she has done some valuable AIDS work. She is my personal role model for all of these accomplishments.


“John Wooden” by Lily Edelman-Gold
April 20, 2013

Some people don’t know the difference between a role model and a hero. Well, this is how I think of them: Role models are people you want to be like when you grow up because they share pretty much the same values as you; heroes are people you think have done many great things, and you admire them, but you don’t necessarily want to be like them.

When I began thinking about my role model, it was during basketball season at school, and my coach recommended a book for me by a guy named John Wooden. I read the book and loved it. It seemed to say all the right things. I wanted Wooden to be my role model, and after a little research, my mentor agreed.

I chose Coach Wooden as my role model not because he won so many college championships–ten–or because he loved basketball and was really good at it; it was because of what he believed, how he acted on his beliefs, and how he encouraged others to live their lives guided by his beliefs. He developed an entire philosophy of how to live your life, the Pyramid of Success, which people around the world have adopted as their own.

John Wooden was born on October 14, 1910, in Indiana. He went to Martinsville High School, and when he was a junior, his basketball team won the state championship. He continued his playing career at Purdue University. In 1932, the year he graduated, he was not only voted the best athlete in college basketball, but he was also in the top half of 1% in his class. After graduating, he played professional basketball for seven years. In 1948, he started coaching basketball at UCLA.

In his career at UCLA, Coach Wooden won 885 games and lost only 203. He is the only person in the Basketball Hall of Fame twice: as both a player and a coach.

The biggest influence on Coach Wooden was his dad, who worked hard for most of his life, which is why one of the coach’s values is Hard Work. Coach Wooden was very committed to his job as a basketball coach, but he believed that hard work in school came before basketball requirements.
When Wooden was younger, his dad had given him a notecard with six points on it. These six things were: Be True to Yourself, Make Each Day Your Masterpiece, Help Others, Drink Deeply from Good Books, Make Friendship a Fine Art, and Build a Shelter Against a Rainy Day. Wooden used this as a foundation for his coaching and teaching philosophy.

John Wooden was always ahead of his time in fighting racism. In the 1940s he recruited the first black player for his team at Indiana State. However, when the NAIA (the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) invited his team to their tournament, he refused because they wouldn’t let the black player come. The same thing happened the next year. The third year, the NAIA finally agreed that the player could compete and the team went to the tournament.

The John Wooden Pyramid of Success is a pyramid with five blocks on the bottom. Each block has a certain value, and when you have mastered all the values together, you have completed that level and you move on to the next one. The bottom five blocks are industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm. The next level is self-control, alertness, initiative, and intentness. The middle level is made up of condition, skill and team spirit. The next two are poise and confidence. The idea is that if you master all of these, you get to the top and final one, competitive greatness. Competitive greatness means being your best when your best is needed, and enjoying a difficult challenge. Years later, Coach Wooden added two more blocks at the top, faith and patience.

All of the blocks on the pyramid are important, but these are the ones that I think matter the most: Enthusiasm, Self-Control, Team Spirit, and Confidence.

Without enthusiasm, there is no desire to win. Sometimes practices are boring and workouts are hard, but you need enthusiasm to get through them.

Self-control is very important because otherwise you can lose concentration. It’s important to learn to channel frustration into a determination to win instead of, say, kicking the bleachers or overthrowing a shot.

One of the most important values to me is team spirit. It’s sort of the same as enthusiasm. In sports, or anything that involves teamwork, no one is going to get anywhere without team spirit. In our school, we have a day at the end of the year called Rainbow Games. There is one color for each team, and the whole idea is to use teamwork to win challenges. Teams make up chants, paint their faces, and do everything else imaginable to promote team spirit. Team spirit is fun, but it also means members have to work together and help one another.

I think Confidence is also important because you cannot hide in the corner your whole life. You need some self-confidence to be a successful person. Without confidence, you don’t have anything to rely on while trying to be brave. Confidence and bravery go together. An example of someone who doesn’t have confidence is a person who is on a team and doesn’t try hard because she isn’t confident of her skills.

A very important value that Coach Wooden and I share is teamwork. It might not have been on the pyramid, but Coach Wooden gave handouts to his players about the importance of it. He knew that without teamwork, you couldn’t get anywhere in life, and you need other people to help you along the way. I think the same way. For example, the setup of a soccer field ensures that if the ball gets past the forwards, then you have the midfielders right behind, then the defense, and then still, the goalie. It all has to do with teamwork.

John Wooden won many awards in the course of his career, including the Bellarmine Medal of Excellence (he was the first sports figure to win this; other people it was awarded to include Mother Teresa and the Reverend Jesse Jackson), the Whitney M. Young, Jr., National Urban League Memorial Award for Humanitarianism, and the United States Medal of Freedom. He was also named Father of the Year in 1964, and Grandfather of the Year in 1987.

The John Wooden Award was created in 1976 and is given to the country’s best college basketball player who is on track to graduate with at least a C average. Previous winners include Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, and Maya Moore. Since the award was created, it has contributed almost a million dollars toward scholarships and has sent more than 1,000 underprivileged children to college basketball camps.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the greatest basketball players ever, played under Coach Wooden. Jabbar says in his autobiography, “He wanted to win, but not more than anything. . . . The coach insisted on unselfishness. . . . His consistent message was that each of us must do his best; the win, and ultimately any championship would take care of itself. No team could beat us, but we could beat ourselves. . . . My relationship with him,” Jabbar adds, “has been one of the most significant of my life. He believed in what he was doing and in what we were doing together. He had faith in us as players and as people. He was about winning basketball and winning as human beings… He taught us that doing the best you are capable of is victory enough.”

John Wooden died on June 4, 2010, at the age of 99.

Here are six of my favorite things that John Wooden said:
1. You may make mistakes, but you are not a failure until you start blaming someone else.
2. Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.
3. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
4. Happiness begins where selfishness ends.
5. Forget favors given, remember those received.
And:
6. The smallest good deed is better than the greatest intention.

John Wooden was an outstanding coach, a loyal son, and a great father. He was probably the best basketball coach ever. I admire him for all those things, but most of all, I admire him for his values and all that he did in his life.


“Amanda Hocking” by Olivia Alcabes
November 17, 2012

Each one of us admires someone in our lives, and normally there’s someone who admires us. It almost seems that human beings have something genetically coded into their DNA to copy the actions of others in order to improve ourselves. We see these people as heroes, role models, and trailblazers.

To be a hero means to do something that helps other people. It may not teach them anything, but it does help them. Sometimes, the act might be saving someone’s life, career, or family, or it could be other smaller actions. To be a role model means that others look up to you and want to be like you. It’s like a little kid, who, when she “grows up” wants to be like her mother. There are many different reasons someone might be a role model, and a lot of the time not everything about the person is admirable.

Also, there are trailblazers. They are people who, in a metaphorical sense, cut down the branches to set a trail for others to go through. They not only get through it themselves, but make it easier for everyone else behind them as well.

When I was choosing who my role model would be, I knew I wanted to choose someone strong. I wanted someone who could accept help, but didn’t necessarily need it in order to get what they want or need. That’s what I want to be like. I want to be able to take matters into my own hands and still come out with the desired result. Some of my values go along with that, like determination and independence. Also, when I get older, I want to be a writer. It seems only fitting that I should try to find a writer who is independent and determined and able.

In early 2011, I found an article about a young writer, Amanda Hocking, and began to read some of her books. Most of them are paranormal teenage dramas, and after reading one, I was hooked. When it came to thinking about role models, not only was Amanda a good writer, but the actions she took to become a successful author displayed the values of determination and independence.

I chose Amanda Hocking to be my hero/role model because she shares many values with me, like determination, independence, and most importantly, creative writing. At the beginning of her career, Amanda had a job that had nothing to do with writing – she was a group home worker until 2010 and lived off very little pay. Still, there was something special about her. She wanted to write. In Amanda’s spare time, she wrote a variety of novels and sent them to many different publishing houses, but no one would purchase them. She was constantly rejected. Finally, Amanda gave up on traditional publishing methods. She learned about self-publishing, and thought that with the Kindle out she might have a shot. It was a few years ago, when there was only the Kindle, not the variety of other e-readers that exists today.

So little by little, Amanda Hocking began turning her stories into ebooks. It started out slowly, with only a few sales a day, but before long people began to talk and ebooks began to be bought and Amanda began selling books. Really selling books. Suddenly, there were articles written about her, the “overnight sensation”. Her book, Switched, got onto the New York Times bestseller list, a personal dream of hers, and Amanda became a millionaire. It was then that the traditional publishers took notice and saw that Amanda Hocking was an author to watch. Her perseverance paid off. A bidding war took place, with many of the publishers who had rejected her now taking an interest. Amanda signed a contract, made a deal, and finally there were paper books in stores with her name on them.

In January 2012 I went to Amanda’s first book signing. There, I talked to her and gave her my email address. In March I sent her a few questions that I thought could help me write this paper. It was really cool to meet her and to talk to her, and I appreciate that she took some time to answer my email.

Amanda’s own role models have been consistent through her life. She looks up to her mom and is very inspired by Jim Henson (the creator of the Muppets). Actually, the reason Amanda put her first book on Amazon.com was so that she could raise enough money to go to a Jim Henson exhibit in Chicago.

When I asked Amanda about being a hero, a role model, or a trailblazer, she said that she actually didn’t feel like any of them. She said, “I feel like someone who likes to write, and who hopes other people enjoy what I write.” Unlike other people who could let the fame and fortune go to their heads, Amanda is really just doing what she always wanted to do – write, and have other people read it. I asked her what she would be doing if ebooks and self-publishing had never been developed, and she said, “I know if I wasn’t published yet, I would still be writing. I’ve always had to write, so that definitely wouldn’t have stopped.” This is another reason I think of her as a role model – for her, the fame and fortune are just little details of living her dream. She values Creative Writing, as do I.

To me, Amanda Hocking isn’t necessarily a hero. She didn’t do some great act of goodness that helped many people; her writing mostly just helped herself. There are some attributes of hers that make me think of her as a role model. I want to be able to take my life into my own hands and come out victorious. Of course, I don’t really want to get as desperate as she was. Amanda really is a trailblazer. Suddenly, many other people who have been trying and trying to get published and still aren’t, have inspiration. It’s possible, someone has done it successfully. She cut through those branches in the forest and gave other people, like me, the hope that maybe we could walk through ourselves.

Amanda Hocking has made a difference in the world. I know that not only has she inspired lots of other writers, but she’s also given them hope. She was determined to get herself out into the world, committed to making her dreams come true, and was a trailblazer for many other writers. Amanda Hocking is my hero/role model because she made a difference – something I would like to do in my life as well.


“Mel Brooks” by Samantha Ross
June 6, 2012

My definition of a Hero is someone who does a good deed in the moment. A one-time brave act that ends with positive results. My definition of a Role Model is someone who does many acts over a long period of time for a cause. A Trailblazer is someone who starts along a new path, and maybe starts a tradition by going off the usual course of action, and what is seen as okay. A trailblazer can be both a hero and a role model. A trailblazer can do one courageous act and go off the usual paths people take, and a trailblazer can do many acts that are off the usual standards, and gain a reputation. Mel Brooks is a role model of mine because he is a trailblazer. His movies did not follow the guidelines of usual movies, and he went in his own direction with them.

I look up to Mel Brooks for his great humor and his amazing ability to turn the most depressing situations, into something that can be laughed about. Mel Brooks was born in Brooklyn in 1926 under the name Melvin Kaminsky. After a year of university Brooks was drafted into the army.
After the war, Brooks worked in nightclubs playing piano and drums. He changed his name from Melvin Kaminsky to Mel Brooks because he was being confused with a trumpet player named Max Kaminsky. When the usual comedian at the nightclub was sick, Brooks took over and started working as the comedian.

I originally heard of Mel Brooks from his television series Get Smart. I used to watch Get Smart so much and now I’ve seen all of the episodes. I still go back and watch some episodes again. My love of spies, gunfights, mysteries and of course humor makes Get Smart a perfect television show for my taste. When my parents tell me I’m in danger of not finishing my homework because I’m watching Get smart, I reply, “and loving it!”

Brooks is a very good example of a trailblazer. In his movies he did many things that were not usually accepted by society. For example, he repeatedly used the N-word in his movie Blazing Saddles. He did not however use the N-word to try to be racist.

He used the N-word to make fun of racist people, and to show the irony of racism. In his movies he celebrates gays, instead of shunning them. In addition, he includes a lot of bathroom humor including a scene where people are passing gas. This was unheard of and nobody had even thought of putting it in a movie before.

Brooks uses his humor in his movies to convey many messages. In his movie Blazing Saddles Brooks made the cowboys who were being really terrible and racist towards the African-Americans seem idiotic. He did this by making them dance around like chickens, and do other silly things. Brooks also manages to squeeze in as much Yiddish and Jewish culture as possible. In Blazing Saddles Brooks plays the part of a Yiddish speaking Native American. In his movie Space Balls, there is a planet called Druidia where all the people are Drewish, and In Robin Hood: Men in Tights Brooks plays the part of a Rabi who performs circumcisions at a special offer, half off. In Blazing Saddles Brooks mixes together minorities, for example the Yiddish speaking Native-American.
In addition to mixing the minorities, he also makes the minorities heroes, for example the African-American Sheriff. In almost all his movies and in his television show Get Smart he makes the women the wiser ones, and the ones who make all of the plans and come up with all of the great ideas that the men then carry out. The way he makes the minorities be the stronger and the smarter people, shows the viewers how silly society is for making it seem that so many people are inferior. In addition, Brooks takes historical happenings for example the Spanish Inquisition and makes you laugh at them. Brooks turned the Spanish Inquisition into a musical where Torquemada was trying to convert the Jews by torturing them showing them prostitute nuns. While this was happening, Torquemada was singing. Mel Brooks took something that was offensive and made it humorous.

When the film Blazing Saddles was going through it’s final stages of being produced, Brooks met with a man from the studio who had seen his movie to make the final verdict of what should stay and what should be left out in the movie.

This man did not know that in Brooks’s contract Brooks got the final say in what happened. This man told him to get rid of the N-word, the prostitute and the people fake punching the horses. He obviously did not seem to understand the irony that Brooks was trying to show. After the man left the room, Brooks crumpled up the piece of paper that had all of the things that according to the man he should cut, and put it in the rubbish bin. This was a very courageous thing for Mel Brooks to do because he did not yet have a solid reputation; he was at risk of being rejected. This was only his third movie, and he was taking a huge risk by not heeding the words of this man, and his movie was a hit. I value this because sometimes it is good to go by the way you think and not listen to those who are pulling you down. What he did was very courageous, and courage should always be valued.

Mel Brooks looked at the world; made fun of its problems and used its absurd inhabitants to make a laugh. He confronted serious issues and showed the rest of us the silly ways things are currently done.

When a dark matter from the past is unspoken due to the terror it brought, it is easier to accept and confront when you’re in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. It goes to show that no matter how terrible the past or the present is, there is still a way to make everyone aware of the world’s troubles: make fun of them.


“Bruce Morrow” by James Ryan
October 22, 2011

When I started to think about my heroes and role models, I first thought about the differences between heroes and role models and what that difference means to me. A hero is defined as: A person admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage.

I could think of many people who I consider to be heroes. However, I only really looked up to these people because of one particular thing that they did. Had they not done this one thing, then I would have never admired them. So I looked up role models as well, and the definition of a role model in the dictionary is: A person whose role in a particular field is imitated by others.

As I began to think about the difference between the two, I realized that, based on these definitions, I had many more role models than I did heroes, mostly because I had greater admiration for people who had done many commendable deeds instead of just one. I then realized that these deeds were not necessarily equally admirable, for example, donating to a certain charity versus finding a cure to a major disease. I finally concluded that I really looked up to people who were both heroes and role models.

With this in mind, I began to think of people who I looked up to who were courageous, and also worthy of imitation. Many came to mind, but I admired some more than others. I finally chose one person who I feel is worthy of imitation due to his courage, charity work, and ability to make people happy through broadcasting music on the radio: Bruce Morrow, or as he is better known, Cousin Brucie.

For those who do not know, Cousin Brucie is one of the more famous disc jockeys in the New York Area, who became popular by playing classic rock music from the fifties, sixties and seventies during his shows on Saturday nights for the past 50 years on stations such as WABC, WINS, and WCBS.

After writing a letter to Cousin Brucie and having it hand delivered to him by a friend of a friend, I was excited and astonished to receive a personal phone call from him one evening. I had the great pleasure and privilege of being able to interview Cousin Brucie. During the interview, I was able to ask him in great depth about his career, his Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn, his famous rock and roll shows at Palisades Park and Shea Stadium, his choices for charity, and the reasons why he supports the charities he does. Many of the choices he has made in his career and charity, he said, come from being raised as a Jewish boy in New York City.

Bruce Morrow, originally born Bruce Meyerowitz in October of 1937, was raised in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Growing up on East 26th street with his mother, Mina, his father, Abe, and his brother, Bobby, he realized that he had a profound interest in radio and broadcasting from very early on, telling me that “I did not choose radio as a career; radio chose me as a career.” During his years at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, he was selected to participate in an elite program called the All City Radio Workshop, and took “Radio English” instead of regular English classes in high school. After graduating in 1953, he attended New York University, and went on to found the NYU radio station, a primitive station whose range spanned the campus, run out of a dorm room. Bruce said: “They didn’t have a radio station, I built the radio station,” when asked about his college radio experience. Many students and professors listened to this station, and predicted a good future in radio.

After graduation in 1957 and sending out audition tapes to several stations, Bruce accepted a job on the island of Bermuda at a station called “Zed BM.” He worked for a year at that station, and many islanders liked his broadcasts. During his time in Bermuda, he earned the nickname “The Hammer” because of his booming voice and musical style. Many of the island people had never heard most of the American rock and roll that he played. When he began to play it on Zed BM, many listeners applauded this new, loud, and raucous beat. During his year in Bermuda, however, he was also confronted by the harsh reality of open anti-Semitism by many islanders. Probably the worst example was between Bruce and his landlady. A firm believer in keeping Bermuda “pure of Jews,” she maintained that many stereotypes about Jews and their lifestyles were true. When Bruce told her that he was Jewish, she retaliated with bad meals and worse lodging, even though she had been very kind to him before she knew of his background. Many of his listeners also turned out to be anti-Semitic, and these people would tune their radios to other stations. These events hastened his decision to leave Bermuda and Zed BM.

After landing another job in Miami, he was quickly invited to become an on-air personality at WINS in New York City in 1958. The station played top 40 rock hits at the time. On WINS, Bruce became famous during his 2-8 P.M. shift by doing news, commercials and, most importantly, music. Playing musicians such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, he introduced many people to rock and roll, and was soon a New York radio icon.

While at this station, he coined the on-air name “Cousin Brucie,” and still uses this name today. He adopted the name because a woman asked him one night for fifty cents as a fare for a train ride back to her home in the Bronx. The woman called Bruce “cousin,” out of the belief that all people in the world are related. He went on the air later, calling himself Cousin Brucie, and the name stuck. He became famous and popular on this station, playing the top forty hits during his shows on Saturday nights. He later accepted another job at the legendary radio station WABC, where he was on the air for 13 years. During these years he became even better known internationally, with his broadcasts at night reaching countries in Europe and South America, and he was very popular in Peru! In fact, Bruce said “I became so popular in Lima, Peru that I was offered a job there.” He managed to broadcast a show in Peru by playing “Los top 40 hits de Nueva York en el aire con su Primo Brucie!” Many of his Peruvian listeners were amused by his mispronunciations and bad grammar while doing advertisements, and they loved the music.

His fame was also galvanized when the Beatles came to America in 1964. During their first visit in 1964, he covered their stay at the Plaza Hotel and was later the emcee, along with Ed Sullivan, during their show at Shea Stadium in 1965, an event which he says is still the most memorable of his career. The energy and music that night “was deafening-you couldn’t hear . . . we could have generated power.” The phenomenon of the “British Invasion” spread like wildfire, with requests coming to Cousin Brucie from people putting on fake British accents and with requests for the latest Beatles song. This made the Beatles even more popular in America than they were before.

Following his long reign at WABC, Cousin Brucie left for a job at WNBC. Along with doing a music show on the radio station, he also did entertainment reports on NewsCenter 4, the television news. Later, he moved to WCBS-FM when it became New York’s oldies station. He became popular with a whole new generation of fans yet again at this station, playing top hits from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Bruce said about his time at WCBS-FM, “I stayed at the station for 20 years, until they did a stupid thing.” This “stupid thing” caused him to be let go from WCBS when the station changed to the “Jack” format in late 2002, a “ridiculous, non-humanistic, cheap format” that did poorly at nearly every station where the change occurred, not only in New York, but in Chicago, Denver, Vancouver, and other cities. For those who don’t know, the “Jack” format was a radio station that intended to sound somewhat like an iPod on the “shuffle” setting: playing songs from different time periods at random, usually resulting in a confusing, disorganized mess. It was definitely unpopular with listeners, as the station eventually abandoned it and went back to a format more similar to the previous one, though it has never regained the ratings it formerly had.

At the time that WCBS-FM let him go, Cousin Brucie signed almost immediately with Sirius satellite radio, which later merged with its competitor, XM. He has been there for the past five years. He broadcasts two weekly shows on the 60s channel of Sirius/XM satellite radio, Cruising with Cousin Brucie on Wednesdays, and on Saturdays, Cousin Brucie’s Saturday Night Party. He says he has no intention of retiring because he loves what he does, and will continue to do these shows regularly.

I admire Cousin Brucie for many different reasons. Among these are his courage and perseverance, his commitment to charity, and his benefit to society through the music he plays, which makes so many people happy.

Cousin Brucie has shown great amounts of courage and perseverance throughout his career. I mentioned earlier that, while in Bermuda, he was met by many islanders with open anti-Semitism. Despite all of this hatred, Bruce stuck it out and continued to broadcast for one year in Bermuda before returning to the United States. He also confronted his landlady, whom he knew to be anti-Semitic, risking whatever personal consequences she might inflict.

In addition, I admire Cousin Brucie because of his active devotion to charity. Many of his charity choices, Bruce says, were influenced by his Jewish upbringing. His obligation to help the needy has fueled his active work for charities, such as Variety: The Children’s Charity and WHY-Hunger.

Variety: The Children’s Charity is an organization that helps local non-profit organizations in neighborhoods throughout the tri-state area. The money that Variety raises goes to these groups to help children in need, disabled children, and also to help educate children in poorer neighborhoods.

Cousin Brucie’s work for the charity began outside of the Ziegfeld Theatre on west 54th Street in Manhattan during the 1980s. Approached by a promoter, Bruce agreed to participate in a telethon for Variety the next day. He soon “fell in love with the grass-roots organization.” He has stayed with them over thirty years, and served as chairman and president for over twenty. He still continues to actively support them and donate to the children that the organization helps. He says of his charity work, “I make things happen and I give, and it makes me feel good.”

Cousin Brucie’s work for WHY-Hunger (formerly World Hunger Year,) began while he was working for WNBC. After Bruce did a series of stories on his friend, the singer Harry Chapin, Harry asked Bruce to help him start an organization called World Hunger Year. The organization helps to connect families in lower-class neighborhoods to affordable, healthy food in the United States. In fact, the organization has spent all of 2010 helping to pass the Food and Farm Bill, a bill that allows independent farmers to ship their products to lower class neighborhoods and “food deserts”.

Bruce heartily agreed to help the organization. Ever since their founding, Cousin Brucie has helped WHY-Hunger by raising money through an annual six-hour radio-thon, during which rock memorabilia is auctioned off. All of this money goes to helping people in lower income neighborhoods. It is because of Bruce’s devotion to a cause I also support and an organization that I admire, that I have decided to donate 10 percent of my Bar Mitzvah money to WHY-Hunger.

Finally, I admire Cousin Brucie for his place in American and international popular culture during the fifties, sixties and seventies. In addition to the activities I mentioned earlier, Cousin Brucie helped to introduce other groups to America while working at WABC. By introducing artists such as the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, and the Rolling Stones, he helped to create an iconic imprint of rock and roll upon the face of American culture. The new, energetic music helped to influence artists and fans all over the country and the world.

In conclusion, because of his courage and perseverance in the face of anti-Semitism, his active work for charity, and his ability to make people happy through the music that he broadcasts, I look up to Cousin Brucie as a distinguished hero and role model.


“Nicholas Negroponte” by Mattori Birnbaum
October 23, 2010

There may seem to be only slight differences between what a hero and role model are, but for me there is a big distinction. Role models are people who you personally admire and want to be like in one or more ways. They may not necessarily be famous or looked up to by others. Heroes are people who are admired for their courage and achievements and are usually famous, but you might not like them for who they are as a person.

When I was first considering who would be a good hero or role model for myself, I thought about people like Ben Stiller, a famous actor and comedian; Woody Allen, a great film director; and Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft. As I researched them, and others, I decided they weren’t people I would want to be like. I didn’t dislike them, I just didn’t really feel a connection with them.

The person I related to as both my hero and role model is Nicholas Negroponte. You may not have heard of him, but by the end of this paper you will know a lot about him. He’s my hero because of what he has accomplished, most importantly his creation of One Laptop Per Child, or OLPC. OLPC was founded in 2005.  It is a non-profit that brings laptops to children in some of the most remote and poor places on earth. OLPC is in it to provide education, not to make money or to promote technology. Negroponte is also my role model because we share many of the same values.

OLPC’s goal is to bring laptops to as many kids as possible. These children wouldn’t normally have any kind of connection with the outside world, much less technology like this. These laptops, called XO laptops, are incredibly versatile and cutting-edge.  Each laptop is sold to communities, non-profits, and countries in need/that are poor. Depending on the circumstance, they either cost $100 or are supplied at no charge. Again, the focus here isn’t on the technology. It’s an education project, not a laptop project. The goal is to provide a way for kids to learn and to better their lives and the lives of their families. Also, it’s a way to connect them with each other and the rest of the world. They have been distributed to 1.4 million children in 35 countries, with an additional 500,000 in transit for distribution.

The current model, XO-1.5, will be replaced with a new model in 2011, and with a tablet version in 2012.  Negroponte predicts the cost of the tablet version will fall well below $100.   He feels this price decrease will be achieved mainly because there will be only 50 parts, far less than the current 900 parts in the laptop.

As for being a role model, Negroponte has many values that are important to me. For example, one of his values is education, or Chee-nuch. This is pretty obvious considering how OLPC is primarily about educating kids. Also, after attending MIT he became a professor. Just as my family has passed down the value of education from generation to generation, Negroponte credits his father for teaching him the value of education.

We also share the value of family, meesh-pah-cha. OLPC is one the biggest and most important projects he has ever worked on and he shares his enthusiasm for OLPC with his son, Dimitri. One of the pictures always included in his presentations is of Dimitri out in the field with OLPC.

Based on what I learned about Negroponte I see that he and I also share values like charity (Tz-dah-kah), bettering the world (Tee-koon o-lahm), and compassion (Ra-cha-meem).

OLPC shows that Negroponte also values hard work (A-vo-dah ka-shey). But that isn’t the only example of this quality. He attended MIT as a student and joined the faculty there in 1966. It is one of the best universities, and possibly the best tech university, in the world. You probably know how it is right up in the big leagues with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. He also has taught at Yale, Michigan, and the University of California, Berkley. He founded MIT’s Architecture Machine Group which develops new methods of human-computer interaction. He later co-created the MIT Media Lab, which is like an advanced version of the Architecture Machine Group with labs for new media and high-tech testing for more human-computer interaction.

Negroponte also became involved in Wired Magazine as its first investor, and wrote a monthly column in the magazine that had the basic theme of “Move bits, not atoms.” He expanded many of the ideas presented in his column into a best-selling book titled Being Digital. The book predicted that the interactive world, the entertainment world, and the information world would eventually merge, which they obviously have. It is so popular that it has been published in some twenty languages.

Negroponte has one more value that I want to mention here. It’s the strength to follow-through with your beliefs, even when others say you are wrong. It’s a combination of Courage (o-metz lev) and Determination (hech-let-ee-oot).

Before OLPC was created as a not-for-profit, many experts in business advised him that he had to make it for-profit or it would fail. They were wrong. Being a non-profit has been key to OLPC’s success.

Nicholas Negroponte has a career that I might wish to follow. He attended MIT and was successful there as both a student and an educator, he wrote a best-seller, and he created a company that educates and helps impoverished kids through the use of laptops. In addition, he combined two very different interests, art and mathematics, into a degree in Architecture and ultimately into a laptop that is bettering people’s lives around the world. Like Negroponte, I hope to someday combine two very different interests — my love of technology and creativity — to help people. Nicholas Negroponte is an inspiration to me.  His accomplishments and values have made me think about what is possible for me to achieve in my own life through hard work, passion, and commitment to what I believe in.


“Eric Clapton” by Nicky Young
June 13, 2010

What is a hero? Is it someone who uses supernatural powers to save the world from utter destruction, or your ordinary person who saves a child from a burning building? Heroes are all around us, though we don’t see them because their x-ray vision and super-strength is non-existent. It is their bravery to do what is right that we see.

Now, what is a role model? A role model is like a hero, but not everyone can be a hero. Role models are people who do good things and are people who you would want to live your life like. Heroes can certainly be role models but a “hero” like Superman isn’t necessarily a role model. Role models are role models because they inspire people to do great things for the sake of doing them. Role models don’t ask for anything in return. They just do.

Eric Clapton is my hero and role model. Not only is Clapton one of my favorite guitarists, but he has also has gone through a lot of tragedies in his life and after much perseverance has come out healthy and still rocking.

Clapton was born believing that his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his sister. His mother was too young to raise him and as it was, she didn’t want him. From a young age Clapton felt unloved and confused and for a young boy growing up in the 1940’s, this was not good. He was finally saved by his discovery of the guitar. From then on Clapton poured all his emotion and physical being into the guitar and his efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Eventually people started the saying “Clapton is god”. This didn’t settle too well with Clapton who would have much rather been a side musician. From his days as “god” in England he went on to join the Yardbirds, and later started the bands Derek and the Dominoes, Cream, and Blind Faith and finally became a solo musician.

I think that Clapton is a good role model because not only is he an amazing guitarist, but he has overcome severe addictions, divorces, and the death of his child. Over the years Clapton had become addicted to heroin and alcohol and while he kicked his habit for heroin, his drinking became worse. During this period of severe drinking he also married George Harrison’s ex-wife, Pattie Boyd. Pattie was the love of his life but the marriage would not last forever. They grew apart due to Clapton’s constant touring and his horrible alcoholism. The break up devastated Clapton and he was drinking even more excessively.

Finally something in him snapped, and he knew he had to stop. He went through many different rehabs and after several trials, he finally became sober. After 2 years of sobriety, he was hit with the worst news possible – his 4 year old son, Conor, from his relationship with Lori Del Santo, had fallen out of the window of their 53rd floor apartment. The news hit Clapton like a sledgehammer to the chest, but he didn’t return to his drinking habits.

Clapton now lives with his new wife and children and is still performing. Not only has Clapton stayed sober for years, he has opened up a successful rehabilitation center for alcoholics, called The Crossroads.

While there are many qualities of Eric Clapton that aren’t the best for a role model, I think that his great characteristics outweigh the bad. He and I share some of the same values: hard work, humility, trying to find yourself, courage, humor, and of course, creativity. We both believe in music. While Clapton was going through rehab, instead of picking God as his higher power, he chose music. As I said in my values paper, “Whenever I’m sad, I just pick up my guitar and I walk away feeling better.” This is essentially what Clapton did when he was trying to become sober. Not only do I look up to him as a musician, but I also look up to him as a person. He had a childhood most people would be shocked by, he developed severe addictions, a couple of wives left him, and his son died. He emerged from these tragedies sober and helping others. That is why Eric Clapton is my hero and role model.


“Hero and Role Model: Barack Obama” by Alicia Blum
May 8, 2010

A hero is a person who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. A role model is a person looked to by others as an example to be mitated. Barack Obama is both a hero and a role model to me.

Selecting Barack Obama as my hero and role model was 100% my choice. I wanted someone who was very relevant to my world. I picked Obama because he started out as a “regular person” and became a “celebrity” through his own energy and talent. But most importantly, I wanted to talk about the first African-American President of the United States!

Although I am not an African American, being a Jew is similar in some ways to being an African American. Jews and African Americans have many things in common. We were both badly treated in history, persecuted and enslaved. Both of our groups were for a long time treated as “outsiders”. Both Jews and African Americans have had to figure out how to be a part of their countries without losing their identities as Jews or African Americans. Barack Obama’s life is very relevant to my life.

Barack Obama is a hero to me because he showed great courage by challenging the Democratic Party and running against Hilary Clinton, who was favored to win. He showed a lot of courage by running for president although he was black. He also showed courage after the election by reaching out to the Muslim communities. Barack Obama is clearly a hero to the black community and to many other Americans as well.

Before Obama became President he said, “I want to help everyone”. By everyone, he meant that he wanted to help all people of the United States: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists – they all matter to him.

Barack Obama is more than a hero to me; he is also a role model. First and foremost, he is a great parent. He is willing to buy his children a dog. (Hint to Mom!) He never seems to forget about his family, although he has many other things to worry about. This shows to me that he is a caring individual.

But there are many other characteristics of Barack Obama that I admire. He is an energetic person, a man who is willing to take risks. When he first came into office, the economy was horrible. People all over America were losing their jobs and their homes. It was hard to figure out what to do first in this situation. He assembled a team of people and they tried doing things that people had never done before – reorganizing companies and propping up the banks.

Barack Obama is a man who tries to keep his promises. In addition to buying his children a dog, he is trying to make good on some promises he has made to the American people. He truly believes in affordable medical care for all Americans. I am not sure how he is going to do it, but I know he will try to do something about it. He does not believe in torture and that Americans should not torture others. He also promised to end torture and he did. He promised to end the war in Iraq. I am hoping that he will keep this promise as well.

One of my values is personal responsibility. This is something that Barack Obama believes in as well. When mistakes have happened Barack Obama has told us that as president he takes full responsibility. Barack Obama believes that he personally must make this country a better place. This is a value that I admire. As a thirteen year old I feel a personal responsibility to become a good person. Unlike Barack Obama, however, I do not plan on smoking cigarettes! (No role model is perfect.) Barack Obama had to overcome a lot of hurdles in his life. And like Barack Obama, I know what it is like to go to a very challenging school.

The thing that I admire most about Barack Obama is that he takes pride in his African American background. He is not ashamed that he is a black person. In fact he is proud to be a black person. He never actually had a father to help and guide him. His father returned to Kenya when Obama was young and his mother raised him with the help of her parents. He had to find out what it means to be an African American man in a white society all by himself.

I can relate to Barack Obama’s search for his identity. He wanted to find out about his heritage – as a member of the black, white, and Christian communities. I am trying to find my Jewish heritage. That is why is go I go to the City Congregation KidSchool. I want to know why I am Jewish and what it means to be a Jew. I am a little luckier than President Obama. I have my parents, mentor, teachers, Rabbi and KidSchool friends to help me figure this out.


“Hero and Role Model: Jane Goodall” by Arielle Silver-Willner
May 15, 2010

Role models and heroes embody many of our values. Role models are people we admire; we want to emulate them, and since we know they’re not perfect, we usually believe that if we try hard enough, we can be like them. Our heroes are larger-than-life figures; we don’t just admire them, we think of them as great people because they don’t simply embody our values, they translate these values into impressive achievements. Heroes have flaws too, but we tend to ignore them. Unlike our role models, we don’t believe we could ever be like our heroes.

Nearly everyone has heroes. My dad’s hero has always been his father. He told me, “I always wanted to impress him and get his approval, which I think is very common for children. I looked at my father as somebody who was very successful and who had achieved his goals.” My mom’s heroes are her parents. She told me, “My mom takes care of everyone. She’s one of the strongest, hardworking people I know and was a feminist before her time. When I was a kid, my dad seemed perfect to me, he was always very patient, understanding and good to me, and never seemed to notice my flaws.”

My heroes include Tina Fey, Paul Newman, Louis Braille, Helen Keller and Jane Goodall. Jane Goodall, in particular, exemplifies many of my values– animal rights, protecting the environment, hard work, and education.

Dr. Goodall was born in London in 1934. She never married and has no children. She is a United Nations Messenger of Peace, ethnologist, and anthropologist, but is best known as a primatologist who spent many years studying the chimpanzees of Tanzania.

Dr. Goodall and her sister were born with a disease called prosoprognosia, which distorts one’s ability to recognize human faces. Because of this disease, it’s likely that she is better able connect with chimpanzees than humans and this may be one reason why she chose to study them. During her years of living in the national park where she did her studies, Dr. Goodall became very knowledgeable about chimps and made many discoveries. For example, she found that chimps can make tools and build huts.

Dr. Goodall demonstrated her respect for chimps by studying them in their natural habitat, instead of bringing them to a lab. She understood the devastating consequences of the destruction of their habitat on chimps and has forcefully advocated for protecting nature against human threats.

Dr. Goodall once said, “The more we learn of the true nature of non-human animals, especially those with complex brains and corresponding complex social behavior, the more ethical concerns are raised regarding their use in the service of [people] — whether this be in entertainment, as “pets,” for food, in research laboratories, or any of the other uses to which we subject them.” This quote reveals Dr. Goodall’s deep respect for animals in general and primates in particular and her belief that their sophistication earned them the right to live autonomously, without human interference.

After many years conducting research, Dr. Goodall created the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania. There, she educated many children about the natural habitats of chimps and the importance of protecting their habitat. She also spoke tirelessly to adults and became known as a great teacher.

Until her recent retirement, Dr. Goodall worked non-stop; not because she needed money, or was a workaholic, but because she felt passionately about her work protecting chimps and nature. She is living proof that hard work can make a difference.


“Hero and Role Model: Mel Brooks and Al Gore” by Isaac Mann
January 17, 2010

Heroes and role models may sound similar, but they are entirely different. A hero is willing to make a greater personal sacrifice than a role model. He may see an impending problem and do everything in his power to solve it for the benefit of the entire community. A role model is someone you want to be like.

My role model is Mel Brooks. He’s one of the most brilliant comedians that has ever been on the big screen. Despite being 83 years old, Mel Brooks is a very active and healthy man and I would like to be as healthy and active and full of humor at that age as he is. Equally impressive is the fact that he maintained a happy marriage with Anne Bancroft for to 41 years, which is very unusual for someone who has made his life in film.

Mel Brooks was born January 28, 1926 in Brooklyn. He attended PS 19 and then graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School. His big break came when he was chosen as a writer for the famous TV comedy series “Your Show of Shows”, where he met Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar. He won an Oscar for best original script for one of my favorite films, “The Producers”.

“Blazing Saddles” is one of my favorite comedies of all time. While satirizing the film industry, Brooks gives us his own take on cowboys and Indians. Most of the cowboys are not heroic, but rather oblivious, forgetful, and racist. The Indian chief is none other than Brooks, himself. When he encounters a black family in an open wagon, he speaks to them in Yiddish. Throughout the movie he plays with racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes, and points out the absurdity of discrimination.

He often uses his Jewishness as a basis for humor. In Spaceballs, his spoof on Star Wars, “The Schwartz”, is Brook’s version of “The Force”. Dark Helmet, addresses the light sabers, saying “I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.” Besides making a really good penis joke, Mel Brooks makes his Jewishness larger than life—a power to be reckoned with. Mel Brooks directs, sings, writes, and acts in this movie and in others. He clearly shares several of my values, for instance, Artistic Expression, Humor, Determination, and Independence.

My favorite Mel Brooks movie is the original 1968 film, the Producers. The Producers opens as Max Bialystock flirts with one of thousands of old ladies who are his patrons. You can see clearly that he doesn’t enjoy this, since the scene pauses for the beginning credits just at the right time for the audience to see Zero Mostel’s classic suffering face. What I love about The Producers, besides the phenomenal performances by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, is how bold and revolutionary a film it is. It takes different stereotypes and prejudices, sexism and homophobia, and even some of the most horrible parts of history and turns all of this into one of the funniest movies ever made. I love how there isn’t one non-humorous character in this movie except for the audience who watch the stage “Springtime for Hitler” number. This audience represents us, as movie-watchers. We might never have imagined enjoying a pro-Nazi play but Mel Brooks makes us laugh at every appalling detail. I want to work in the film business because I find it so interesting, but I want to be bold in the same way Mel Brooks was with The Producers.

My hero is Al Gore. He has always paid attention to the environment. Long before the entire world saw the value in environmentally friendly technologies, Al Gore learned to love the land. Since his father was a senator from Tennessee, Al spent eight months of the year living in Washington D.C. and the other four months farming on his dad’s huge property in the countryside. His mother read to him from Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. This book, published in 1962, exposed some of the dangers to the Earth and its population from the use of pesticides and other chemicals. These experiences made him realize how much the health of the Earth was being overlooked.

Gore has always recognized the importance of family. After his son was hit by a car in 1989, he started rethinking his values. He appreciated his family more, and he took more careful steps to ensure that the world would be a good place for his son to inhabit well into the future. He began thinking more about the environmental crisis. When his sister, Nancy, a co-founder of the Peace Corps, died of lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes, this only intensified his commitment to issues of health and safety.

Al Gore served in the Senate and the House of Representatives for the state of Tennessee from 1976-1993. When he was Vice President under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2000, he wrote Earth In The Balance, which advanced our knowledge of environmental problems. Many despaired after he lost the 2000 election to George Bush, but Al Gore apparently didn’t. He took it as an opportunity to rededicate himself to the task of educating the world about the environmental crisis.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize for the book An Inconvenient Truth in 2007. This book addresses global warming as the most dangerous environmental problem facing the world. It is worth noting that Gore has given 100% of profits made by this bestseller to non-profit companies that work to fight global warming. Al Gore is a true altruist.

One thing I learned from An Inconvenient Truth is that in 1997, there was a Kyoto conference that addressed environmental concerns. Thirty industrial nations agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In 2001, George Bush refused to sign the Kyoto

Protocol. Instead, Bush hired people like Philip Cooney to be head of environmental policy even though Cooney had made millions of dollars in the petroleum industry. The scientific findings of global warming reported by the Environmental Protection Agency were edited by Cooney and struck from their reports.

After reading An Inconvenient Truth, I realized a lot important things. There are many signs of global warming. We can observe that the polar ice caps are melting, glaciers are melting, the sea level is rising, and wind currents and ocean currents are stronger. The frequency of hurricanes, in general, has gone up by 50% since 1979. Rain forests have become even wetter and deserts even drier as a result of these changes in water and air currents. The greater absorption of carbon dioxide in the ocean is preventing the development of coral and coral reefs that are very important to the eco-system. Species
are now disappearing at the rate of the last ice age. What’s more, the United States is responsible for more than 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Al Gore makes the compelling case that these changes are not just the natural fluctuations in the environment but that they are linked to the increase in carbon dioxide emissions from cars and industry. The CO2 causes heat to be trapped in our atmosphere. Now, I find Gore’s proclamations to be very bold, and necessary for human survival. His persistent public assertions and organizing of others to address these issues, is heroic.

Al Gore has spent the last eight years challenging the false belief that we have to choose between the economy and the environment. An example of this false logic is in the car industry. The Japanese have worked harder than we have to create fuel-efficient cars. Consequently their car manufacturers are doing a lot better than Ford, General Motors, or Chrysler. Thinking about the environment makes economic sense. My family has just purchased a Prius which is a hybrid car manufactured by Toyota. Although it is more expensive than a standard car to purchase, the savings on gasoline will make it a great deal in the long run.

Al Gore gives good advice for what we all can do to help the environment. We can switch to energy efficient bulbs and hybrid cars. We can choose to use wind energy to heat our homes. We can walk or bike to school or work and not always choose to burn carbon fuel. We can step up our efforts to recycle so as not to increase landfill and require more plastics to be produced. We can eat less meat, for the production and distribution of one pound of animal protein is far more expensive in terms of energy costs than the production of one pound of plant protein. Eating more plant protein is healthier as well.

While Mel Brooks has provided a model of a life that is long and healthy and artistically vital and full of humor, Al Gore has inspired me to become a person who wants to learn about the environment and help to save the planet.


“Hero and Role Model: Pete Seeger” by Ryan Kramer
December 5, 2009

When I was in the process of thinking about who my heroes and role models were, I first had to think of what a Hero and Role model is. I thought this would be easy, but to my surprise I was hard pressed to figure out what my thoughts were about them. My mind jumped around between different ideas. It was especially hard when my brain wasn’t focused, which was a lot of the time. However, I finally came to my conclusion.

In my opinion, a hero is someone who you look up to as a ‘god like’ figure. A hero is someone who you wish you could be like, but you know that it will be very difficult to get there. I could say that Derek Jeter is my baseball hero, because I wish I could play baseball like him. I know I never will, but I can dream. Also, I think you select someone as your hero because the person does something, or is part of something that matches your own personality.

A role model, on the other hand, is a person who you look up to, and try to model your behavior and way of life after. A role model could be someone famous, but it could also be someone you know well. Your parents could be a role model, or your teacher, or one of your friends. Heck, your sibling could be a role model, though it seldom is. I don’t really have a hero. Or rather I do, but all my heroes come from movies and comic books, and watching too much TV. However, a role model was not as easy to choose as it would seem. Eventually, I found the person I wanted: Pete Seeger.

I chose Pete Seeger for a number of reasons. First of all, many of his values match my values. I think the three values that match mine are courage, repairing the world, and guarding the earth. The second reason I chose him is because he stood up for his beliefs, even when he faced jail and discrimination.

Pete Seeger was born in 1919 and practically came into this world playing music. His first instrument, from an early age, was the ukulele, and by the time he was a senior in high school, he had taught himself how to play the tenor banjo. Though he planned to become a journalist, it was certain that his future would lie in music. After learning to play the tenor banjo, he took lessons for the 5-string banjo. He also picked up tricks on the 12-string banjo from Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. However, the 5-string banjo with an extra long neck became his trademark.

Seeger started off college at Harvard, where he was in the same class as John F. Kennedy, but left pretty quickly. He then went with his parents on a trip down South. He did this to hear the different types of his preferred music, folk. Apparently he got what he wanted. I believe it altered his perspective dramatically. In fact, I believe it was this experience that made him so determined to fight for other’s civil rights when the time came.

In 1941, Seeger found some good friends. Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays, Milard Lampel, and Pete Hawas joined with him, and they formed the Almanac Singers. The Almanacs sang for many organizations, including many labor unions. Labor unions were organized groups of workers who tried to get better wages and working conditions. One of my great great grandfathers on dad’s side was a labor organizer.

The Almanacs also opposed war, and many of their songs were based on this belief. However, when the United States entered World War II they began to become pro war. According to a source I looked at, “Popular outrage at Japan and their own hatred of Hitler led the Almanacs to write war songs in earnest.” Their first big rally took place at Madison Square Garden in late May 1941. The union songs they sang there brought the loudest applause and the concert influenced the birth of many unions.

They sang for a few years together, but then Seeger received his draft notice. Oddly enough, he wrote in his journal that he was “almost glad” to get out of the Almanacs. They had been falling apart, and he wanted to get out before it collapsed completely. He served in World War II, and then went back to New York in 1945. However, now he had a purpose. He resolved to start a singing labor movement with Lee Hays, Woody Guthrie, Alan Lomax and others. Eventually, he succeeded. In the time after the war, Seeger performed with his friends at many union events, but then the unions started to reject them, and they stopped performing. They also started a news bulletin called the People’s Songs, but it dissolved in 1949.

Over the years, Seeger performed frequently, both as a soloist and with Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman as The Weavers. The People’s Songs bulletin became Sing Out, the magazine of folk song. During the years that Sing Out flourished, Seeger used a column titled “Johnny Appleseed, Jr.” to encourage a generation of young folk musicians and songwriters.

Then tragedy struck. There was tremendous fear of Communism, partly because of the Korean War, and partly because Russia had created the nuclear bomb in addition to the US having it. Congress set up the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which led to the McCarthy witch-hunts. The HUAC looked into anyone who was a liberal, involved in unions, or worked in the civil rights movement and accused them of being a communist. In order to prove you were loyal to the US, you had to take a loyalty oath, and name names of other people who were or had been Communists. Over 2000 people lost their jobs and 400 went to jail, not having a fair trial. Pete Seeger was among them and was singled out for being a communist.

Seeger had been part of the Communist party in the past but he no longer was. Nevertheless, Seeger refused to take the loyalty oath, which led to official blacklisting. Also, when the HUAC asked whether or not he had been a Communist, Seeger stood up in the middle of Congress, and said that he had the right to do what he wanted, and it wasn’t their business. He didn’t even try to use protection under the 5th amendment.

This makes me look up to him even more, because I don’t know if I would have been able to do that. Unfortunately, it also angered his enemies, and made it almost impossible to perform in public. However, Seeger got around this by performing at colleges, summer camps, in non-traditional concert halls, in concerts produce by his manager Harold Leventhal, and at benefits for many causes. The folk movement explosion of the early ’60s increased his popularity quite a bit.

On June 8, 1963, Seeger performed at Carnegie Hall on behalf of the civil rights movement. The concert was actually a farewell party for the Seeger family as they prepared to journey around the world. Seeger strummed up a song on his banjo and the crowd started singing with him. By the time he got to

We Shall Overcome, the crowd was already thinking about civil rights. By the end of that night, the civil rights movement was on everyone’s mind. To be able to say all the things he said, and to do all the things he did that night would require vast amounts of courage. Because courage is one of my core values, I can connect with him.

I find it ironic that back then, African Americans couldn’t even drink at the same water fountain, and now, an African American has just been elected as president. Durring President Obama’s inauguration concert, Pete Seeger even got to play, just like he did when he was fighting for African American’s civil rights.

Pete Seeger is, from what I’ve read about him, very stubborn, which is another way I am like him. Once he set his mind to something, he is determined to do it. For instance, he was committed to cleaning up the Hudson River. So many people said “You can’t do this Pete.” But he proved them wrong. He got his family together, and they built a sloop that they named The Clearwater. They went sailing up and down the river, trying to stimulate people to help.

Today, Clearwater still sails, the Hudson River is cleaner, fish are starting to come back, and I finally learned the meaning behind one of my favorite Pete Seeger songs, Sailing up. This I can also connect with, because two of my values are repairing the world, and guarding the earth. Although I don’t know whether or not I would have gone to such extremes to do it, I still agree with his motives.

I learned that Pete still lives out in the woods, with his wife Toshi, and that even at 90 years old he still plays for others. For example, I recently went to his 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden. Pete worries that he is losing his voice, and will no longer be able to sing as well as he used to. At the concert, he said, “I can’t sing as well as I used to, but I can still accompany you.” To me, that doesn’t matter.

I didn’t care what he played, or how he played it. I went there to see this legend, my role model in action. And, of course, to sing with him. He has done so much in his life, and has helped make some of the great changes in this country. I hope I can help the world the way he did.

He did a performance of We Shall Overcome in front of Martin Luther King Jr., and later, King was in a car getting a ride home, and he said “We shall overcome, that song really sticks with you doesn’t it.” [cue Ryan playing We Shall Overcome]


“Hero and Role Model: Steven Spielberg” by Yana Lyandres
November 14, 2009

Heroes are extremely brave and selfless people who help others in need. Role models are people who set a good example of how to act. A role model is someone you strive to be like, while a hero is someone who has very special qualities, which make you admire them. Although heroes are a good example of bravery and courage, role models are the ones that typically influence people to act differently. It makes choosing a role model a tough decision.

It took me a while to figure out who is a good role model for me. During my search I looked at many candidates, ranging from Andrei Sakharov to Dr. Seuss. Then, I came up with (okay my dad helped me come up), with Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg is an influential movie director, producer, and the founder of the Shoah Foundation Institute, which is dedicated to Holocaust remembrance. I chose him because he is a great storyteller. I hope to be a wonderful storyteller too, someday. I also chose him because several of his movies reflect the Jewish values of justice and righteousness or tzedek, creating strong examples of these values for his audience. But before we can get to his movies, I should tell you a little about his life.Steven Spielberg was born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but spent his childhood in New Jersey and Arizona. Ever since his early teens, he was interested in film—he made short adventure films with his friends and then charged admission of a quarter, while his sister sold popcorn. He showed his talent at a very early age. At 13 (the same age as I am now), Spielberg won a prize for a 40-minute war film. Spielberg’s early movies were inspired by his father’s war stories.

When Spielberg was 22 he dropped out of the University of Southern California to accept an offer from Universal Studios as a T.V. director and thus began his career. The movie that made Spielberg a household name, not to mention a multi-millionaire, was Jaws. It’s a horror film based on a novel about an enormous killer shark. The film was a great success. But the filming was very difficult; it was shut down several times due to delays and budget overruns. And the very uncooperative mechanical shark that insisted on breaking down several times didn’t help much either. Despite all these difficulties, Spielberg was not deterred. The malfunctioning shark helped Spielberg in the end because it allowed room for the viewers to use their imaginations, which made the movie even scarier. It was a huge hit, which won three Oscars. The movie was a major accomplishment and gave Spielberg a lot of autonomy for his future films.

Throughout his career, Steven Spielberg has directed many movies, some of which are about World War II. One of his most famous movies is Saving Private Ryan. It’s an action movie about a mother whose four sons all left to fight in the war. Three of them died and one was missing behind enemy lines. To save the poor mother from further heartbreak, the US army sent out a rescue squad to save Private James Ryan. This movie is very terrifying because it shows the horrors of war VERY graphically. It was heartbreaking to see so many young soldiers dying which was what Spielberg wanted the audience to see and feel. His own emotion of distress for these young boys was apparent throughout the movie.

Other movies that he directed were on Jewish topics. His most famous Jewish-related movies are Schindler’s List and Munich. Schindler’s List is based on a true story about a man named Oskar Schindler. Oskar is a businessman who wants to profit from the war, so he hires Jews to work for him instead of Polish people, because Jews didn’t cost anything. His plan started as a self-centered ploy to become instantly rich, he didn’t care at all whether Jews died or not. When he finally grasped the horrors that the Jews had to endure, he started to actively save them by disguising them as his workforce.

The peril of the Jews became a true growth experience for Schindler. By the end of the war, he didn’t care about profit; he was spending all his money on rescuing Jews and became penniless. In total, he saved 1,100 Jews. Schindler’s body is interred in Jerusalem.

In 1997, according to the American Film Institute, Schindler’s List was listed as one of the 10 Greatest American Films Ever Made. Steven Spielberg used the profits to establish the Shoah Foundation that archives filmed testimonies of Holocaust survivors. In all, 52,000 testimonies were recorded so the horrors of the Holocaust wouldn’t be forgotten.

After watching some of Spielberg’s movies, I noticed that hope is a value that shines in a lot of them. In E.T. it’s the hope of finding E.T.’s home. Hope is also an important theme in Saving Private Ryan. Everyone thought that it would be nearly impossible to find this one soldier. But the search party kept on going, until James Ryan was found and saved. In Schindler’s List, it’s the hope for a better future, more specifically the hope that the Holocaust would never happen again. Another example of hope is the Shoah Foundation. It’s a collection of filmed testimony of survivors telling their stories about their experiences during the Holocaust. Spielberg did this work because he hopes that after being educated about the Holocaust, future generations could prevent such a horrific thing from happening again. One day, there won’t be any more Holocaust survivors left; he wanted to capture their stories on film. We must thank Steven Spielberg for creating these testimonies.

Fairness or a plea for tolerance, another important value, is the basis of Schindler’s List. Spielberg suffered a lot of anti-Semitism during his school years. He felt like he stood out because of his Jewish identity and was very self-conscious.

He wanted to bring the concept of hatred into his movies, to show that it’s wrong. He showed that even Nazis had a choice, to either kill Jews or to show mercy and save a person’s life. Everyone has a choice: to do good or evil; the real power is making the right choice.

Steven Spielberg’s movies are watched by millions, thus impacting so many people. As a movie genius he takes advantage of this huge audience and makes his movies about topics that people wouldn’t typically watch, like the Holocaust. That’s what makes him so inspiring. I too, aspire to be an amazing storyteller and will strive to have a great impact on my audience.


“Heroes and Role Models: Norman Borlaug and Ellen Swallow Richards” by Abigail Lienhard Cohen
November 12, 2005

My heroes and role models are two American scientists whose work has improved the lives of tens of millions of people around the world. The Nobel Prize-winning agronomist Norman Borlaug and the nineteenth-century environmentalist Ellen Swallow Richards were scientists who made discoveries and then, with a very common-sense approach, put them into practice. Borlaug’s and Richards’ efforts laid the groundwork for hundreds of scientists who followed them and carried on their work.

When I think of heroes, I think of trailblazers. A trailblazer is someone who does something that has never been done before and who sets the foundation for future discoveries. What makes Richards and Borlaug heroes to me are the values we share: charity, hard work, community, education and selfreliance.

Borlaug and Richards were trailblazers. In the fields of agronomy and economic development, what set Borlaug apart from the rest was his determination to increase crop yields to a maximum in a way most integrated into the project areas. What set Richards apart from the rest was her application of science to solving problems of polluted air and water and malnutrition in families; she was one of the first scientists to see the human environment as interconnected life systems. Along the way, she did much to gain acceptance of women in higher education.

Another thing that they have in common is that their work had practical applications and directly improved the lives of people.

To me, understanding science is like constructing a building. You start with an idea – this is the foundation of the building. As you improve on the idea, the new ideas become the floors above the foundation. A trailblazer is someone who lays that foundation.

Borlaug laid the foundation for agriculturally-based economic development that could aggressively address the problem of hunger. Richards laid the foundation for numerous safety standards and many of the sanitation innovations we have today.

I first heard of Norman Borlaug in a television series hosted by the magicians Penn & Teller that debunked modern myths. The episode that included Norman Borlaug focused on food fads. Penn & Teller visited a group of young adults living in a nice beach house in Santa Monica, California, who ate, and advocated militantly that everybody should eat, only “organic” food. Penn & Teller challenged their ideas, arguing that while choosing to pay more for food grown the more expensive, organic way is something people with means can do, it’s not something the poorest can do easily.

Taking the public policy issue beyond privileged young adults in an upscale community in the richest country in the world, Penn & Teller argued that environmentalists who advocated against the use of inorganic, or chemical fertilizers in crop production were equally wrong-headed. A prominent figure in that debate and their hero in the fight against world hunger is 90-year old agronomist Norman Borlaug. Though a scientist, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and not a prize in the sciences. Of the living American winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, he seems to be the least well known and least
celebrated.

Over 60 years, Normal Borlaug has made enormous steps in preventing starvation in third-world countries through his work in the science and economics of crop production. He is the father of the Green Revolution, a movement in the field of agricultural development in which scientists worked to produce more food from less land, thereby saving millions from starvation. He has greatly benefited  humanity and I admire him for that.

I think the reason that he appeals to me is that he applied himself in a field of science in a way that directly helps humanity. He combined scientific research with helping people instead of working for a big agro-business. And his work went far beyond the laboratory. Beginning with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1943, he went to Mexico and established the first of many research and teaching programs that intensified and spread his efforts to develop high-yield, hardy grain crops in the neediest countries.

Today his centers and programs are at work in 16 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, and are multiplying his efforts many times over.

The program in Africa, called Sasakawa-Global 2000, has an education fund that helped over one thousand agricultural extension agents get university degrees between 1993 and 2003. And the number of African farmers touched by his programs? Millions.

Far from holing up in an office or a laboratory directing the work of the program scientists, Dr. Borlaug has always worked with them and local farmers in the field. Borlaug and his trainees work 12- hour days in the fields alongside the farmers.

Norman Borlaug was born in Cresco, Iowa and was 19 years old when the Dust Bowl hit in the mid 1930’s. It was a period of devastating dust storms that ravaged an area of the Midwest, ruining livelihoods and lives.

Before the Dust Bowl, farmers didn’t practice soil conservation and aggravated erosion by pulling up soil-holding grasses and planting more and more cash crops like wheat. They misused the land until just the wrong kind of weather conditions came along and caused the dust storms that blew away tons of the top soil necessary for crops. Norman Borlaug was in his second year of college when the Dust Bowl began and 27 years old when it ended, three years before he started working with the Rockefeller foundation.

He first started working on raising grain harvest yields in Mexico in 1943. He was supposed to teach Mexican farmers new farming techniques, but he found himself creating new varieties of grain. He became interested in dwarf wheat, because it would grow almost anywhere and has a resistance to insects. It is also easier to harvest.

In 1963, Borlaug went to India and Pakistan to help alleviate hunger. At first, his idea to switch to crops with higher yield (like wheat) met resistance, but by 1965, the hunger problem was so bad that the Indian and Pakistani governments accepted using dwarf wheat. The Indians and Pakistani’s were resistant to wheat because they had been eating rice for generations; wheat was a foreign substance to them. Some felt that western culture was being forced on them.

Then war broke out between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, even with the war, hold-ups by the Mexican and U.S. governments, the fact that the seeds were sowed late and that they germinated badly, yet yields rose 70 percent.

In the 1980s he met a growing tide of resistance from environmentalists who denounced his support for inexpensive chemical fertilizer and who argued for the use of animal manure. But manure requires animals to consume food that people in Africa and India couldn’t provide for themselves, let alone for animals.

Nonetheless, the movement weakened support for Borlaug’s work and along with it the funding necessary to continue it.

Borlaug said his environmental critics meant well but were elitists. “They do their lobbying from comfortable offices suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things,” he said in a 1997 profile in The Atlantic.

Preserving the environment is important, but not everyone in the world can afford the luxury of organically grown food. Science doesn’t support the idea that inorganic fertilizer will permanently destroy land, or that it will harm people who eat the food. A good thing about high-yield crops is that you get more crops on less land, so you don’t have to chop down trees and can leave more land untouched. Borlaug unwaveringly argued that using organic fertilizer was a luxury that farmers in India, Pakistan and Mexico just couldn’t afford.

Ellen Swallow Richards

Another hero to me is nineteenth-century woman scientist, Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards. She was one of the first people to call attention to practical issues of health and safety in the home, giving shape to the science of home economics. She advocated a new branch of science called oekology, which was a combination of nutritional issues and teaching about the environment. She taught about sanitation and nutrition and she was the founder of the American Association of University Women, an organization that both of my grandmothers belong to.

I came across Richards’ story when I was researching women scientists. What interested me was that she, across several different scientific fields, researched ways for people to live better, healthier lives. Her findings could be used to help just about everybody.

Ellen Henrietta Swallow was born on 1842 in Dunstable, Massachusetts. Like my mom, both of her parents were teachers, and her father owned a farm. She enrolled in Vassar College, which admitted only women at that time, in 1868, and then later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which until that time had only admitted men.

The story of her admittance into MIT says a lot about her integrity. She was admitted free of charge, but also, unbeknownst to her, secretly. At first, she thought the waiver of charges was because of her inability to pay full tuition, but later she found out that it was because the president of the college didn’t want to acknowledge that she, a woman, was learning there. If she were off the books, he could truthfully say that she wasn’t a student there.

When she found out about her unofficial status, she was furious. She said that if she had known the circumstances of her admittance at the beginning, she would have never gone.

Still, she persisted in her studies and her research. Her eventual marriage to MIT professor Robert Richards gave her financial security and allowed her to devote her energies to science and to the advancement of female scholars. Ellen Richards became an expert in a number of fields, including the chemical analysis of water, air and food; and nutritional requirements. She established the Women’s Laboratory at MIT and taught female students chemical analysis, industrial chemistry, biology, mineralogy, health and finance. Richards also did environmental research for the government and private industry, testing for arsenic in fabrics and wall coverings.

After thirteen years, in 1883, Richards achieved her goal of getting women admitted into regular degree programs at MIT and was able to close the doors on the Women’s Laboratory forever. The next year, Richards became an instructor of sanitary chemistry in MIT’s new chemical laboratory. She conducted the first major analysis of the state’s entire water supply and then spent the next 27 years teaching classes in how to analyze air, sewage and water.

She also helped found the Seaside Laboratory for the study of ocean and inland waters, which in time became the famous Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.

Before Richards died in 1911, she began the home economics movement. She helped found the American Home Economics Association, a group my Granne also belonged to. At the same time, Richards was teaching chemical sanitation techniques to people who went on to develop municipal water-treatment and sewage facilities.

Coincidentally, while I was doing my research on Ellen Richards, there was an op-ed piece in the New York Times about Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, and his controversial comments about the reason that so few women get into large, prestigious schools like Harvard. The article cites Richards as a woman who tried to get an education and failed so she settled for marriage.

I couldn’t disagree more with the way the op-ed writer denigrates Richards and her work. Richards didn’t fail, and she didn’t give up. In the days before public research grants, she used the economic stability of her marriage to fund her work. She basically invented home economics, which requires knowledge in chemistry, the environment, biology, and other fields.

The article treats home economics as “the analysis of cleaning products.” But home economics was much more than that. It combined many useful fields into something that could help all people on the socio-economic scale, and the way it helped was very practical, just simple innovations that can make people’s lives safer and healthier. Today, the work of that early home economics curriculum is being advanced by students, both men and women, in the different fields that Ellen Richards brought together.

Her work toward better nutrition and sanitation and her efforts in establishing a field of study about both have contributed to an increasing life expectancy for Americans — from 47 years in 1900 to 75 by the mid-1990’s.

Learning about Norman Borlaug and Ellen Richards has taught me some things about myself, influenced my actions and shaped my beliefs. Although neither is Jewish, I feel drawn to them because of their accomplishments.

I may not choose the paths of these two heroes of mine, but because of them, I want to use my talents and skills to improve people’s lives. Science is my favorite subject in school and from what I‘ve studied so far I have seen ways to help humanity. I think that if I choose to be a scientist, I would want to help people in the way that Norman Borlaug and Ellen Richards have.

What I’ve taken away from my study of these two heroic scientists is that science isn’t just arcane study for study’s sake but something that has powerful, practical applications that can help a lot of people in a direct and profound way.


“Heroes and Role Models: Sally Fox” by Abigail Cheskis
April 28, 2007

For my bat mitzvah I had to explore my heroes and role models. A hero and a role model are different. The dictionary’s definition of a hero is: A person noted or admired for nobility, courage, and outstanding achievements. The dictionary’s definition of a role model is: A person on whom others model themselves. I agree with both of these definitions.

A hero is someone who does amazing and challenging tasks that you might not see yourself doing, while a role model is someone you look up to and want to be like.

Someone can still be a hero or role model if they have flaws. Everyone has flaws, but if the flaws don’t affect what the hero or role model does, then the flaws don’t matter. Someone can stop being a hero or role model if his or her beliefs or behaviors change.

I really don’t think I have a hero, but there are many people who I would love to be like. A role model of mine would have to have the following values: Be kind, act on behalf of women’s rights, be generous, be charitable, care for others in the world, and promote education.

The person I have chosen to be my role model is Sally Fox, who I had never even heard of before this project. She was a preserver of the visual history of women. She was born in 1929 and died in February of 2006. Sally died from lung cancer at the age of 76. I learned about Sally from visiting a website called the Jewish Women’s Archives. She had recently died when I was trying to find a role model. My favorite teacher’s last name is also Fox, so her name grabbed my attention when I saw it. Once I started reading about Sally I knew she was my perfect role model. She was also a non-practicing secular Jew who would have probably fit in at The City Congregation.

She was born in Hollywood, California, but grew up in New York City. She graduated from New York High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts. Sally graduated from Queens College in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in painting and art history. From 1950 to 1961 she lived in New York City, and in 1962 she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A preserver of the visual history of women is someone who collects prints, posters, magazine covers, advertisements, trade cards, post cards, and photographs about women to document their lives. Trade cards are small, illustrated advertising cards used mostly in the Victorian era. It is important that Sally preserved the visual history of women because it teaches a lesson. Not only do men contribute to society but women do too. In the past women have only been credited for stereotypical activities. Sally wanted people to know that women did and do a lot more than you think.

With all of the art that Sally collected she made three different calendars. Her first calendar book was called The Medieval Woman: An Illuminated Book of Days, published in 1985. Illumination is an art form that was used in the medieval times. This calendar book has many pictures of women doing things that people think women wouldn’t have ordinarily done in medieval times. To help Sally make this calendar book she used letters, wills, business and legal documents, convent, manor, and census records. But the thing that helped her most was manuscript illuminations and wood cuts from the first printed books. I will show you a few examples of pictures from this book. One of my favorites is a picture of women defending a castle using crossbows. Another example is a woman writer. A third is of a woman sculptor. Sally included the illuminations in her collection because she had a desire to uncover the work that women actually did in the past.

The second calendar book she made was called The Victorian Woman: A Book of Days, published in 1987. In this book there are illustrations from late nineteenth-century advertising ephemera. The word ephemera means everyday documents that were intended to be used and then thrown away. Some forms of ephemera in this calendar book are trade and advertising cards, posters, labels, magazine insets, and other items. One of my favorite advertisements is about a new type of lawn mower. It shows a girl pushing the lawn mower. It implies that it’s so easy to use that even a girl can use it, but it also shows that not only boys can mow the lawn but girls can too.

Sally’s last calendar book was called The Sporting Woman: a Book of Days, published in 1989. In this calendar book there are pictures of women doing sports from ancient Egyptian times to the present. Historians have never recorded these activities. Therefore people today never knew that women participated in these sports. I have two favorite pictures in this calendar book. One of them is a picture of women doing archery. The caption says “Archery, a favorite open-air sport of fashionable women, was always considered a “feminine” sport of skill suitable for both married and single women.” The other picture that I like in this calendar book is a picture of three Roman gymnasts, a mosaic from the fourth century A.D.

I knew that Sally had three sons from reading her obituary. To help us locate someone in her family we contacted Jacalyn Blume who currently works in the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College. All of Sally’s collection is held in this library. She put us in contact with Michael Fox, one of Sally’s sons. He was very generous with his time and gave me a lot of important information, especially about Sally’s values. I also attended an exhibit put together by The Schlesinger Library, and a tribute to Sally by her colleagues. At this exhibit I met many people, one of whom was the director of the Jewish Women’s Archives website. I had a conversation with her and we took a few pictures. This all led to the mention of my project in the Jewish Women’s Archives newsletter.

The first of Sally’s values that I would like to mention is activism. As Michael said “she voted with her feet”. An example of this is she started an organization called Parents against the Draft founded when a peace time draft was proposed by President Reagan. This organization not only attempted to help her kids but helped others too. Also, she was a founding member of the American Society of Picture Professionals. This organization brought together people like Sally, who collected pictures to try to make a point. The people who were members of the society benefited from being part of it because they could learn from each other. Lastly, Sally’s main work as an activist was that she documented women’s lives from past and present times to make a point of how women really did more then they were given credit for.

Sally’s next value is education. She tried to educate people by putting her work out in the world for everyone to see, not just historians who study medieval women or Victorian women. She made calendars, address books, and cards. When she created her book The Sporting Woman she arranged an exhibit that went to many colleges over a nine-year period.

Sally was especially creative. For example, she once found a very old menu. She wanted to figure out what restaurant and what time period it was from. She figured this out by researching the font that was used on the menu. Sally believed in being a good student. She also believed in studying hard and ended up being a mentor for many people. She once hired a Swedish au pair and generously arranged for her to go to college.

As you may have guessed already, Sally was a feminist who made big changes. She worked as a house wife and as a preserver of the visual history of women. Her combination of work and family was uncommon for women in the 50’s. Sally started out working at the Museum of Modern Art and then worked at Houghton Mifflin. Eventually Sally rose to the position of coordinator of picture research and picture editor. Other young women looked up to Sally as a role model. They believed they could work in and out of the house too. When Sally did her work, since she had three kids and a husband, she would take them to wherever she needed to go to get her work done. The more obvious part of Sally’s
work as a feminist was that she devoted a large part of her career to promote a greater understanding of the role of women.

Sally had a lot of cultural sensitivity. When she visited places she wouldn’t stay at fancy hotels, she would try to learn how the people lived. On one trip she wanted to experience Mexico, so she asked a farmer if she could camp on his land. She felt she should give him something in return, so she offered him a sack of either salt or sugar. She gave the farmer not money, but something that would probably
last longer, and was needed to survive.

Sally’s work was difficult and she experienced a number of obstacles. When searching for her pictures Sally had to go through many different categories because nothing was specifically indexed under the category “women”. Today she could have just googled “women”, or gone to the Schlesinger Library where she could have found thousands of pictures and documents.

Sally was a great person and in my opinion made a positive impact on the world. It seems like I am a clone of her because of how much we are alike. We have the same values, especially feminism and the importance of being a good student. Sally stands out for me as a role model because she did something unusual in her time. I also admire Sally because she started a new field of research. She made pictures equally important to text. I hope someday I can make as big a contribution to the world as she did.


“Heroes and Role Models: Emma Lazarus and Arthur Ashe” by Alanna Olken
November 5, 2004

Two individuals who demonstrated values that are important to me throughout their lives were the poet Emma Lazarus and tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Specifically, Emma Lazarus demonstrated the value of community and Arthur Ashe demonstrated the value of courage.

Emma Lazarus was born in 1849 in New York City into a prominent fourth generation Jewish-American family. She was well-educated, and fluent in both Russian and Hebrew.

Although wealthy, Emma grew up near the tenement houses of the Lower Eastside where waves of poor Jewish immigrants settled. As a young girl, Emma witnessed the terrible living conditions that the immigrants faced. Emma saw starvation, lack of medical attention, lack of clothing, unsafe, inadequate housing, and barbaric working conditions.

This early and constant exposure undoubtedly formed her views and shaped her values on the inequality of the human condition.

At the young age of 22, in 1871, she was already an adept author, translator and poet with published works in art, literature, and music. This was a remarkable and rare feat for a young woman at that time.

In 1883, Emma traveled extensively throughout Europe and gained further exposure to the deplorable conditions of the European Jews. Returning from her trip, she became one of the most outspoken American women on Jewish issues, using her fame to bring awareness to the idea of Zionism, resettlement of Jews in Palestine. This occurred long before the meeting of the first World Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897.

That same year, she founded an organization called the Society for the Improvement and Colonization of Eastern European Jews. In addition, she created classes for Jewish immigrants to find housing. Instead of Emma ignoring society’s problems and living in the “lap of luxury”, she chose to help her fellow Jews in their plight.

This is extremely significant to me because I believe that what she did was selfless by devoting her life to helping the less fortunate in her community.

As time went on, Emma wrote less about art, music and literature and more about the Jewish immigrants’ struggle, and anti-semitism. These poems and articles gave hope to Jewish and Gentile immigrants and influenced many more people to help the immigrant population. Her most famous poem, The New Colossus, was written in 1883 to raise funds for the Pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.

In 1887, after returning from a second trip to Europe, Emma Lazarus became ill and died. In 1903, a commemorative bronze tablet with her poem was placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. It reads:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempesttossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus’ accomplishments are countless. She was an author, poet, translator, a champion for Zionist rights, and an advocate and activist for immigration rights. She dedicated her life for the betterment of the world, tikkun olam, and serves as my role model for demonstrating the values of community, selflessness, bravery and doing deeds of kindness, gimeeloot hasadeem.

Arthur Ashe was born in 1943 in the segregated south in Richmond, Virginia. He is someone who unmistakably demonstrated my value of courage throughout his entire life. Arthur had a pleasant home life, excelled at school, loved to read and listen to music with his mother.

But when Arthur turned six, she suddenly died. “Though heartbroken, Arthur’s memory of his beloved mother was a source of inspiration throughout his life.” Although raised in a religious family, Arthur didn’t wait for some sort of miracle or the help of God to help him through his childhood; he knew he’d had to work hard to achieve success. This follows a very important belief amongst humanistic Jews that people should be pro-active and put dreams and thoughts into action.

At the age of seven, Arthur took up tennis at the public recreation courts and instantly stood out as an agile and extremely skilled player. But since racial segregation was the law during his childhood and early youth, Ashe could not play in the usual junior tournaments. A black physician, Dr. Walter Johnson, saw the talent in young Arthur and became his mentor. Ashe moved to St. Louis during his high school years where he could compete and in 1961 he won the previously segregated U.S. interscholastic tournament.

At 17, he earned a tennis scholarship to UCLA, and was the first black to enroll in the university. This dual accomplishment was outstanding and demonstrated his bravery and pioneering spirit.

Shortly after Arthur Ashe arrived at the school, his tennis team was invited to compete at a distinguished all-white racquet club, however, Ashe was the only player not invited, presumably because of his race. Ashe stated that, “he didn’t want to fight the racial battle at the time and temporally tolerated it.”

But this first serious encounter with racism and segregation greatly affected him. I can definitely understand his choice in this situation because he was in his freshman year and he felt he should “lay low” and not draw a lot of attention because he was already a controversial figure as the only black on the team and in the school.

In 1963 he was selected to represent the United States in the Davis Cup as the first African American selected to play for the American team. And in 1965, he silenced his critics by becoming the best college tennis player in the nation. That same year, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the civil rights movement. This time, Ashe used his fame to raise public awareness about racial issues.

By publicly protesting for civil rights, Ashe demonstrated bravery because he was willing to sacrifice his safety by participating in peaceful marches that were often in the target of violence.

Ashe graduated UCLA in 1966 and joined the pro tennis circuit. In 1968 he won the U.S. Open and his team also won the Davis Cup. In 1969, as the #1 ranked American, he applied for a visa to play in the South African Open but was denied because of the color of his skin. This time, already internationally famous, he was determined to take a bold stand against apartheid and immediately received support from many prominent organizations and raised worldwide awareness of racial injustice.

In 1975, at the age of 31, Ashe enjoyed one of his finest seasons ever and won Wimbledon. He also attained the ultimate ranking of #1 player in the world.

At just 36 years old, Ashe suffered a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He was forced to retired in 1980. However, he wasn’t discouraged. Always pro-active, he moved on to new prospects, serving as a chairperson of the American Heart Association. He also co-authored three autobiographies, which discussed turning adversity into positive opportunities.

He had another bypass surgery in 1983 and soon after his recovery, astonishingly resumed work. Five years later he was diagnosed with AIDS, most likely contracted from an infected blood transfusion during one of his two heart surgeries. He came to realize that AIDS wasn’t the biggest burden he had faced and stated that “being black and unaccepted in society was much more painful emotionally.” His racial battle, however, had already been peacefully fought for most of his life, and he came out of that fight victorious.

In 1992, Ashe announced to the world that he had AIDS. Already in the ravages of the disease, he nonetheless maintained a hopeful and positive attitude. He claimed that he wasn’t “scared or nervous”, but viewed his disease as just another opponent on the tennis court of life.

He founded an organization named the Arthur Ashe Fund for the Defeat of AIDS, which raised awareness.

Arthur Ashe died in 1993 at forty-nine years old. In his life he is remembered as a civil rights activist, a racial barrier breaker, an champion tennis player with three Grand Slam titles and 800 career victories, a husband and father, an author, an advocate, and an exceptionally courageous person.

I chose Arthur Ashe as my hero because I was searching for someone who was not only courageous, but displayed it in a very unique way. Arthur Ashe stood out as an individual who peacefully fought his battles and struggled through many obstacles with dignity: His mother died when he was young, he coped with the challenges of segregation, he was confronted with numerous health conditions, and was stricken with AIDS at a time when paranoia ran high and little was understood about the disease.

Throughout all the trials and tribulations of his life, he maintained an optimistic, pro-active attitude, and faced every challenge with a brave heart, gentle courage, grace and valor.


“A Hero and a Role Model: Jonas Salk and Rebecca Gratz” by Alex Rawitz
February 23, 2008

A hero is someone who selflessly helps other people, expects nothing in return, and often suffers for it. Heroes show strength of character, bravery, compassion, and humility. They can come from humble beginnings, but no matter how successful they become, they always put others before themselves. I feel that Jonas Salk, brilliant scientist and developer of the first polio vaccine, fits this description. Dr. Salk is the embodiment of the values of perseverance, bettering the world, and education. His story is an inspiring one. He was the son of Russian Orthodox Jewish immigrant, and he became the first person in his family to go to college. He used his education to develop a vaccine that saved millions of lives.

Jonas Salk was born in East Harlem, New York on October 28, 1914, to Daniel Salk, a garment worker born in America, and Dora, who had come to America to escape anti-Semitism in Russia. Neither of his parents had a formal education, but they encouraged Jonas to study hard and learn, and he did. An extremely intelligent student, he graduated from Townsend Harris High School, a school for the talented and gifted. He then worked his way through City College and the College of Medicine at New York University. He spent a year at NYU researching influenza. The virus that causes flu had only been discovered recently. Salk’s experiments with the flu became the basis for his experiments with polio.

In 1947, Salk was offered an appointment to the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. He worked along with researchers from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and saw the chance to develop a polio vaccine and help millions. He rushed headlong into this task and, with the help of funding, dedicated himself to finding a cure.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a contagious disease normally transmitted through the consumption of material contaminated with feces. Common ways to get polio were not washing your hands after going to the bathroom or drinking contaminated water. Three different types of Polio are known – effects range from severe flu-like symptoms to paralysis and even death. There were almost 60,000 cases in 1952 and almost 3,000 deaths in the United States at the peak of the epidemic.

After eight years of tireless, hard work, Salk produced the successful vaccine in 1955. The vaccine consisted of the dead poliovirus, which could immunize but not infect the receiver. Salk was hailed as hero and a savior of children.

In 1963 Jonas Salk founded the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies, an inventive center for both medical and scientific study and research. Even toward the end of his life, Salk devoted himself to producing a vaccine that fought AIDS, a goal that sadly has not yet been accomplished. Jonas Salk died in 1995, at the age of eighty.

Jonas Salk is a hero to me because he came from a humble background to do great things and help many people. He chose not to profit personally from something he had done, for he refused to patent the vaccine, thus gaining nothing monetarily from his invention. It was enough for him to work to get the vaccine distributed as widely as possible and see the positive results. This alone is an admirable quality, but few people have worked so hard: the speed at which he worked was remarkable, and he never once gave up. Salk worked on noble causes right up to his death. Hard work is an important value to me, and it clearly was to Jonas Salk. Salk is also a fantastic example of how education can help a person, who in turn can use it to help the world.

Jonas Salk was certainly not born rich, and one of the things that make him my hero is his coming from nothing to help millions. However, you don’t have to be born poor to help the poor, as is evidenced by my role model, Rebecca Gratz.

A role model is someone who you respect enough to want to be like them, or do the things they do. Rebecca Gratz, who preceded Jonas Salk by almost two centuries, worked to make the world a better place for those in need. She protected the Jewish identity in a time when it could have been lost. Rebecca Gratz was the founder of the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum, Hebrew Sunday School, and the Jewish Foster home. To me, she is the perfect example of someone who is both fully Jewish and fully American. During her lifetime she was not only one of the most prominent Jews in America but one of the most prominent and respected women in the country. She dedicated her life to children, women, her fellow American Jews, and the less fortunate. I did not know her before I did research for finding my role model, and with all the great things she did, I think that more people should know her compelling story.

Rebecca Gratz was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on March 4, 1781, the seventh of the twelve children of Miriam Simon and Michael Gratz. Her parents were prominent in Philadelphia society and also observant Jews. They valued education, like my family; so much so that Rebecca’s older sister, Richea, was the first woman in America to attend college.

In her late teens, Gratz was a vivacious, clever, beautiful woman in Philadelphia society. Through this position Gratz came to know many of the important literary, philosophical, and artistic figures of her time. However, in 1800, she was torn away from the social scene when her father suffered an incapacitating stroke. While her older brothers took over the family business Rebecca became her father’s nurse. She did not enjoy the role but soon became the family’s caretaker.

In 1801 Gratz, along with her mother, sister, and 21 other women, founded Philadelphia’s first nonsectarian women’s charitable organization, The Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances. The association’s mission was to help hard working, honest women who had fallen upon hard times

Because of Gratz’s work with the Female Association she became very eager to help women and orphans. In 1815, she helped found the Philadelphia Orphan Society, a non-sectarian, private organization that educated and housed poor orphans until they were old enough to be apprenticed to families. Gratz became secretary of the board, a position she occupied for over forty years. Gratz was known to the public as a kind-hearted, charitable woman and advised others who wanted to form similar organizations.

In 1819 Gratz helped found the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society to help the increasing number of disadvantaged Philadelphia Jews and form a Jewish presence in the community. It was Gratz’s hope that the Society would prove that Jews could provide for themselves.

By 1835 Gratz had become concerned about the religious education of Philadelphia’s 750 Jews, urging the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society to form a ‘Hebrew Sunday School’ to teach Judaism to children the way that its Christian counterpart taught Christianity. The school was very different from other schools of this time because they met only once a week and lessons were taught in English instead of Hebrew. It was coeducational, was run entirely by women and was the first Jewish institute to give women a total role in educating Jewish children.

From her work with the Philadelphia Orphan Society Gratz knew that even non-sectarian orphanages had a Christian bent that might weaken a child’s Jewish identity. In 1855 when was Gratz was 74 years old, she opened a Jewish orphanage, The Jewish Foster Home– it was the first of its kind in the United States.

Rebecca Gratz lived out her remaining years opposing slavery during the Civil War. When she died in 1869 she had remained active in all of the organizations that had meant so much to her. The Hebrew Sunday School and the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society continued to function for almost 150 years.

Rebecca Gratz and Jonas Salk both worked very hard to help other people. They share some of the same values as I do, and they have my respect and admiration. Both achieved greatness in the eyes of many, including myself. But in the end, what draws me to them is that they did not achieve this greatness for them, because they didn’t want greatness in the first place; they didn’t want fame and fortune; they wanted to make the world a better place. And anyone who does that is a hero.


“Heroes and Role Models: Lazarus Zamenhof and Catherine Baldwin” by Anschel Schaffer-Cohen
June 3, 2006

What is a hero? And is someone born a hero, or does he or she become one? A hero has to have good ideals, but also has to put in an effort. A dreamer who sits at home thinking that the world should be better is not a hero because he or she makes no effort. A hero doesn’t necessarily have to succeed, but he or she has to try.

Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof was born in Bialystok, in Russian Poland in 1859. His parents were Jewish, although his mother was much more religious than his father. She believed that all people were equals, God’s children. Lazarus, however, saw things on the street that seemed to counteract his mother’s idealist theory. This was hard for the young boy. He noticed perhaps the most obvious difference between the often hostile groups: language. In Bialystok at that time there were speakers of German, Russian, Polish, Yiddish, and Lithuanian. Language separated these different groups. And so he began on his first, most famous, and most influential project: a universal language. It was a long struggle.

At one point his father, Marcus Zamenhof, afraid that his son would be suspected of treason by the xenophobic Czar, burned all of his son’s grammars and vocabularies of the new language. There was also the problem of censoring. In Czarist Russia, one couldn’t simply publish a book. If it was believed by the censors to be anti-Czar in any way, it could not be published. This was a problem, because Lazarus Zamenhof was an idealist, and his book was in favor of racial brotherhood. However, through his father’s connections he managed to publish the book in 1887 under the pseudonym “Doktoro Esperanto” (or Dr. Hopeful).

Although he intended at first for the language to be called “Lingvo Internacia” or “International Language” it was his pseudonym, “Esperanto”, which was eventually adopted as the name of his language.

Esperanto is a combination of several languages, created in an attempt to be easily learnable to anyone from Europe and the Russian empire, and of course to any colony or former colony of a European country. In other words, Esperanto is easy to learn for speakers of Slavic, Germanic, and Romance languages. He used very simplified Latin grammar, and roots from Latin and German, along with a healthy dose of Spanish, some basic Russian, English words where all other roots already had different meanings, and a dose of Yiddish where no other language would do (Nu for well). A good example of Esperanto is the sentence “Saluton! Ĉu vi volas manĝaĵon?” A direct translation would be
“Hi! Question you want eat-thing?” or “Hi! Do you want food?” In order to make it understandable to everyone, Dr. Zamenhof left word order almost completely arbitrary, so that people whose languages have very different syntax could write the language in the most natural way and still be understood.

Esperanto was a very important movement in the early 20th century, growing to a size of 2000 members. However, the movement has not significantly grown since 1910, due to government distrust during WWI, persecution of Esperantists in Nazi Germany, and FBI suspicions of Communism during the McCarthy era. All of these were because of pacifism and also because Esperantists were and are against nationalism. But there are still Esperantist societies in most countries of the world.

Later in life he began to work on his second project, far ahead of his time: an international religion. His religion was based mainly on the teachings of Rabbi Hillel, who lived from 30 BCE – CE 10. Hillel’s writings include “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, if I am only for myself, what am I, and if not now, when?” These teachings were originally called “Hillelism.” Dr. Zamenhof wrote that Hillelists should be guided by the following words:

“I am human, and the only ideals that exist for me are purely human; I regard all racial-national ideals as mere group egotism and human hatred.

“I believe that all peoples are equal. I regard as barbarity every offence or persecution of a human being merely because he was born of another race, with a language or religion different from my own.

“I believe that every country belongs not to this or that race, but with fully equal rights to all the people living in it.

“I regard as barbarity every attempt by one man to force his language or religion upon other men.”

Dr. Zamenhof then changed the name of his religion to “Homaranismo” or Humanism, roughly translated. However, this was not City Congregation style Humanism, as it is not necessarily secular. To Humanistic Jews the word Humanism refers to the power of humans rather than to the power of gods, but to Dr. Zamenhof, who, along with most of his followers, believed in God, the word referred not to a belief in the exclusive power of humanity but rather to the idea that this “religion” was for all of humanity. Judaism is for Jews, and Christianity is for Christians, so Humanism is for humans. Dr. Zamenhof even encouraged that people believe in something, to satisfy the human need for such beliefs. We satisfy such beliefs at The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism by “believing” in the power of humanity.

Dr. Zamenhof was in Germany when WWI broke out. Upon hearing the news, it has been said that he was truly heartbroken, having given his life to achieving, or trying to achieve, world peace. He died a few years later in 1917.

But a hero is not what we want ourselves to be. A hero is someone we look up to: I have never really expected to work myself to death for a failing cause. So now let’s look at someone amazing, but perhaps someone I hope more to emulate: my role model, Catharine Baldwin.

Catharine Baldwin is my 6th grade history and science teacher, and my director, who I am honored to say is here today. Could you please stand up?

Catharine Baldwin has directed numerous plays that I have been in, including, most recently, The Doctor in Spite of Himself and The Grouch. In The Love of Three Oranges she taught me how to play a villain, Leandro, in a comedy without overplaying the jokes. At first I played the part too nicely, and I was so conscious of the jokes that they weren’t funny for the audience. She taught me that if I was serious about the funny parts, it would help the audience focus on the joke itself. That is important.

She grew up in Texas and was always confused about goals because she wasn’t really expected to have any. She never “started” acting. She says she always did make-believe when she was little. She told me that she and her friends used to pretend they were the Beatles. She was always George Harrison. Her first performance was You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She played Pigpen.

In high school she did a summer stock theater program. They performed 7 plays in 7 weeks. The director, Tony Vincent, had a strong influence on her personality and career.

In college in Vermont she took the “speed course” in Russian, finishing in 3 years. It was her first time living out of Texas. In her own words, it was as far as she could get.

After that she moved to New York. She says she built a few theater companies but found that she didn’t like professional show business. Her choice was instead to work with children. She explained that directing is the “natural position” of an adult in a children’s theater group. She found the switch from acting to directing easy because as an actor she picked up a lot.

In 1989 she started working at The Hudson School (she told me that she “kind of fell into teaching by accident”) and met Suellen Newman, the director of the then-very-young institution, who taught her how to develop a community. She still teaches there, and when asked if and when she would retire, she said “I don’t see why. I might do a little less if I get tired and start forgetting things.”

She loves theater because it is, in all senses of the word, a team effort. “We’re all in this mission together.” Of her goals for her students she said “I want to turn them onto their own creativity”

Asked about her personal values she said “I value love. I think in the end it’s the thing that really matters.” And “I value history. I do. I think the stories we tell about our people are full of the meaning that we make out of what’s happened to us. It helps us make meaning out of our lives. So I value storytelling and history.”

But why exactly is Ms. Baldwin my role model? Can’t any really good teacher be a role model? Well, no, a role model is more then that. So what exactly is it about Ms. Baldwin that makes her my role model? It’s probably because she has taught me much more about what kind of person I want to be. She has inspired me to be the most open-minded and funny person I can be.

Ms. Baldwin once said that she wanted to transform audiences, but found that easier to do when teaching. And she definitely does transform her students. I can’t speak for my classmates, but she instilled in me a love of history, science, and theater, the three things she taught me. In the same way, Dr. Zamenhof tried to transform the world.

These, for me, are champions of the process of communication: Dr. Zamenhof, whose language made a small difference in communication everywhere, and Catharine Baldwin, who has made a huge difference in a small school of about 200 students. They both, in their own ways, and in their own domains, have used communication to enrich the lives of others beyond belief. And that is heroic.


“Heroes and Role Models: Hank Greenberg and Deborah Batts” by Ben Farber
May 12, 2007

From thinking about values that are important to me, I have come up with two special people. These are people who I look up to, admire, and aspire to be like. A hero is someone who you look up to, without thinking that you could ever be like them. A role model is someone that is more real to you. A role model, you actually can be like. My hero is baseball legend Hank Greenberg, and my role model is the Honorable Debbie Batts.

What I didn’t know when I started this paper is that there is a connection between these two people: Debbie’s partner, Gwen, is the niece of Hank Greenberg’s brother, Ben. Ben Greenberg was married to Gwen’s mother’s sister, Sylvia, and in fact they lived for many years across the street from my grandparents.

I chose “Hammerin’ Hank” Greenberg because I wanted to pick someone who was involved in baseball. As most of you know, I am a baseball fanatic. I picked Hank because, from what I knew about him, he was the first major Jewish sports celebrity. Hank was good at baseball and good as a person, despite the fact that people were disrespectful to him. He was very moral. He treated people with respect, and he stood up for what he believed in.

A few Jews had played sports before Hank, but, fearing the anti-Semitism that would eventually come to Hank during his playing career, they changed their names to Christian ones. But that is not the only reason I chose Greenberg. I picked him because I wanted someone who represented the values of courage, and hard work.

Hank Greenberg was born Henry Benjamin Greenberg in 1911. His parents had immigrated to America from Romania through Ellis Island around 1905. His parents worked in the Bronx in a clothesmaking factory. He would play ball all day, and eventually, after going to high school, attracted attention from scouts. He was originally recruited by the New York Yankees to play first base, but he turned them down. A scout from the Detroit Tigers talked to his father, and said that he could get Hank a scholarship at Princeton. Well, his father jumped at the idea of Princeton, but Hank ended up going to NYU for a year, before signing with the Detroit Tigers in 1930. He got called up to the major leagues in 1933. In 1935, he became the first Jewish baseball player to win the Most Valuable Player award, and to this date the only one to do it in the American League.

In 1938, Hank hit 58 home runs. This created quite a controversy, because, at the time, the record was held by Babe Ruth, with 60. Most people felt uncomfortable with the idea of a Jew breaking Ruth’s record, much like people did not want Hank Aaron (a Black player) to break Ruth’s all-time home run record. Pitchers would intentionally walk him every time he came up, just to take that opportunity away from him. In 1940, Detroit moved him to the outfield, where he would win his second MVP award. He became, at the time, the first player to win MVP at multiple positions.

In 1941, Greenberg was drafted into the army. On his first day, the general was making anti- Semitic remarks. He was saying “I don’t want no Goldbergs, no Hymans, no Sharofskis, none of that!” Hank raised his hand, and said, “Pardon me, but my name is Hank Greenberg”, to which the general replied “I didn’t say nothin’ about no Greenbergs”. Greenberg retired from service in 1945, with the rank of general. He then returned to the Tiger lineup, and hit two home runs on his first day back. Greenberg was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947, where he played his last season, becoming the league’s first $100,000 player. Greenberg’s last season in the majors was also Jackie Robinson’s first, and Jackie, as the first African-American player in the major leagues, might have been the one player hated more than Greenberg in his first couple of seasons. When Robinson first joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, some of the other players on his team signed a petition that said that they would rather be traded than take the field with a Black man. However, Hank embraced Robinson, telling him that things were going to work out, if he just hung in there, and sure enough they did. In 1956, Greenberg became the first Jew inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1983, the Tigers retired his number, 5. He died on September 4, 1986, at the age of 75.

Greenberg embodies some values that are very important to me. The first one of those is courage. It took tremendous courage to stand up to all of that anti-Semitism, and say, “I don’t care what you think”. He had to endure all kinds of heckling. Rumor is that in the heat of the pennant races, the Yankees would call someone up from the minor leagues, just to heckle Greenberg. How did he respond? By hitting a grand slam that clinched the 1945 pennant. People would call him all kinds of names. Everything from Kike to “Yellow, Jewish Bastard.” One time someone threw a pork chop at him from over the left-field bleachers. Even though Hank was not religious, as a Jew someone thought it might
have been especially insulting to have a pork chop thrown at you even if you did not keep kosher.

Another thing that really stands out for me is that in 1934, he was faced with a dilemma. With the Tigers four games in first place, Rosh Hashanah rolled around. Fans and rabbis all had their own opinion on whether or not Greenberg should play. The rabbis looked in the Talmud, and found a passage somewhere that said something about kids playing on holidays. When this news came to Greenberg, he decided to play. The rabbis did not have the heart to tell him that the passage in the Talmud said things about Roman children playing on holidays. As consolation, Greenberg spent Yom Kippur in a synagogue, and the Tigers lost. That act alone inspired Edgar Guest to write this poem:

Come Yom Kippur – holy fast day world-wide over to the Jew – And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true Spent the day among his people and he didn’t come to play Said Murphy to Mulrooney, ‘We shall lose the game today! We shall miss him in the infield and shall miss him at the bat, But he’s true to his religion – and / honor him for that!

My role model is Debbie Batts, who is here today. I’d like to ask Debbie to please stand up so everyone can meet her. Debbie is a wonderful person, with strong values, and I respect her for that. Her title is the Honorable Deborah A. Batts, and the people who thought up that title could not have picked one that was more appropriate. The reason that I picked her is that she is who she is, and stands up for it,
even if people don’t like it.

The thing that makes Debbie special for reasons of this project is that she is the only openly gay or lesbian Article 3 federal judge in the country. Those are federal judges who are appointed for life under the US Constitution. I have known Debbie since I was a baby, because she was my mother’s partner when I was born. I have also known her children, Alix and James, since then.

Debbie grew up in Philadelphia. She said that her parents were strict, but in a nice way. They had high expectations of their kids, and were pleased when they did well in school, which they always did. They encouraged reading, and their kids used to use flashlights to read under the covers at night.

Debbie came out as a lesbian in 1991, after a previous marriage and divorce with a man. She was a professor at Fordham Law School at that time. To come out takes tremendous courage. I cannot imagine being out while being a federal judge, and facing that kind of scrutiny of representing your entire people. Especially when being gay was relatively new to the public, and was even less accepted than it is now. When Debbie was being interviewed by the FBI, when she had been nominated to be a federal judge and was preparing for her senate confirmation, they asked her if she had anything to tell them after the interview was over, and in typical Debbie fashion, she said “Well, it’s not any of your damn business, but I should probably mention that I’m gay.” One of the FBI people asked, “Do you have anyone who can verify that?” In all seriousness, they were thinking that Debbie could get blackmailed because she was gay, if someone found out and she did not want people to know.

In the cases she hears, Debbie feels that she is especially sensitive to women, mothers, people of color, LGBT people, and addicts. She knows that it is especially hard out there for those people. It was hard for her to balance her career with her family when Alix and James were younger, because she wanted to be there for them, but could not always find the time, and she regrets that. Debbie has a lot of integrity. She always decides what is fair, as opposed to what is the easy way out. She once had a case where she was faced with someone in prison and charged with being a terrorist who escaped from his jail cell, and stabbed the guard through the eye, causing brain damage. The easy thing to do would be to lock the guy up forever, but she did not do that. She gave the suspected terrorist 37 years in prison, because she found that that was the fair punishment that the law required.

Another important case that she is currently working on involves the Environmental Protection Agency. After 9/11,the EPA’s commissioner said that it was okay for people to go out and breathe the air without taking into account all the chemicals and debris floating around. Some people got cancer from just breathing the air, and are suing the EPA.

One of Debbie’s favorite cases occurred in 1999, when the camera company Nikon was being sued by a party led by now basketball hall of famer Charles Barkley, when he was still playing for the Houston Rockets. Barkley and his lawyers came into her court and worked out an agreement, but Charles had just finished a game, and was exhausted, so Debbie invited him into her robing room to lie down. When she came in to check on him, he said he was cold, and so she gave him a blanket covered with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I cannot imagine Charles Barkley, at six foot six and 345 pounds, sleeping with a Snow White and the Seven Dwarves blanket!

Debbie Batts and Hank Greenberg both are exceptional people. They have strong moral values, and they stand up for what they believe in. And that’s why they are my role model and my hero.


“Heroes and Role Models: The Mythbusters – Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman” by Benjamin Sternhell
June 17, 2006

As part of my bar mitzvah study, I had to pick a hero or role model to talk about. This isn’t as easy as it might seem. To me, a hero is someone who is really helping the world in an important way. I thought about this a lot, and many people—like Mom, and my mentor Nikki, and Myrna—made suggestions, but I really don’t have any heroes.

A role model is different; a role model is someone I would personally want to follow. A role model could be a hero, but doesn’t have to be. A role model can be a regular person who lived, or is living, a life I would want to live.

From the first time I thought about this topic, I wanted to pick the Mythbusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, as my role models. But no one but me thought it was a good idea.

The Mythbusters is a TV show; Adam and Jamie prove or disprove urban legends by testing them through science. Two of my major values are humor and science, and I have to say that the Mythbusters follow those two values exactly.

But Mom, Nikki and Myrna said, You can’t do a TV show! You have to do a real person! They suggested other scientists, and inventors, and even other mythbusters, like scholars who helped develop the ideas of humanistic Judaism. So I learned about some of these people—but I still really wanted to talk about the Mythbusters. Did I mention that one of our family traits is stubbornness? How about questioning authority?

I did learn about some of these other people. I learned about Copernicus, who was not only a brilliant scientist but a major mythbuster who discovered that the Earth orbited around the Sun instead of the Sun around the Earth—a shocking idea in his time because it suggested that people weren’t the center of the universe.

I learned about Galileo, who was brought before the Inquisition because he agreed with Copernicus’s theory. He was forced, under threat of torture and death, to deny that he thought Copernicus was right—an example of religion refusing to accept science and even wanting a scientist killed.

Then I learned about a whole lot of inventors, from the Wright Brothers to Thomas Edison to Peter Cooper. After all this research, however, I still feel that my real role models are the Mythbusters. (Did I say something earlier about stubbornness?)

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are real people with other careers who are now hosting the Mythbusters TV show. They’re not playing characters; they’re playing themselves.

They’re very funny when they build insane contraptions and use them to test urban legends. (A quote from Adam: “Five minutes of science and then ten minutes of me hurting myself.”) But they’re also imaginative and daring and very interesting.

I admire their curiosity and all the crazy things they’re willing to do to figure things out. Adam said, “Jamie and I are not scientists. We’re not experts in any field. But we have a lot of curiosity, and an uncommon ability to really throw ourselves in just about any corner of science and really seek out what’s going on.”

Adam Savage was born in New York City in 1967 and now lives in San Francisco. He’s also a sculptor and his sculptures have been in more than 40 shows. One sculpture is a stand for his Oxford English Dictionary made out of a dolphin’s spine.

For the past eight years, he’s worked in the special effects industry, making more than 100 commercials and 12 films, including Star Wars Episodes I and II and the Matrix sequels.

Jamie Hyneman was born in 1956 in Minnesota, but grew up in Indiana farm country. His company, M5 Industries, creates unusual props. One of their recent creations is an enormous remotecontrolled 7-Up vending machine that can travel 20 mph in practically any terrain while shooting cans of soda at people.

The Mythbusters investigate all sorts of weird questions. Can a singer break glass just by using their voice? Is it true that a rolling stone gathers no moss? Is talking on a cell phone while driving as dangerous as driving drunk? Does toast really fall buttered side down? Just how hard is it to find a needle in a haystack? Can a penny dropped from the Empire State Building kill a pedestrian on the sidewalk? Is it possible to get your tush stuck on an airplane toilet?

I admit I particularly like the funny ones, and I like explosions and car crashes, but I also admire the way the Mythbusters use real science to answer these bizarre questions.

To test the penny myth, Adam went skydiving and dropped handfuls of pennies from the air. They found out that pennies traveled at 65 mph. Jamie worked on the math while Adam built a wind tunnel and then Jamie fired pennies out of a staple gun to make them go even faster. Then they shot pennies at ballistics gel, which has the same density and elasticity as human flesh. In the end, they found that a penny, even fired faster than it can fall from the sky, isn’t strong enough to crack a human skull.

I particularly admire the way the Mythbusters use science to investigate the world. Something can seem really strange and be true, or something can seem really obvious and be false. You never know until you test things for yourself, or at least until you study the experiments other people have done.

A favorite Adam saying is, “I reject your reality and substitute my own.” To me that means, I won’t accept anything as true until I’ve tested it for myself (and maybe get hurt or make a fool of myself doing so!).

In an online interview, talking about viewers who post critical comments, Adam once said: “But the best thing is, sometimes someone will say, ‘These guys aren’t scientists, and what they’re doing isn’t science, it’s idiotic.’ And almost always, someone will post after them and say, ‘Actually, I’m a working scientist for the past 30 years. And while it would be nice if their methods were a little more rigorous, what they do is exactly science. It’s messy, it’s confusing, they’re willing to make mistakes, and that’s every bit of what science is.’”

So even though they fool around a lot, I think the Mythbusters are doing important work. And I think the work they do relates to my bar mitzvah, even though you may not think so at first.

Busting myths, that’s what humanistic Judaism is all about. Not accepting everything we’re told is true, but trying to find out for ourselves—that’s what I’ve learned in this congregation, and from my family.

Testing our ideas—using scientific methods to see what’s true and what isn’t—is really important, especially in a world in which so many people aren’t willing to do that. The debate about teaching evolution is just one example of what I’m talking about; lots of people think kids should learn what the bible says instead of what science can investigate and prove.

This isn’t so different from what happened to Galileo 400 years ago. Mythbusting through science is a very important idea.

So no, I’m not claiming that the Mythbusters are heroes—but they’re cool and funny and weird, and they have a lot of fun at work, and they invent amazing contraptions and get to blow them up. And at the core of all this fun is a very serious commitment to understand the world rationally, question authority, and test all hypotheses. Sound like pretty good role models to me.


“Heroes and Role Models: Sandy Koufax, Hannah Senesh, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Benjaim Weitz
September 9, 2006

I would like to talk about some of my heroes and role models, who were also trailblazers and inspirational leaders.

I didn’t choose them because their values matched mine, although some of them did. I chose to talk about them because I was inspired by what they did and the way they lived their lives. They inspire me to want to do something meaningful with my life too.

Today I will be talking about Sandy Koufax, Hannah Senesh, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sandy Koufax was a both a role model and a trailblazer. In 1965 he was already the best pitcher on the Dodger’s team, and had won three Cy Young awards for best pitcher of the year. He was the first pitcher to throw four no-hitter games.

But he refused to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series against the Twins, because that day also happened to be Yom Kippur. Instead of pitching, Koufax spent game time in his neighborhood synagogue, praying and fasting. People were shocked. Everyone thought that his decision would mean the Dodgers would lose to the Twins, and they did.

The day after the game, a newspaper article said: “The Twins love matzoh balls!” After the Dodgers won the second game, Koufax wanted to send a note to the newspaper that said “I hope your words are as easy to eat as matzoh balls!” But he didn’t do it, because he was a good Sportsman. In the end the public respected Koufax for his decision not to play on Yom Kippur. Of course it helped that the Dodgers did go on to win the World Series that year.

Sandy Koufax’s story had more meaning for me, because I have pitched for my Little League team. I’m not sure that I could skip a big game if it fell on Yom Kippur. The decision not to pitch must have been really difficult for Koufax. He knew how important the World Series game was, and he knew a lot of people would be very angry with him, but he decided it was more important observe his religion’s customs and not grow apart from them. Even if I didn’t skip a big game, that’s still something that I can relate to.

Sandy Koufax demonstrated the value of K’lal Y’israel: Jewish solidarity. It’s important to stay close to your Jewish heritage even if it means giving up something you love.

Hannah Senesh was both a trailblazer and a hero. She was born in 1921 in Budapest, Hungary. Shortly after World War II began, she moved to Palestine to help establish a Jewish homeland. However, she could never stop worrying about the friends and family she had left behind in her home country.

In 1943, she joined the Palmach, which was the commando wing of the Haganah. Hannah volunteered for a raid that would drop commandos behind enemy lines to rescue American prisoners of war. She wanted to prove to the Allies that the Haganah would be useful in the war against the Nazis. She also wanted to try to rescue her mother, who was in danger from the Nazis in Hungary.

She was the only woman selected to go on the raid. Hannah was captured and tortured for military secrets and information that would have led the Nazis to the underground fighters. The Nazis even brought her mother to the prison and threatened to kill her in front of Hannah. But Hannah never broke, and as a result was sentenced to death by a firing squad. She was executed on November 8, 1944. She was 23-years old.

Hannah always had a very positive attitude. Her teammates have said that she was the one who would cheer them up when they were down. She wanted to save people from the Nazis even if it meant losing her own life. She showed the world that Jews would fight back. I chose to write about her because she had so much stacked against her but she never quit. She demonstrated the Jewish value of Ometz Lev: Courage.

In 1950 Hannah Senesh’s remains were reburied on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. When I went to Israel in February I visited her grave and put a stone on it in remembrance. It was important for me to say that I will not forget her courage and what she did.

Martin Luther King was both a role model and an inspirational leader. He was a famous civil rights leader. He was also the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, on October 14, 1964.

In 1955 King led the year-long Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott that resulted in the Supreme Court outlawing segregation on city buses. This was King’s first major Civil Rights success.

King is probably most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. More than a quarter of a million people of different races attended the march. My dad was there too. He marched for Civil Rights in many demonstrations in the sixties.

In 1965 King continued to successfully fight for African Americans’ rights to vote, against segregation, and for fair hiring. In 1967, King protested the Vietnam war, calling it an occupation and, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

In 1968 King helped to create the “Poor People’s Campaign.” The campaign began with a march on Washington D.C. demanding help for the lower-class communities in the United States.

During the many years of his Civil Rights work, King was arrested, his house was bombed, and he received many threats on his life. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated on the balcony of his motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Three-hundred thousand people attended his funeral.

Even heroes and role models have flaws, and King was no exception. He was known to have had affairs with other women. The FBI threatened to reveal Martin Luther King’s affairs and destroy his reputation if he did not stop his Civil Rights work. But King refused to back down.

In the 1980s questions were raised about whether King had plagiarized others’ work for his PhD degree. He had copied a third of his work for his thesis from a paper by an earlier graduate student. Authorities decided not to revoke his degree because the paper still made, quote, “an intelligent contribution to scholarship.”

Even though King was a great man and people did not expect this from him, we must remember that he was human, just like the rest of us, and I’m sure if we search for a while, we can find many flaws in ourselves too.

Martin Luther King demonstrated the Jewish Value of Tikkun Olam: Healing the World. Healing the world means not being silent when you see injustice. I chose to write about Martin Luther King because he developed such a large movement that was responsible for tremendous change in human rights and civil rights.

King inspires me because he changed the world so greatly without using violence, and I wish it was a little easier for me to grasp how he did that, and to model myself after him in learning how. He inspires me because if he could change people’s opinions just by talking to them, his words must have been very powerful and many people had to trust that he was a good man down to the core.

Hannah Senesh wrote this poem that to me describes heroes and role models like herself, Sandy Koufax and Martin Luther King, and what they mean to us:

There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth

Though they have long been extinct.

There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world

Though they are no longer among the living.

These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark.

They light the way for mankind.


“Heroes and Role Models: Samantha Abeel and Dr. Oliver Sacks” by Danielle Nourok
Ocober 21, 2006

Heroes are special people. They are born being heroes. It’s an instinct for them to run towards danger to help, while everyone else is running away. Heroes take chances. They are people you admire and respect, but not necessarily people you want to be like. If you weren’t born with that instinct then it’s very hard to gain it. Sometimes I think I might have the courage to be a hero, but I’m not sure whether I would act on it if the situation presented itself.

A role model, on the other hand, is someone who it is more possible to be like. A role model is an amazing person whom you look up to. You might or might not know your role model personally, but it’s someone whose footsteps you would consider following. For me, a role model would have the qualities of being compassionate and wise, valuing education, caring about friends and family, and having the courage and persistence to stand up for beliefs, even if they’re unpopular.

The first role model I have chosen to speak about is Samantha Abeel. She interested me because she overcame so many of her fears, and then wrote two books about them. One of these she wrote in 1993, when she was only fifteen years old. It’s a book of poems and stories called, “Reach for the Moon,” and is about her learning disability.

When Samantha was in the first grade, she did not understand anything mathematical. While all the other kids could tell time and add numbers, Samantha could not do either of these things. This learning disability is called dyscalculia.

It was Samantha’s trouble with math that first caught my eye because at the time I was having trouble with math too. It wasn’t as severe, but enough to make me feel a little down.

Samantha’s mother tried to help Samantha with her math homework, and was amazed that her daughter couldn’t even add 2 plus 5. By the time Samantha got to seventh grade, she was placed into a slower algebra class. But still, she could never get any of the answers correct.

Her mother went to the school district and asked that Samantha get special help. Once again, Samantha was given a test to see if she had a learning disability, but as always, she passed, because even though Samantha was terrible in math, she was excellent in other areas.

This time Samantha’s mom, who was frustrated by the school system, went to the board of education and fought to get Samantha into special education. The school agreed to test Samantha on each grade level of math. What they discovered was that she didn’t know basic first grade math. She was finally put into a special class, where she did great.

I think most people would have given up trying to learn if they went through what Samantha went through. Fortunately, though, she and her mother were incredibly persistent.

Soon after Samantha was diagnosed as having a learning disability, she began to write about it. At first, she would only share her writing with her parents because she knew they wouldn’t criticize her.

But eventually, Samantha used her creative writing to communicate with other people who suffered like she had. After she wrote, “Reach for the Moon,” Samantha spoke in front of crowds, even though she was afraid to.

At book signings, many people came up to her and told her their stories. There was one man, a doctor, who told Samantha he’d been working at the same office for 20 years, but every day he would have to take out a map to find his way to his office. He said he knew there was something wrong with him but now he knew he wasn’t alone.

Samantha had compassion for these people because she knew how hard it was to have a learning disability. She wanted to educate them and share her experiences in order to spare them some of the pain.

My second role model is Oliver Sacks. He is a doctor, who studies how the human brain and mind work, which actually connects to Samantha because she has an unusual brain like the people he studied and wrote about. One reason Dr. Sacks is my role model is because he believes in his convictions and doesn’t back down even when people criticize him.

In his book, Awakenings, Dr. Sacks describes his work with patients who were in a frozen state. What he had discovered was that these patients had reflexes. But when he told the other doctors he believed he could help these patients, the other doctors just laughed at him. But Dr. Sacks didn’t back down. His persistence, courage and humanity led him to devote time and energy to patients whom everyone else had
given up on.

Dr. Sacks, the son of two Jewish doctors, has an incredible curiosity, even when it comes to things about his own mind. When he was seven years old, during World War II, he lived in North London. He remembers that two bombs fell near his house. He put this in one of his books, a memoir, but later on his brother told him that he had only been there for one of the bombs. The other one exploded while he was at boarding school. Dr. Sacks realized that he came up with this memory from a dramatic letter that his other brother had written, but Dr. Sacks found it hard to believe that he hadn’t been there when his mind was telling him clearly that he had. Then Dr. Sacks decided to analyze his own memories. He looked at the two experiences and noticed that in the real one he could feel himself there, but in the one where his mind had tricked him, Dr. Sacks felt as though he were watching it from far away, and he couldn’t find himself in the
memory.

This is how intensely Dr. Sacks studies his patients and the world around him. He’s enthusiastic and very excited about so many things. Most of his attention, though, is spent on his patients. When it comes to food, he eats the same thing every day, and when it comes to clothes, he does not care how mismatched they are. Dr. Sacks is probably best known for his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It is a collection of cases about individuals who have very unusual problems with their brains. For example, one man could not identify faces and would only recognize people by symbols, like knowing it was his wife because her head looked like a hat.

I think Dr. Sacks greatly values life, and believes that the mind is the key to enjoying it. I think this belief motivates him to study the mind even though it is such a difficult subject to tackle. Like Samantha’s books, his also touch people deeply. Many poets, artists, and other creative people have used Dr. Sacks’s stories to inspire their own work.

Samantha, Dr. Sacks, and I all love to write. But not only is writing a way to communicate, it’s a way to identify your true feelings, especially through poetry. But more than writing, I value music because I feel like it’s an even deeper way to express your self. Dr. Sacks also loved music, especially going to concerts. He always brought a notebook with him. He’d go to the back of the room and start to write, but would never write about the music. It was just that the music would help him get ideas.

An important quality that Samantha and Dr. Sacks have is that they both pursue their dreams. This is something I would like to do, and I know, like Samantha, I would have to keep trying and not give up. I also hope that if I have something to offer the world that I would have the same kind of courage that both Samantha and Dr. Sacks have.


“Heroes and Role Models: Billy Crystal and Amy Goodman” by Daniel Segan
June 6, 2009

The line that separates a hero from a role model is thin. Both represent superior behavior and judgment. Heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi are 2 tremendous people who‘ve made a huge difference in the world. They dedicated themselves to the belief that one can make the world a better place to live in. Some of the words I associate with the idea of a Hero are selflessness, inspirational, and significant change. On the other hand, my idea of a Role Model is someone who lives life to the fullest, and practices a majority of the values that I hope to live by when I’m an adult.

Initially, I examined Bob Dylan and Adam Sandler as possible role models. However, the more I listened, watched, and read, I realized they didn’t fit my standards. They are very accomplished people with great talent but were not inspirational to me. So, I continued my search for a worthy hero and role model. I was looking for people who believed in community, humor, independent thinking, hard work, and voice. It wasn’t until my dad recommended Amy Goodman and my mom suggested Billy Crystal that it became clear that I had two candidates for my paper.

Billy grew up in Long Beach, New York. He described his family as “large and loving..” Sadly, at the young age of 15 Billy Crystal had to cope with the death of his father. One way to cope was to use his great sense of humor which his family encouraged In Billy‘s words, “If it wasn’t for the laughs and loves of my relatives andfriends when I was a little younger I don’t think I would have ended up being a comedian.”

At such a young age it must have been hard to grow up without out a father. The strength it must have taken for him and his family to handle such a tragic event is admirable.

Besides comedy, Billy’s love, is baseball. He inherited the love of baseball from his dad who was a pitcher for St. John’s University. Billy was offered a baseball scholarship to Marshal University. But the University decided to scrap the baseball program before he was able to play his first game.

In 1970 he married Janice Goldfinger with whom he had 2 daughters, Janice and Lindsay. The impressive part about his marriage is how the couple was able to sustain a long and healthy relationship. My middle-school relationships, LIKE Hollywood relationships don’t last very long. Their love for each other is so strong, that even Hollywood couldn’t pull them apart. Billy Crystal is not defined by his fame or money. If anything, he tried to stay private and away from Hollywood’s seduction.

Billy Crystal’s success was the result of a long road of hard work, a value that I’ve come to appreciate as a member of my family. He had to raise a family while working hard as a young struggling actor. He studied film and television at NYU under Martin Scorsese. Crystal’s big opportunity came when he was offered the role of Jodie Dallas on Soap, the first gay character portrayed on American television. His choice to play this role was a groundbreaking decision. I admire his risk taking at such an early stage of his career.

Who could forget when in 1984, on Saturday Night Live we were introduced to Fernando Lamas- whose catch phrase is “You look…Mahvelous!” His imitations are amazing and I admire his ability to do them. For those people who know me well, you know that I’m horrible at imitations. His voice is heard through his impersonations.

Billy Crystal used his talent and fame to raise money for Comic Relief, which does fundraising for disasters like Hurricane Katrina, tsunamis, and global issues like poverty and disease. I admire that he was able to find the time to do charitable work. His efforts to heal the world align with the values my parents have modeled.

Later in Billy Crystal’s career, he turned his attention to producing films, and of course the topic he chose was baseball. It was a film titled ‘61,”- a tribute to Roger Maris and the struggles he endured as the underdog, on his way to surpassing Babe Ruth’s home run record.. A few years ago, Billy was given the opportunity to play on the Yankees for one day. He didn’t do so well, but that’s okay since he was in
his mid sixties. I love the idea that even at his age, his love for baseball hasn’t faded.

On the other hand Amy Goodman, my hero is a brilliant journalist who works tirelessly to uncover the truth. Her brother David says that Amy “Gives a voice to those who’ve been forgotten and beaten down by the powerful.”

She is the host of Democracy Now, a daily, independent, award-winning news program that addresses worldwide topics and human struggles. On one show she spoke about riots in Bolivia and worker’s rights protests in Zimbabwe. These countries are too often ignored by mainstream media channels like CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC.

She is a unique journalist, taking on topics in a way that other journalists shy away from. Amy makes it clear that her ideology shapes her brand of journalism. Sometimes she appears less concerned with trying to maintain balance and fairness than shedding light on her version of the truth. This was illustrated on another show when she tackled issues like the recent election, women’s rights, the mortgage crisis, and our occupation of Iraq.

Amy Goodman is a journalist who advocates for those who are silenced, which sometimes gets her in trouble. When she interviewed Bill Clinton, she was accused of being disrespectful. In fact Amy was fired from NPR because as the editorial director of National Public Radio, John Dinges said,“she was too opinionated and outspoken. He went on to say that at “some point she became more of an advocate than we were comfortable with.” NPR is a very leftwing radio station, so you can imagine how radical she must be to get fired from NPR.

One important story that captures Amy well is what happened in 1990 and 1991, when she was reporting on the US-backed Indonesian occupation of East Timor. There, she and her colleague Allan Nairn witnessed Indonesian soldiers gunning down 270 East Timorese. Indonesian soldiers beat Amy and Allan, fracturing Allan’s skull. Amy said that “To be there as these Indonesian soldiers opened fire on innocent people and gunned them down, and ultimately understanding that there was nothing we could do to stop it, that it was only getting word out that can make a difference.” Their documentary, “Massacre: The Story of East Timor” won numerous awards. Ever since, Amy could not retreat when
something was going wrong, in fact she goes towards it to find out more. Amy Goodman says, “It’s not Journalism’s role to pass on opinions. It’s Journalism’s role to pass on the truth.”

The way she puts herself out there is incredibly brave. She risks her life to do the right thing. I hope I find the passion to do something as noble.

Its important to recognize the role Amy’s family played in her life Both parents were peace activists. Her father was involved in community service and worked to integrate the New York City schools. Amy watched her father negotiate for a compromise when people were polarized. Her grandfather was a rabbi and her 107-year-old Grandmother inspires her to just keep going. It is clear that her family taught her to believe that one can heal the world of injustice. In Amy‘s words, “Journalism is the avenue I chose to pursue that belief.”

I admire her commitment and love for what she does. Money is not what motivates her instead it’s the belief that she’s doing something to help better the world. To enjoy being at work, doing something you love, while making a difference in the world is incredibly important for me when I get a job. As important as money is in our world, it’s not the key reason to enter a profession.

Recently, at the Republican Convention Amy Goodman was arrested. In an interview Amy said, she was “manhandled and handcuffed’ by the Secret Service. She claimed to have had her Democracy Now ID clearly displayed. Her arrest provided evidence that the police overstepped their role. The conspiracy charges were false and were dropped. She was so committed to doing her job as a journalist that if she had to get arrested to prove a point, so be it. Her courage illustrates both her commitment to her profession and her loyalty to her colleague. This was heroic.

Her dedication to journalism demands sacrifices. As some of you might know, I got the privilege to meet with and interview Amy Goodman which aired on Japanese TV. Before I met Amy Goodman I thought that she was a workaholic but after talking to her I realized that she wasn’t. Workaholic, in my mind, sounds negative in that they try to escape life by going to work all the time, but that is not the case with Amy. Amy is just so dedicated to her work that she has very little spare time.

This work ethic may be the most significant difference between Amy and me. Then again this is why she is my hero, not my role model. Her courage and commitment are impressive. She is a hard worker, an attribute I admire, but I wonder, Does it consume too much of her time? To my 14 year old mind, Amy may be too defined by her job. When I get older, I want to love my job as much as she does but I’m not comfortable with it consuming so much of my time. While I admire her conviction and determination, I can’t see myself in her shoes as much as I can with Billy Crystal. Billy Crystal seems to possess a more comfortable balance between work, family, and public image. Plus he always leaves time to play baseball with the Yankees.

Let me be clear, I don’t plan on being Amy or Billy. I am an individual who shares some of the values that they can live by. Billy Crystal’s life is filled with humor and family, while Amy’s life includes hard work and advocacy. He reflects on the more light hearted and comical side of me and Amy expresses the more thoughtful and analytical side of me. The person I hope to become will be a combination of both Amy and Billy. Even though I am changing everyday, these are the values that I want to hold on to.


“Heroes and Role Models: Barry Scheck” by Ethan Bogard
September 13, 2009

Let’s be very clear, Roger Federer is my role model. That backhand, the perfect serve placement, the angle volleys, the cool headband and the 13 grand slam titles. But they wouldn’t let me use Federer as my role model. Not sure why? Something about my core values? So, I went back and reviewed my values, decided that justice was the one that stands out for me as the most important, and looked for a role model who would best exemplify justice.

“Justice…., Justice shall you pursue.” That’s what the bible says and that’s what Barry Scheck does.

Barry Scheck is a lawyer who pursues justice by providing legal assistance to help people who are in prison, and sometimes on death row, but have been wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. He is co-founder and director of The Innocence Project at Benjamin Cardozo Law school. The project, which operates as a public interest law firm within the law school, only accepts cases in which DNA evidence can be used to demonstrate that a prisoner is actually innocent.

It’s difficult to imagine a clearer example of fighting for justice than to work to free innocent people who are facing long prison sentences or even the death penalty for crimes they didn’t commit. I can’t even imagine how terrifying and frustrating it must be to be trapped in prison, or even awaiting execution, and to know that you were unjustly convicted.

Barry Scheck has helped to free more than 200 innocent people since he began this amazing work in 1992. I was very fortunate to interview Mr. Scheck in his office last year. He told me how happy it makes him feel to see the faces of innocent men and women who are reunited with their families. He described how newly freed men and women hug their families at prison gates. They talk about how they are looking forward to that first bite of pizza, or sip of beer, or a long hot bath.

When I interviewed Mr. Scheck I asked him how innocent people could be convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. He explained to me that eyewitnesses frequently make mistakes, snitches tell lies, prosecutors and police sometimes fabricate evidence, and confessions might be coerced by the police. Lab tests can also be interpreted incorrectly. And, racism can certainly play a huge role in ignoring the truth. Unbelievably, there are cases where defense lawyers have actually fallen asleep during a trial, yet courts have said that’s not a reason to overturn a conviction.

Mr. Scheck told me that he knew from when he was a kid that he had to get an education to make a difference. Scheck’s dad was a tap dancer, and a political activist, who grew up poor on the lower east side of Manhattan. Barry wanted to use education as a way to do the kind of good that his dad tried to do. While in college at Yale, Barry protested against the Viet Nam War like many people his age did. However, he recognized that poor people were overrepresented in the draft and he argued that all student deferments should be ended so as to make the process fairer. Scheck grew up in the midst of the civil rights movement and saw law as an instrument for social change. After graduating from Yale, he went to Berkeley for law school, which was another hotbed of political activism and efforts to create social change. While at Berkeley, he worked for the United Farm Workers Union, an organization that fights to protect the rights of poor farm workers, many of whom are immigrants who cannot stand up for themselves.

Berkeley, one of the best law schools in the country, gave him the training to be a great lawyer. Now Mr. Scheck could have made lots of money in a big law firm, but instead he elected to become a public defender in the south Bronx. A few years later, when Yeshiva University opened the first law school committed to Jewish values, Cardozo Law School, he was asked to join the clinical faculty. When I asked him in my interview whether there was something about being Jewish that led him to want to do this kind of work, he responded that “championing the rights of the underdog is a Jewish value.”

Mr. Scheck’s unique approach to advocating for the rights of the underdog is based on the use of DNA. In the 1980’s, law enforcement agencies began using DNA as a tool to obtain convictions. Since everybody has unique DNA, and criminals often leave DNA at crime scenes in the form of hair or bodily fluids, the police can take some DNA from the suspect and compare it to the DNA at the crime scene. If the samples match, that can be strong evidence that can be used to prove that the suspect is guilty. Conversely, Scheck recognized very early on that DNA could also be an incredibly powerful tool to prove that suspects did not commit the crime and were actually innocent.

I would like to share with you just two examples of the more than 200 cases in which the Innocence Project, under Barry Scheck’s leadership, has successfully worked to free innocent people.

One case involved Michael Anthony Williams, an African American from Louisiana. When Michael was sixteen, he was convicted of raping a young woman who had previously been his tutor. After being assaulted and raped, the victim reported that Williams was the perpetrator and he was arrested. Williams conceded he had bothered the woman after she refused to be his girlfriend, and also admitted to calling her from jail and threatening her… but he always denied attacking her. The jury convicted Williams of aggravated rape and he was sentenced to life without parole.

Williams was in prison for 22 years before he became an Innocence Project client in 2003. DNA testing of body fluids found on the victim’s clothing and bedding proved that Williams could not have committed the crime. After more than two decades of claiming innocence, Williams was finally exonerated and released from prison. Having been incarcerated when he was only sixteen, Michael Williams was now a 40 year old man, faced with the prospect of rebuilding his life without an education, work experience, or a steady source of support.

Another case involved Danny Brown, who was convicted of Aggravated Murder and Aggravated Burglary. Brown had been dating the victim for several months at the time she was brutally raped and murdered. Her six-year-old son told police that he was looking out his window when he saw Brown enter the building, and while hiding in his room, heard him in a heated argument with his mother.

The young boy later picked Brown out of a lineup and became the primary witness for the prosecution. Despite concerns raised by the defense about the reliability of eyewitness testimony of a traumatized six-year-old, Brown was sentenced to life in prison, largely because of the boy’s testimony. Almost 20 years later, the Innocence Project got involved and DNA testing performed on body fluids recovered during the investigation proved that Brown didn’t commit the crime.

There are so many horrible cases of injustices perpetrated by a flawed criminal justice system against defendants, who are almost always poor people or minorities. I was horrified to read example after example of these cases on the Innocence Project’s website, and in the book that Mr. Scheck coauthored. I was also stunned to learn that while courts routinely hear appeals concerning procedural errors, it is very difficult to get judges to later on consider evidence that would prove actual innocence.

I did ask Mr. Scheck whether his investigation ever resulted in a finding that his client was actually guilty. He told me that it happens in about 40% of cases the Innocence Project takes on; he is terribly frustrated when it happens because of the time, energy and money that the project invests in each case. All these resources could have been dedicated to a more deserving client—one who actually was wrongfully convicted.

Mr. Scheck is frequently remembered for his participation in 1994 on the “Dream Team”—the defense lawyers who represented O.J. Simpson- the football player accused of killing his ex wife and her boyfriend. Despite the fact that the jury acquitted Simpson, many people were, and still are, convinced that he was guilty, and Mr. Scheck was widely criticized for helping to represent him. He was even the subject of a very unflattering Saturday Night Live parody. Understandably, he is disappointed that when some people hear his name they think of the O.J. case first, rather than of his work to provide justice and free hundreds of innocent people. He explained to me that his primary role in the O.J. case was to try to convince the jury that the police did a sloppy job with the DNA evidence. And regardless of whether Simpson actually was guilty, Scheck’s involvement in the case helped to get more attention paid to the importance of using DNA evidence properly and its value as a scientific tool to acquit the innocent. So Scheck’s fame from the O.J. case ultimately helped him to get the support he needed to make the Innocence Project the great success that it is.

Mr. Scheck is a very hard worker. Besides running the Innocence Project and teaching, he lectures around the country on the dangers of inadequate forensic investigations, works on Bar Association committees to help the innocent, lobbies legislators to improve the criminal justice system and writes books on these topics.

Those of you who know me well know that I love to argue. A couple of years ago I participated in a mock trial competition in which I played the part of a prosecutor in a criminal trial. I learned a lot about the law and won the case due to my skills of presenting the facts, explaining the law, and arguing my point effectively in front of the judge. That experience contributed to my interest in justice and the law, as has the fact that I watch every episode of Law and Order that I possibly can! If Jack McCoy was a real person I might have selected him as my role model, but he isn’t, and Mr. Scheck is. His very real contributions to a fairer and more just criminal justice system, his hard work and dedication, and his commitment to the Jewish values that I share make him a wonderful role model for me!


“Heroes and Role Models: Jill Abusch” by Emily Dyke
October 25, 2009

A role model is defined as a person whose behaviors serve as a good example to others and whom other people might try to emulate. A hero is someone who is admired for amazing qualities or outstanding achievements. To my way of thinking, a role model is someone whose life or actions are inspiring to another person in a realistic way. The person who is inspired is likely to try to follow the role model’s example. A hero is someone who many people may wish they could be like, but whose accomplishments are often too extreme or fantastic to follow.

Although a person may have flaws or make mistakes he or she can still be a role model. Flaws can often teach lessons or enhance the uniqueness of a person. In fact, having made mistakes or having a few flaws is important to me when thinking about my role model. It is not the flaws themselves that inspire me, but rather the ability to overcome them or work with them that I admire. Being able to eliminate or even embrace one’s own flaws is an amazing capability. I also embrace flaws in another person because they make a person more ‘real’ to me. Heroes can sometimes appear to be perfect because of their seeming flawlessness. It seems fake and unrealistic that a person would not have flaws. For me, a role model would be a person I could relate to, not just admire. For this reason, I have chosen a role model rather than a hero and someone whose characteristics and values are possible for me to emulate. Because I share many of my parents’ values, it is not surprising that our heroes/role models have similar traits and values as each other’s.

My mother’s hero was a woman named Bertha Pappenheim who lived during the 1800’s. She became mute in her life and was diagnosed with a disorder known at the time as hysteria. She was treated by a psychoanalyst named Breuer. Eventually, due to the complicated nature of their work and relationship, Breuer abruptly stopped his treatment with Bertha. Having been “abandoned” by her analyst, Bertha deteriorated psychologically and was hospitalized. Eventually she recovered and became involved with the women’s movement of the time. She was an early feminist and became a prominent feminist social worker, intellectual and organizer. Some of her accomplishments include directing an orphanage for girls, founding a feminist organization for Jewish women, and campaigning all over Europe against the sexual exploitation of women and children. My mother chose her as a hero because of her resilience, strength of character, ability to overcome incredible adversity, and her capacity to use her painful experiences as motivation to help others who were oppressed and powerless. She was a remarkable woman who shares the values of generosity of spirit and open arms with my role model.

My father’s role model is his dad, John Rand Dyke. He died in 1981 at the age of 64. I wish I could have known him. He sounds like an amazing man and I’m sure he would be a great grandfather. My father, Jeff, was 22 when he passed away. He has held on to the values and lessons his father taught him ever since. Papa John had tremendous integrity, intelligence, and authenticity which are a few of the qualities that my father strives for. He taught my dad many things such as modesty, humility, and the value of education and passion above the pursuit of wealth for its own sake. My dad’s dad was a very down-to-earth man and, though he was well to do, he was humble and attracted to a simple lifestyle connected to nature and non-elitism. Most, if not all, of his friends were down to earth, genuine people who were chosen on the basis of their personalities, not their social status. Though Papa John was open to befriending everyone, he still believed that you should not suffer fools, meaning that if someone has nothing of value to offer, you should not waste your time associating with him. Papa John was an inspiring, good-hearted man. Based on my father’s description of his personality and belief system, I believe he shares the values of friendship and authenticity with my role model.

Jill Abusch is my role model. She is one of the owners of the acting program that I attend called the Play Group Theatre (PGT). She was born in 1971 in Brooklyn to a couple named Burt and Sheila Lipshie. According to Jill, Burt is generous, expressive, charming and sentimental. He also enjoys acting and has been involved with theater. Sheila is quieter than Burt but just as generous. She is outdoorsy,
sporty, supportive, loving, and affectionate. Both of Jill’s parents are intelligent. Jill lived in Brooklyn for her first six months, and then moved to Long Island. She never really dreamed of being an actress or having a job relating to it, but once she experienced acting she realized that she loved it. After high school she attended Tisch College, a school at NYU devoted to the arts. Jill also studied at the Stella Adler conservatory and classical studio. When she completed her training at Tisch, she moved to White Plains with her boyfriend, Steven, whom she eventually married. They moved there because it was close to Jill’s parents and to New York City. It was in 1995 that they started the Play Group Theatre, a training program for children from the ages of 7 to 18. About a year after they opened PGT, they had their first child, Aviva. Five years after that they had another daughter, Ilana. Jill and Steven still run the Play Group Theatre and enjoy directing and helping out with all of the plays and productions. Jill is happy to be doing what she’s doing and hopes her life continues just as it is in the future.

One of the reasons people choose the role models that they do is because of the values that they share with that person. Jill’s life choices embody many of my values. She exemplifies authenticity, friendship, humor, empathy and compassion, and passionate commitment. Regarding authenticity, she is an honest person though she is always kind and polite at the same time. If I can improve on something having to do with acting, I can always count on her to tell me so and help me progress. If I need advice from her I know that she will tell me, truthfully, what her opinion is. For example, whenever I need help with character development, or a song, or a scene, she is always there to give me feedback, both positive and negative.

One of Jill’s values is love of others. She emanates love. This enables her to establish many friendships. She relates well to teens and children as well as to other adults. Therefore, she has friendships with many different people across all ages. She is one of the greatest friends because she is so trustworthy, loving, and helpful. She can always make you feel better when you’re feeling bad. And she is amazingly generous of spirit. No matter how busy she is she is always willing to give a friend some time and is always welcoming.

Jill epitomizes empathy and compassion in her ability to help others. She always listens to you and finds a way to make you feel better, whether it be by using humor or relating something in her life to you. Humor is another value that Jill exhibits. Before callbacks she says: “The funnier you are, the more we like you.” She loves telling jokes and she appreciates witty people.

A quality of hers that I value is how open she is. Her home is an open space where friends and family are welcome at any time, and usually all the time. Jill exemplifies passionate commitment in her career choices. What she loves is reflected by how she spends her time, both personally and professionally.

One reason I admire Jill is because she is not perfect, I mean in a flawless sort of way. The “perfect” person to me has flaws. Jill may have flaws, as we all do, but she accepts them and likes herself; therefore she is able to embrace and accept other people for who they are as well. She creates a safe place where others can be themselves and take risks. She teaches them to understand that it’s okay if they make mistakes and that, in fact, mistakes help us grow and improve.

I have known Jill since I started Play Group Theater when I was seven years old. Jill is one of the people who has changed my life. She has helped me grow and improve as a person and an actress. Though the Play Group Theater is really intended to teach children acting skills, I also learned how to be a good friend and human being there. I have also learned about respecting, learning from, and befriending others, no matter how young or old they are. Jill, and Steven, create a comfortable place where everyone is kind, understanding, and never judgmental. The Play Group Theater is one of the few places that feel like home to me. I have never not been in the mood to go to rehearsal. We work hard but somehow it always feels very casual and easy. It is not only me who Jill has had an impact on, I believe everyone at PGT feels this way about her. She, and her family, have created another very close family at PGT. Jill really is an extraordinary woman.


“Choosing A Hero and a Role Model: Reflecting on Various Possibilities” by Gabe Zimmerman
December 20, 2008

Identifying a hero/role model was the next part of this Bar Mitzvah process, because it helps you think about people whom you may wish to emulate and whose lives can help guide you. First, I had to think about what a hero and role model are. A hero is someone who you admire for doing something extraordinary. Their accomplishment may not be something you have done or even want to do. Martin Luther King Jr. is a hero because of all he did to help civil rights, but I am not sure I want to do what he did, or if I am even capable of doing what he did.

A role model is someone who is not necessarily famous but a person who you want to emulate. A role model could be a person like Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier, or your dad because he achieved a high level of education.

For me, a hero and role model must share my values and I believe that the hero and role model should use the traits I value daily. I do not want someone who just uses the trait in their careers. For example for a comedian to be a role model for me, he would have to be funny in his every day life, not just when he is performing.

I was not able to identify one person who lives my values. After much thought and exploring many different people, I came to realize that I can not pick one person as a hero or role model.

First, I realized everyone here has helped me become who I am. I incorporate into who I am, things I have learned from my family and from my friends. Also through this Bar Mitzvah process I have learned a lot about all of you. There are so many people that I think are great because of their values, how they treat others, and because they have had major accomplishments in sports like soccer and wrestling.

Another reason I could not identify one person to be a hero or role model is because I also am the kind of person that is always thinking, and questioning. Without trying, my brain is a little like a computer always processing. So when I think about people who have done things I admire or who have traits I respect, I think about them and fit them into who I am. It’s less like I am following their lead, and more like I am reflexively incorporating what I admire about them, into who I am, adding the “Gabe spin” to make it unique to me. I don’t feel the “step” between when I am admiring them to when I start emulating them. It’s like ALL the math problems I do in my head, without showing my work.

Before I reached the conclusion that I could not select one hero or role model, I researched many different people. I thought you would be curious to hear who I explored. I got suggestions from my mother, father, Alan, my mentor and our friend Howard. The people who were suggested all have achieved accomplishments that are relevant to me, and some believe in the values that I do. But none fit.

One person suggested by my father was Josephus. We read that he was a famous mathematician known for the Josephus problem. Josephus was born in 37 BCE and lived in Jerusalem. He participated in the war between Rome and Jerusalem and assisted the Romans.

There is one story about him that may or may not be authentic but highlights the legacy about his mathematical skills, hence “the Josephus problem.” It is told that during one battle against the Romans he and his army were forced into hiding in a cave rather then be captured and enslaved by the Romans. Faced with death, his crew decided that they would rather be dead, so they made a suicide pact to kill each other. They formed a circle and planned that each would kill another in the circle. Josephus being a mathematician quickly figured out where he and the other should stand in the circle to be the last surviving men. He was successful. However, instead of killing himself he was captured and went on assist the Romans.

Although he helped the Romans, he also became a famous historian of Jewish life and antiquities, trying to influence people to better understand and accept Jews.

That Josephus could figure out the math in hishead so quickly interested me because I love math and do all kinds of problems in my head. Josephus was in a very, very difficult situation. I cannot imagine having to make such a decision. But I could not be disloyal to my friends. By not killing himself and by working with the Romans after leaving the cave, Josephus was disloyal, and disrespectful to those who died. Anybody who could do this could not be a hero or role model of mine.

Another person I considered was Moe Berg. When my mother was cleaning out my NONA’ s house she found an old article about Moe Berg. She and I had never heard of him. He was a Jewish man who lived in the 1920s. As a child he always loved to play baseball, and he played on a Christian team but got kicked off that later that year because he was Jewish. However, he continued playing and was drafted and to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was a mid level player like I am, but excelled in bringing the team together and instilling team spirit. These skills help the Dodgers to succeed as I helped the Bulldogs to victories. Berg also received his law degree from Columbia University and became fluent in 7 languages.

Because of his diverse skills, Berg was asked to be the U.S. goodwill ambassador to Japan to spread baseball there. Berg’s success at this led the United States to again ask him to be the ambassador for the United States to Japan in 1930s as tensions were rising between Japan and the United States. After WWII began, the United States government recruited Berg to participate in spy missions in Europe. He became knowledgeable enough about nuclear psychics so he could go undercover and sit in on a high level German meeting, to see if they had developed a nuclear bomb. After the war he lived in solitude and died in 1972.

Although Moe Berg did things I enjoy doing and we have some things in common, I cannot choose him as a role model or hero. I don’t see myself as a professional baseball player or spy, even though I like baseball and even though I love to read spy books and see spy movies.

As you heard music is an important value of mine. When Alan Siege, the “family” Bar Mitzvah mentor, he was Kyra’s mentor too, learned at one of our sessions that I love rock n roll music, and drumming in particular, we googled drummers to see what we could find, in our quest to find “my hero/role model.” We came up people like Keith Moon and Ginger Baker. We also got some books on drummers and the biography of Keith Moon. I learned that Keith Moon joined The Who in 1964 and then learned that sadly he died of an overdose when he was 32 years old. This made him less appealing to me. Maybe I can just learn to drum as well as he did, and not overdose.

Among my goals is to become an engineer, so as I continued my journey for a hero/ role model, I learned about Ben Rich, and Peter Carl Goldmark, who were 20th century Jewish engineers. Ben Rich was born in the Philippines in 1925. He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley and his master’s degree in thermodynamics from UCLA. After receiving his degrees, he was hired by Lockheed and developed many different heating and cooling systems. He created the U-2 spy plane, worked on other secret projects, and helped design the SR-71 Blackbird. He won several awards. He died in 1995.

Peter Carl Goldmark was born in Hungary in 1906. He worked for Columbia Records for many years. He was key in the development of the 33-1/3 rpm LP records. In 1940 he began to work on a system to introduce color to television, and also worked at CBS laboratories and developed the EVR (electronic video recorder), which was the basis for the VCR players. In 1977 he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Carter.

Rich and Goldmark worked hard and accomplished a lot professionally, and I hope I can make great engineering contributions like they did. However, the traits that overlap and their accomplishments were not enough for me to view them as role models.

For my major paper I will talk about the boycotts and the role of politics during the 1936 Olympics. My mother had collected a bunch of articles for my Bar Mitzvah, one was a review of a book about Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympic games. We got the book and that is when I first heard about

Marty Glickman, an American track athlete who went to the 1936 Olympics to compete. Marty Glickman was born in 1917 to a Romanian immigrant family who lived in the Bronx and then Brooklyn. He was a great athlete from the time he was young. In 1935 when he was 18 years old he tried out and made the Olympic track team. He was to compete in the 4 x 100 relay with a fellow Jewish teammate, Sam Stoller. The night before the games Glickman and Stoller were told they would not be allowed to participate in the event. The coaches said that they believed that the Germans had some super fast athletes competing in the event who could beat Stoller and Glickman. The coaches said they needed
to have Owens and Metcalfe to win.

Glickman always believed he and Stoller were benched because they were Jewish and Avery Brundage, the head of the AOC did not want to make Hitler stand on the winning podium with two Jews. Glickman’s dreams had been shattered. After the Olympics went on to become a radio and television broadcaster. When I think about him, I hope that I have the determination and courage to stick with a field I love even if it’s in a different way. Also, I hope that I do not have to face the injustices that he had to put behind him. But again the “fit” was not right for him to be my hero or role model.

So after exploring all these people I was still unable to pick one person to be my hero/role model. I want to live true to my values. Who am I is for another essay at another time. Let’s just say that who I am, and will become is a compilation of everyone I spoke about here as well as many others. The people I researched had something in common with me, or some qualities I appreciated. It’s those attributes that I will incorporate into making the “Future Gabe” as Howard called it. Marty Glickman maintained his love of sports and became a sportscaster. Importantly, he did not become bitter. Moe Berg used sports to spread goodwill and his brains to help spy for our country. Goldmark and Rich invented things that won awards.

And I hope that I never have Josephus’s problem: to choose my life over some one else’s. I hope that whatever choices I make I can use my quick mathematical skills to assist me. Finally I hope that I too can pursue my dreams as an engineer and a drummer, matching the rhythmic beats of music and the methodical steps of engineering. If I achieve these goals then I will find a way to use the strengths of others to forge my own path and my place in the world.


“Heroes and Role Models: Why Albert Einstein Did Not Become a Bar Mitzvah” by Irene Grosso
March 19, 1999

Becoming a bat mitzvah is a time to think about who my role models and heroes are. To me, a role model is someone who influences you to do good. The person I chose as my role model is Albert Einstein who was born on March 14, 1879 and died on April 18, 1955.

The first reason I chose Albert Einstein is because he is the most famous Jew of the 20th century. He became famous for being smart. He is most known for the theory of relativity, that e = mc2. This formula tells us that measurements of time, space and motion are relative. Albert Einstein started thinking about relativity when he was 16 years old. He tried to imagine what would happen if he could run after a light wave at the same speed as the wave. He thought the light would look like it wasn’t moving.

After he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921, he said “I have no special talents. I am merely intensely curious.” Because of his curiosity, he changed the way people looked at and thought about the world and everything in it.

The second reason I picked Einstein was because he hated school, something most kids can relate to. He was always in trouble with his teachers because his mind wandered and he had a bad memory. What do you expect? He had his mind on more important things. Like Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.”

When he was young, teaching in Germany was all done by drill. Questions and discussion in class were discouraged. Einstein realized that real learning for him would have to take place outside school through independent study. He studied geometry by himself and became skeptical of anything that couldn’t be proven with logic – including much of what he had been taught at school, by the German government, and in the Bible.

The third reason I picked Albert Einstein was because he used his fame to do good for the world. He always gave generously of his time and energy to causes he supported. He lectured on world peace and on the dangers of nuclear weapons. Einstein also worked to establish a Jewish state. He helped start the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He even played his violin in public to raise money for Israel. When the first president of Israel died in 1952, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked Einstein to become Israel’s second president. He was flattered, but he declined.

The last reason I picked Albert Einstein is because he was a secular Jew. His family was not observant, but when Einstein was 12 years old he began preparing to become a bar mitzvah since that was what boys generally did. At the same time Einstein started studying physics. His science studies convinced him that many of the Bible stories could not possibly be true. As Einstein put it, “young people were being deliberately lied to by the state.” For him, this was a shattering discovery. When he decided on his own not to pursue his religious studies, his parents had no real objection.

However, even though Albert Einstein did not become a bar mitzvah, he was always proud to be a Jew. He said that, “I was fully aware of my Jewish origin, even though the full significance of belonging to Jewry was not realized by me until later.”

As I prepared for my own bat mitzvah, I kept thinking about Einstein. Einstein liked to do everything his own way. He taught himself what he wanted to know about physics and geometry. What if he had been able to choose what he wanted to research and study about religion also? Instead of following assignments, what if he could have taken responsibility for his own education and studied Judaism in his own way, in a secular way? In other words, what would have happened if the City Congregation had existed when Einstein was my age? Maybe he would have wanted to become a bar mitzvah after all.

Albert Einstein said many wise things but my favorite is: “The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice, and the desire for personal independence – these are the features of the Jewish tradition which make me thank my stars that I belong to it.”


“Heroes and Role Models: Remedy, Rebecca Reynolds, and John Beltzer” by Jason Cheskis
April 2, 2005

A hero is someone who makes life better for others through great achievements. They can be noble or courageous, but don’t have to be. I view a hero’s accomplishments to be more than what an average person would choose to do. Most people could be heroes if they put their laziness aside for a while. Being a hero is more related to effort than talent. Somebody who founds a school for the deaf or someone who puts out a major fire could be considered a hero.

A role model is someone who is looked up to, idolized, or someone you want to be like. You don’t have to idolize someone to have them be your role model. Even if they have negative qualities, they can still be role models. If their positive qualities outweigh the negative ones, the person can be a role model. I believe that if someone inspires someone else to live a certain way, that person can be considered a role model. The person can, but does not have to be, famous.

My personal criteria for a role model are the following: Hope. You have to believe that you can make a difference. Humor. Everybody loves humor and it’s important for people to have some fun in their lives. Music. Music relaxes people, slows down their lives, and helps them experience pleasure and beauty. It is a big part of my life, both playing it and listening to it. Respect. This quality is necessary for any successful interaction of any kind between people and even between people and animals. Love. Without love the human race would die. It is a basic requirement for life.

My first role model is Remedy, a Jewish rapper. My second role model is Rebecca Reynolds, a woman who goes to hospitals and other institutions with natural objects and animals. Last is John Beltzer, who is the founder of Songs of Love. He writes songs for kids who are very sick.

Remedy, the well-known Jewish rapper, is my role model because he is someone who cares about being Jewish. Also, I like rappers, and a Jewish one thrills me. Ross Filler was born in 1972 on Staten Island. His Hebrew name is Rueven ben Menachum. His parents had no idea he would become a well-known rapper.

When Ross got older, he went to New Dorp High, an interracial school. The main things everyone liked were football and rap. Ross went to school with a group of kids who would eventually become the Wu-Tang Clan, a famous American rap group.

Ross once said, “I used to talk to the plants when I was a young boy, and the plants would grow real fast, so I realized it must be something I’m saying. And then I couldn’t really sing too well, but I had a good way of formulating my words together, so I just became an MC and started rapping.” After the group of kids from high school formed the Wu-Tang Clan, Ross became part of it, and his rap name became Remedy, also known as Remedy Ross.

Remedy wrote a song called Never Again. It’s about the Holocaust and what happened to his ancestors. Before his 95 year old grandmother died, she revealed to him what happened to his relatives who died in the Holocaust. For example, his great uncle was shot in the back, and many other relatives were sent to camps, and didn’t survive. He wrote this song to memorialize them. The song has very vivid descriptions about what people went through. Remedy puts it on all of his albums. After writing Never Again, he became more interested in Judaism. He explored Jewish culture, and loves singing about it. He feels proud to be Jewish.

Remedy is a courageous person, and is willing to express his feelings about Judaism. Some people don’t think the Holocaust is something to be rapped about, because it is too serious a subject. By rapping about the Holocaust, he is educating people, kids especially, who might have never heard about it. For example, African-American kids, who listen to a lot of rap, are taught about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, but might not have been taught about the Holocaust. Because Remedy is a successful rapper, a lot of African-American kids now know about the Holocaust.

By listening to Remedy’s songs, people learn about discrimination. Hearing about the Holocaust and discrimination will help prevent it from ever happening again.

Remedy’s view of himself is consistent with Humanistic Judaism. He thinks of humanity before Judaism. He says, “I’m here to spread the word—humanity. I happen to be Jewish, but I represent humanity.”

He spreads the idea of humanity by going to college campuses and performing to combat anti- Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment. He’s performed in Moscow, visited schools in New York City, and performed at a Holocaust survivors’ dinner in Los Angeles.

Remedy’s life and work represent many Jewish values. His actions are courageous, loving, caring, compassionate, musical, peaceful, respectful and truthful.

My second role model is Rebecca Reynolds. She runs an organization called Animals as Intermediaries (AAI). AAI goes to hospitals and other closed care institutions with animals, plants and other natural objects. She has programs for people of all ages and disabilities. According to Rebecca, “Animals As Intermediaries grew out of the belief that we are all connected through nature, that this connection can restore a sense of wholeness and a sense of place, and that this connection is both elemental and essential. Having knowledge of the natural cycles and seasons can give us the context we need to come through difficulty.” Now I will tell you some stories describing Rebecca’s visits.

One place she went to is an AIDS Chronic Care facility for young children. She brought autumn with her. To do this, she brought pumpkins, hollow logs, grapevines, ducks and rabbits. The children built an autumn meadow with the materials and played with the animals and other objects. Even though the children were very sick and didn’t have long futures ahead of them, the objects from nature and the animals brought them joy, and stimulated their curiosity. Their lives in the hospital were boring and often unpleasant, and the visit, bringing nature to them, allowed them to experience something they never would have been able to otherwise.

Another visit was to a hospital school. Rebecca brought two animals with her, Willie the old chinchilla, and Otis the screech owl with a permanent wing injury. There are two boys, Ben and Jay, who are interested. Because Otis had a permanent wing injury, Ben could especially relate to the owl. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and used an electric wheelchair. Ben talked to Otis about what it’s like to be hurt. Ben knew what it was like to have a “broken” body and comforted the owl.

Jay, who had a hook for a right hand and a left curved arm with no hand at all, played with Willie. Unlike many humans, Willie didn’t mind the hook and snuggled on Jay’s lap. Jay was happy to be with someone who didn’t mind his hook and he had a lot of fun with Willie. Both boys, who experienced a lot of shame about their bodies, were able to accept themselves as the animals accepted them. The animals acted as a bridge to help the boys deal with their disabilities and feel good about themselves.

An example of an older person is Simon, an eighty year old man who was blind and nearly deaf. He didn’t like talking to people at the nursing home because it was hard to converse with them. He disliked all the programs the hospital set up, feeling that his life was hopeless. He lived in “Simon’s World.” He wasn’t interested in Rebecca’s program, but when he felt a horse’s harness that was being passed around, he started putting it together. He said “I’d know this anywhere! I don’t need my eyes to tell you what this is—I used to drive the ice wagons in New York City!”

Suddenly, he started telling everyone his stories from when he was an ice wagon driver. Everyone listened as he talked. Then when he was done, everyone else started sharing their memories. A critical quality missing from Simon’s life was a sense of community. He needed to have people to talk to, and Rebecca’s harness helped that to happen. Her objects broadened “Simon’s World” beyond the boundaries of the nursing home.

Rebecca helps kids face fears and conquer them. The objects she uses bring peace to the kids. She helps kids remember their pasts. I chose Rebecca as my role model because I love animals, and she does too. I feel happy when I hold one of my gerbils, or pet a dog. Animals can be very comforting, and I love being around them.

Some of Rebecca’s values are compassion, love, peace, respect, and care. She certainly does deeds of loving kindness. She helps sick kids feel better about themselves. Maybe someday I’ll help sick people with animals, like Rebecca.

My third role model is John Beltzer, a musician. I had a chance to speak to him and he answered many of my questions about his work. He was born in Brazil. In 1984 his twin brother wrote a song called Songs of Love. A few weeks later, the brother died. While walking down the street in 1996, John had a brilliant idea. He thought of his brother’s song, and created the organization Songs of Love. He works with many other musicians to make personalized songs for very sick kids. He started off with some of his friends, and was eventually interviewed on TV, and other musicians who saw him or read about him started to volunteer. So far, over 5,000 songs have been recorded.

When a child or young adult is very sick, family members or hospital staff can contact Songs of Love. They provide information about their sick relative or patient. It includes details about hobbies, favorite people, pets, friends, and family. Then, John gets a few artists together and they record a song about the person who is sick. It is sent to the person, and he/she gets to listen to it, and keep it.

Many people have received songs. They feel overjoyed, and love listening over and over again. Why would someone be so happy about a song? It means a lot. It shows that people care for him/her. It shows that many people went to a lot of effort to get the song made. In one of the stories I read, a girl who had leukemia cried every time she had a blood test or procedure, which was all the time. Once she received her song she listened to it during her procedures and stopped crying. Her parents were thrilled and felt very grateful to Songs of Love. John has been getting great feedback from parents and kids. Sometimes, parents will tell him the kid has been listening every day for a year!

A doctor from Harvard Medical School’s Institute for Music and Brain Science said, “It’s no coincidence that Apollo was the god of both music and medicine in Ancient Greece. Today, we have empirical evidence that music is often a useful adjunct in the treatment of numerous disease states, and we have angels from Songs of Love to bring music to suffering children and adults one-by-one.”

When I interviewed John, he said that everyone would feel good to have a song written about them. The song can take kids’ minds off of their pain. He said that it can lift their spirits, act as a distraction, and help them cope with the illness. Also, he says anything that encourages a good feeling helps the healing process. Being psychologically down hurts the healing process so encouraging optimism and hope is important.

I know someone in my school who got a song of love. I asked her some questions about her experience. She said that she loved the song, and it made her feel happy and proud. She said it was a very good description of her, and she plays it all the time with her family and friends.

John’s values are music, love, respect, compassion, hope and care. Having talked to John and my schoolmate, I know a lot more about how music can be healing. I know how good I feel when I listen to music. It’s a big part of my life. Now I might be able to create songs on my saxophone for kids too.

After telling you about my role models, you now know about three great people who care about others. I even got to speak with one of them! The values these people have are caring ones, and lead them to think of other people, not only themselves. I believe a lot of these values are important. I chose these people at first just because I like music and animals. Then I learned what great things can be accomplished with music and animals. I came to greatly respect the contributions my role models made to the world.


“Heroes and Role Models: Jorge Posada, Abe Lebenwohl, and Andy Warhol” by Jonah Garnick
December 1, 2007

After going through the process of finding and extracting my family values and exploring my family background, I then had to find my heroes and role models in life. Along with my values, my heroes and role models might change over time but I tried to find the ones that I think would stick with me for the longest time.

What is a hero? A hero in my opinion is someone who puts their own needs aside to help others. They do amazing things for other people and are very devoted to it. In other words they would always be putting their life, reputation, or well being on the line to save or help someone else. They are very selfless. They don’t do their good deeds just for money or fame. I don’t think I have a hero, at least in the traditional sense, I think I just have a role model, actually three of them.

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have a hero for a lot of reasons. One could be my expectations are too high. Another could be that we are just human and no one is that perfect.

Also, maybe heroes could only exist in books, and movies. And maybe I just don’t feel that way for a particular person.

This brings me to my next point. A role model is a person who you want to be like when you are grown. Not exactly the same, but just share similar values. A role model can have flaws and doesn’t have to be perfect, good or pure.

It was very hard but I was able to come up with three role models. For this paper I wanted to choose people who shared some of my main values, and I also admire them for what they do or who they are. My three role models are Jorge Posada, Abe Lebenwohl and Andy Warhol.

Most people who know who Jorge Posada is and know I’m a huge Yankees fan would probably assume I chose him just because he’s my favorite Yankee. But there’s more. Jorge is an all-star catcher for the Yankees. To be a catcher it takes leadership qualities because one has to make constant and important decisions that strongly affect the outcome of the game. But being a leader is only part of the reason I have chosen Jorge as my role model.

Jorge is a silent leader. He’s not ego crazed, he’s not rude, and doesn’t make a big deal out of it. I would even call him modest. He also has a hidden value, and that value is compassion for others.

Unfortunately, his first son Jorge Jr. was born with a rare skull disease called craniosynostosis. Jorge Jr. is okay after many operations. But it gave Jorge and his wife Laura quite a scare as parents. Jorge started a charity for kids with this disease. This illustrates his deep concern for others. For his charitable actions he has also been nominated for the 2007 Roberto Clemente award.

But besides that, we have a lot in common. He grew up loving and playing baseball – just like me. And he also got his love for baseball from his family. Another thing we have in common is we’re both catchers. I’m a catcher on my school team and I love it. I bet Jorge loves his job too. I’d love to play as well as he does.

My next role model is Abe Lebenwohl, the late owner of the Second Avenue Deli. I learned about him while researching my major project. He wasn’t just a man who wanted you to eat and be happy. To Abe, eating was happiness and he is most known for his humor, generosity and random acts of kindness. He not only invited the blind to free luncheons, he invited comedians to entertain them and even printed up menus in Braille. He welcomed and loved everybody who ate at his deli whether it was a baseball star, a former mayor of New York, the head of a mob family or just an average Joe Shmoe. He also did extraordinary charitable acts. One time he offered to give out food to the homeless, so he loaded up a truck and went to Thomson Square Park in the East Village. He kept giving and giving, and more and more of his trucks came. He didn’t leave the park until every homeless person there was fed. Another time, a woman called him up telling him she had the flu. Within a half hour he personally delivered chicken soup to her dorm room at NYU, no charge. Everybody loved him from the famous to myself.

Both he and the Second Avenue Deli were cornerstones of life in New York City. Tragically, on March 4, 1996 he was shot and killed in his delivery truck while making a deposit at a near by bank. His death remains an unsolved crime to this day.

My final and main role model is Andy Warhol. He was born in 1928. He came from a poor family that lived in a dirty ghetto of Pittsburgh. He was the third and youngest son of his family. His family was religious Byzantine Catholics, and were very involved with the church. Andy was actually influenced by the church’s simple art.

His mother and father worked hard to support the family. Andy’s mother worked multiple small jobs. This was fairly rare at the time for women. His father was a construction worker and died from drinking contaminated water on a construction sight.

Andy was sickly as a child and because of his illness kids made fun of him. Since he didn’t have a lot of friends at that time, he developed a very close relationship with his mother.

Andy’s father died when he was only 14. It was in college where Andy started to get into his art. At first his teachers didn’t like his work, and didn’t think he would make it. He nearly failed his first year of college because he had a job at a department store and was working long hours. But that summer he spent extra time practicing his art and later won an award on one of his drawings.

Andy Warhol was the man who made pop art famous. He painted the world through his interpretation of common, everyday objects. Andy once said about finding his inspiration, “I’d asked around 10 or 15 people for suggestions. Finally one lady friend asked the right question, ‘Well, what do you love most?’ That’s how I started painting money,” he said. He also painted other things he and the American culture loved: celebrities like Marylyn Monroe, Liza Minnelli as well as popular icons such as Coke-Cola Bottles and Campbell’s Soup. Warhol’s focus on the everyday or the ordinary made him an individual in the world of art. No other artist was doing this at the time.

I think you can be a part of society and still lead with your own voice. You are a part of the greater whole, while still being an individual. This expression of individuality is one of Warhol’s qualities that appealed to me and that I identify with.

He was odd and had a taste for odd things. He lined his studio, The Factory, with tin foil! I like doing quirky things like that and I think that’s just me. Warhol also looked odd. He sometimes died his hair a weird blond color and he had a skin pigment disease, so he was very pale. He went bald at a fairly early age. So he had to wear a toupee. It is thought that his physical insecurities made him shy and withdrawn, but he used his creativity to overcome these challenges, another element of his personality to admire.

Warhol was a human being and of course he wasn’t perfect. At Andy’s Factory a lot of people did drugs, which he condoned. He even did some drugs himself, but fortunately his experimentation didn’t lead to dependency or worse. This is but one of his many flaws.

But he did still have plenty of good qualities. He was accepting of almost everybody.

He loved people and being in the action. He had a humorous way of looking at himself and the world. He’s quoted as saying, “I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night, I start spreading rumors to my dogs. ” From drag queens to different racial groups he accepted them all and let almost everybody into his factory.

In exploring his values I learned that, Warhol put his creativity into everything he did. He came up with some of the simplest, yet most creative and artistic ideas I’ve ever seen. Warhol was not only creative but he was an entrepreneur. Here’s another insightful quote from Warhol: “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” With the help of a friend, he started his own magazine Interview, and his studio, the Factory, was a hugely
successful business.

Andy Warhol was an introvert, and also an exhibitionist. This was because he was a complex individual who had many contradictions. Parts of his life were very open and party like and some were very solemn and distanced. He was also a narcissicist, yet at the same time insecure about his looks. He was a homosexual, a very good son, a compassionate helper of others and still at the same time, he could be selfish. While you might wonder about my choice of him as a role model, I clearly see the virtue of his values, and how most people have many contradictions, but his goodness and talent far outweighed the bad.

From learning about Warhol I’ve discovered many of his values happen to be mine too. Like every successful entrepreneur he took risks like many of my family members did. He was creative by coming up with new and unique ideas that no one had thought of before.

My family is a creative bunch; artists, musicians, writers, and entrepreneurs. He had a great sense of humor, and saw that the world could be a place of many contradictions. I think humor is very important, because it enables us to get through much of the trouble, trials and pain that we all encounter. My family and I are always finding laughter in the absurdity that life is always showing us.


“Heroes and Role Models: Jan and Antonina Zabinski” by Jonah Lieberman Flint
May 16, 2009

When I looked up the words hero and role model, here’s what I found. Hero: “A man/woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his or her brave deeds and noble qualities”. Role Model: “A person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people”. A hero is someone who has done a courageous deed and you appreciate them for that. You might not think you could ever do what they did. A role model is someone you can look up to and want to be like when you grow up because of what they did in their lives. In my opinion, role models are more important because a role model is someone you look up to and respect. You could imagine
yourself possibly doing what they do. I chose Jan and Antonina Zabinski as my role models. They were a Christian married couple living in Warsaw, Poland before, during and after the German occupation, during World War Two. I read about the Zabinskis in a book called The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.

The Zabinskis appealed to me as role models because of the values they displayed in the amazing work they did to help Jews during the war. Courage, honesty and family were all very important values that led Jan and Antonina to make the decisions they made and take the risks that they took.

Jan and Antonina ran the Warsaw zoo with many exotic animals and they had two children—a son and a daughter. During the Holocaust, hundreds of Jews stayed in their home and passed through to eventual escape. One of their tactics was to switch people’s names with animal names, so that if any conversation were overheard, it would sound like someone was talking to an animal. One example of this is that any time Antonina heard her son call out “Hurry up! Starling! Come here!” it meant that her friend the artist, Magdalena Gross, was entering the house. There were many other “codes.” For example, when someone came to the door who was not welcome or whom Antonina did not know, she
would play a certain song on the piano and all of the Jews would know to hide.

In the escape system they devised, Jan and Antonina had very different roles. Jan worked in the Polish resistance. He brought people from the Warsaw ghetto to the house to begin their escape. Their young son also risked his life carrying food to Jews who were in need. Antonina fed people and took care of the household. She stayed at home and supervised the rescue operation. If a soldier came to the house threatening her or threatening to come in to search, Antonina would deal with it. One day, a German soldier came to her and said that a shed had burned down; the soldier said that it was her son’s fault and they were going to kill him. Antonina replied simply and calmly, talking to him as if he were a hungry lion. She was able to convince the soldier to go away and tell others that the fire was an accident and not her son’s fault. Following this incident, Jan said: “We know how cautious wild animals can be, how easily they scare when their instinct tells them to defend themselves. When they sense a stranger crossing their territory, they get aggressive for their own protection. But, in Antonina’s case, it’s like that instinct is absent, leaving her unafraid of either two- or four legged animals. Nor does she convey fear. That combination might persuade people or animals around her not to attack.”

Jan and Antonina embody the value of courage. Just the fact that they remained and survived in Warsaw during the German occupation takes a lot of courage. I think that the compassion they felt for the Jews was one of the motivations for their courage. At that time, giving a thirsty Jew a sip of water was punishable by death. The Zabinskis helped hundreds of Jews escape from the Nazis. In addition, the way they escaped is incredible; at certain points, the Zabinskis had up to fifty people staying in their home. They took drastic measures to help them escape.

In Warsaw, during the occupation, everyone was in danger. The Zabinskis exhibited unusual courage, putting themselves in extreme danger by helping Jews to escape.

What drove the Zabinskis to do this was the savagery and unfairness of the Nazis. The value of justice was important to them and the idea of the German army attacking and killing in cold blood those who had not harmed them was awful. The Zabinskis had many Jewish friends who were in serious danger of being killed or captured. Their affection for and loyalty to their friends motivated them to help innocent people escape from certain death.

Honesty is a complicated value for Jan and Antonina. Because of what they were doing to help people, they had to lie every day, in both their words and their actions. They constantly deceived the Germans and the Polish collaborators. However, by lying, the Zabinskis saved innocent lives. There was one situation where Jan was taking a Jewish man from the Warsaw ghetto to his house. The guard asked who the man was and said that he thought he was a Jew. Jan lied, saying the man was a fellow businessman with whom Jan had business dealings. By lying, Jan saved that man’s life; his dishonesty had a higher purpose.

But in spite of all of this lying and dishonesty, Jan and Antonina stayed honest to their beliefs that it wasn’t right to persecute and kill Jews, that the Poles had the right to be self-governing, and that the occupation by the Nazis was wrong. In this way, they were both honest and dishonest. They were dishonest by lying to those whose only intention was to hurt others or pass on information that could hurt people. Even though they were dishonest in their dealings with the Nazis, they were able to stay true to their beliefs.

Jan and Antonina both had experiences when they were growing up that shaped them into who they became. Jan was born in Warsaw in 1897 to an affluent family, but by chance, grew up in a poor Jewish section of Warsaw. In the school Jan attended, 80 percent of the students were Jewish. Jan got to know even more Jews during his military service in World War I.

Antonina was born in St. Petersburg to a Polish family. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Antonina was still a little girl, and her aunt raised her. Her father was a railway engineer in Uzbekistan, and when she was about 14, she joined him there. Then he and his Russian wife were murdered. Good people took in Antonina and brought her to Warsaw at the end of the 1920s. Given their personal histories, it makes sense to me that the Zabinskis were open minded toward Jews and very sensitive to injustice and family loss.

However, as we all know, no family is perfect. There were times during the occupation when Jan would be angry and verbally abusive towards Antonina, perhaps because of the stress from his work with the resistance. No matter how well Antonina did her job or concealed someone, Jan would still criticize her. Any missteps could mean death, and Jan must have been constantly reminded of that. However, they were able to get through it, work well as a highly coordinated team and succeed in helping Jews escape.

One important quality of the Zabinskis was that for them, the definition of family was not just their kids and parents. The idea of family extended beyond the walls of the traditional family. It extended to a broader definition of community, with the safety of other families being as important as their own. So a lot of the dangerous work they did was to protect families and to try to keep other families together, even though it meant putting their own family at risk. I think the view that every family is important motivated this couple to protect families and try to keep them together. Because the Zabinskis treated the families in need with such care and respect, more and more people came through their house and the zoo to escape the violence and persecution of the Nazis.

Of the many people who stayed at the Zabinski’s house during the Holocaust, only two did not survive. Some of the others decided to return to Warsaw after the war. When the war ended, Jan and Antonina rebuilt the zoo and reopened it, but without all the exotic animals, mainly local animals. Two years later, at the age of fifty-four, Jan retired from zoo keeping, after which he wrote over fifty books. Antonina wrote a few children’s books and stayed at home taking care of their kids.

In 1965, the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem recognized Jan and Antonina Zabinski as Righteous among the Nations. In his testimony explaining his motives, Jan wrote: “My deeds were and are a consequence of a certain psychological composition, a result of progressive-humanistic upbringing, which I received at home as well as in Kreczmar High School. Many times I wished to analyze the causes for dislike for Jews and I could not find any, besides artificially formed ones.”

When I reflect on the Zabinskis’ actions, there is a part of me that thinks I would have done what they did and another part of me that says that I wouldn’t have. I possess some of the qualities of people who rescued Jews but I think that it was a very daring thing to do. I do not know whether I would have had the courage to put so much effort into helping these desperate people. The qualities that most rescuers had were the ability to be decisive, fast-thinking, risk-taking, independent, adventurous, openhearted, rebellious and unusually flexible. Although I only have some of these qualities, I believe that if people I knew really needed my help, I would have done all that I could do to help them.


“Heroes and Role Models: Whoopi Goldberg” by Kyra Zimmerman
November 18, 2006

What is a hero? He or she is a person who has done something that you admire and think is extraordinary but don’t necessarily want to do yourself. They have accomplished something great and have “gone the extra mile” to achieve it. Often, the person has to take a risk and have courage along the way: courage to do something different, or to place themselves at personal risk, either physical or emotional or both. For me, the person must not just accept all the praise, honors and attention. They must be humble enough to remember their struggle, and not just immodestly live in glory. The person should also have the humility to support those who follow him or her, who have struggles they have not yet overcome.

A role model is a person who you wish to emulate. However, I believe you can have a role model who has a past you don’t approve of, a role model who you want to be like but not live in their shoes all the time. And I think you can have a role model and hero who is one person. Someone who has done things that you admire but that you do not want to do, but who also has done things you wish to achieve too.

For this essay, I wanted to choose a strong woman character that cares about education, is compassionate, and cares about her family. She would have to believe in justice and equality for all, and work to further these beliefs. I started to look at strong women from the early 1900s, and I became interested in sweatshop workers. At the time, however, I was working on my family values essay, and I came to realize that any hero or role model of mine must have a connection to creative expression. Alan, my mentor and I, threw around some names, one of whom was Whoopi Goldberg. Whoopi Goldberg is very creative and embraces other of my family values and beliefs. She seemed like a great
choice for a hero and role model.

At first my parents, and Peter and Myrna were skeptical. They felt that the person I chose needed to reflect my values and beliefs, not just be a superstar performer, I dreamed to be like. I read some books and “googled” her. We learned about her contributions to many causes and I watched her stand up comedy routine. Her routines were filled with political commentary. But I also had to address her “checkered” past. Could I choose a person who had engaged in many activities that I felt were wrong, selfish, and self destructive? After much thought I decided, Yes! Conquering obstacles can make a person a hero. I know that people should be looked at for all they have done, not just one aspect of their life. Heroes and role models are people too, with strengths and faults. What Whoopi Goldberg has overcome is a sign of her heroism which I admire but do not want to emulate. Her career accomplishments and how she uses her stardom are the qualities which I aspire to, the role model aspects of Whoopi Goldberg.

I aspire to become a performer like Whoopi Goldberg. I have the same love of performing as she does. She uses the stage to help express her feelings and helps other people’s voices be heard. She helps give expression to their feelings. Her monologues include her opinions about life, political issues and her value of free expression. The content of her monologues are satirical in that they make fun of issues, and include her views on them. In these riffs, she also reminds her audience, about the importance of tolerance for everyone. Having the content of her creative expression focus on justice, and other important issues, sets her apart from other performers who sometimes keep their views to themselves, and limit their contributions to financial ones, only.

Whoopi Goldberg’s real name is Caryn Johnson. She changed her name because she thought Caryn Johnson was too boring. At first she thought it would be great to have the name Whoopi Cushion, like the gag pillow. She claims it’s because when she performed she often felt full of gas by the time the show ended, she felt like she sounded like a whoopee cushion. But her mother told her she would never be taken seriously with that name. So she decided on Goldberg, claiming that she is partly Jewish, although there is no proof of that according to her biography. . In her autobiography, she quotes an African proverb, “It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to”. How people view her, what they call her, is meaningless, unless she internalizes it by responding to that name. a true lesson for all of us!

Whoopi became the second African American woman to win an academy award, for Best Supporting actress, for her role in “Ghost.” But before this, her life was not so celebratory. In her younger years, Whoopi had much more trouble just staying alive, let alone winning awards.

Whoopi was born in NYC in 1955. She lived her first years of life in an unsafe housing project in Manhattan. Later, in high school, she dropped out, and became addicted to heroin and LSD. She enrolled herself in a drug rehabilitation program and succeeded in overcoming her addiction to drugs. She married her drug counselor and had one daughter. All this she did before she was twenty years old.

After her marriage ended, she moved to California with her daughter. She started improvising at theater groups where she got her name and her career blossomed. Overcoming these hardships, yet using them as a springboard for her work, is what makes Whoopi Goldberg heroic to me. Also, what she has overcome has reinforced to me what I don’t want to do, which is another way she is a hero to me.

One of Whoopi’s goals, I believe, is to make people question the way they think. This goal is important to me too. I too, always want to affect people in a positive way and make them think. A lot of the time when she performs Whoopi shares her opinions and tries to affect the audience in a positive and strong way. In her show “Whoopi on Broadway,” she is straightforward and strong in her opinions. An example is her strong opinion that the war in Iraq has gone way off course. She began saying this two years ago, when there was much more support for the war.

Though some may think Whoopi is too over the top, I think she does this to get her point across. She does not try half way. She goes all out and that’s what makes her so extraordinary. I think that the reason that Whoopi and I like affecting people through performing is because we can make it our own. It is an art form. Whether I am singing or dancing, I am trying to get something of my own to affect the audience. Its genuineness has a greater impact on people.

Whoopi performs to help raise money for those causes she believes in. In 1987, Whoopi co–hosted with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, HBO’s now historic, “Comic Relief Benefit” for the nation’s homeless. Comic Relief II, III and IV raised a total of $40 million. And there is more. She raised money for hurricane Relief, AIDS awareness for children, and the House of Ruth which raises money for domestic violence victims and the homeless.

Whoopi also donates time to TEEN INK magazine by allowing teens to interview her for that magazine. Her support of causes raises awareness of them. Also, more people may support the cause because she does. I hope that someday I too will be able to use performing to express myself and help other people by voicing their needs and helping them to express themselves and grow.

To my surprise, I learned that sometimes Whoopi does not just convey a meaningful message through comedy. In addition to performing she sometimes does this by writing and contributing to important books. Among the book she has written were, Alice, a children’s book which was published in 1992, and Book which came out in September 1997. This became a New York Times best seller. She also wrote the preface to Breaking the Walls of Silence: Aids and Women in NYS Maximum Security Prison (Bedford Hills). The importance of her contribution, although it was only one page in a 200-page book, is that it helped people focus on this issue because someone “famous” was contributing to it. She
contributed to the book because she recognized that had she continued to use drugs she might have been a subject of the book, in prison and with AIDS. She admitted in the preface that thinking about what to write made her confront herself.

She also had to confront herself when asked to contribute to the book, Open the Unusual Door, True Life Stories of Challenge, Adventure and Success by Black Americans. The book is a collection of essays by people all of whom have overcome personal struggles. The “unusual door” is a challenge that changes peoples’ lives. By taking the challenge and making the choice they all did “heroic” deeds. Whoopi was asked to contribute and wrote about when her 14-year old daughter announced to her that she was pregnant. Even though she had supported and had spoken out in favor of pro-choice, her daughter’s situation gave “pro-choice” a new meaning. Choice to have a baby, not just choice to have an abortion. Whoopi wrote, “I had to take my beliefs out for a little test drive… It means women have the choice to do whatever they want..; even if it smacked into what my choice would have been for her… She taught me pro-choice is not just a phrase.” For me this is an important lesson. First it reminds me that I don’t want to be a parent so young. It also showed me how stating one’s beliefs or position about an issue becomes very different when you have to confront it personally. Facing it forces you to think about the issue differently. It’s one thing to state a belief; it’s another if you have to live it! It’s easier to talk the talk than walk the walk!

It is funny how our world is so separated and divided when we are all so similar. We all have issues and we are not perfect. Yes, Whoopi and I are different. But who would have thought we had so much in common? Definitely not me. It just shows that if we think and put race and backgrounds behind us we can really see who people are. If we all just put race behind us and look for commonalities among ourselves, wouldn’t that make us heroes and role models, too? I think it does. Now it just means we have to step forward and do it!


“Heroes and Role Models: Barbra Streisand” by Sabrina Frank
June 16, 2007

A hero is someone who has done something outstanding. A hero may have saved a life, found a cure for a fatal disease, donated to charity with time or money. A hero could be someone who has helped you to get a passing grade even, or who has taught you how to play a sport that is now your favorite. A hero is someone who has done something to help, out of the kindness of her heart. A hero is someone who you admire for being extraordinary but not necessarily who you want to be like. You may feel as though being like someone you admire is too much work for you, even if you may admire how she handles her work. For example: Someone physically may not be able to play basketball, or maybe doesn’t even like playing, but can still admire someone who plays very well because of her talent and passion.

For someone to be your role model, you not only admire many of her characteristics, but you want to embody them. My role model is not only a role model to me, but also a hero. My hero and role model is Barbra Joan Streisand- an Emmy, Oscar, Tony, Grammy etc. award winner known for her bold personality and outstanding talent.

Barbra Streisand is a Jewish woman who was born on Pulaski Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on April 24, 1942. Her biological father- Emanuel Streisand was a high school English and Psychology teacher with a PHD in education. Tragically, he died when she was only 15 months old due to a cerebral hemorrhage. As a result of his death, her family plunged to an economic level JUST above poverty. This left little time for Barbra’s mother to be with her kids. Her mother remarried to a man whom Barbra did not get along with.

Barbra Streisand was VERY insecure about her looks growing up, but continued to pursue her dreams, and right now she is an amazing actress, singer, writer, director, and producer in the entertainment field. I admire this in Barbra because what people say affects how I present myself. One goal I have set for myself is to not let other people’s opinions stand in the way of my ability to do what I wish, like Barbra has done successfully.

Barbra is also an outspoken democrat who donates much time and money to political causes such as slowing down global warming. Like Barbra, I try to be a leader, courageous, a feminist, respectful, loyal and someone who persists in pursuing her dreams.

Once she got into the entertainment business, Barbra continued to pursue her wishes. While shooting her first movie, Funny Girl, in the opening scene, Barbra Streisand was already suggesting to the director how she should make her appearance. She wanted to “emerge from the train in a great puff of smoke.” The director refused, but I admire the fact that she was bold enough to share her idea. I try as much as I can to share my ideas even when they may not be popular, and hope to continue doing this even more courageously.

Barbra Streisand has a very bold personality. In all her movies that I have seen, her personal values shine through. I think she is a hero for this because she respects and stays loyal to her own ideas by never letting them get lost, even when she is pretending to be someone else. For example, in Funny Girl, the character she played was an actress and singer who was fired because of her terrible dancing skills. But, her character did not just sadly walk away, and accept the fact that she was told that she could not be on stage; she pleaded then insisted on demonstrating what she could do until the same company that fired her, re-hired her to be in a dance that involved roller skating. She got her way, but it turned out she couldn’t dance with roller skates on… any better than without. She was an amazing singer though, and the man who hired her asked her to get back on stage at the end of the dance performance to sing a SOLO. She got very nervous when she saw all the people looking at her, but continued to sing anyway, and the crowd loved her.

As an actress, Barbra Streisand pursues her wishes and dreams just like her character did in Funny Girl. Also, like her character in Funny Girl, in the beginning of her life on stage, Barbra Streisand had incredible stage fright. She still has this fear, but performs anyway because it is her passion. My parents have always taught my brother Wyatt and me to try to face and conquer our fears. And, like Barbra, I hope in life to be someone who can always face her fears no matter how difficult it may be.

This year I played a lot in my basketball games. Although I got nervous at times, I didn’t let my fears over take me because I knew that would affect my playing. Another fear I have is stage fright. As you can see I am conquering it right now and I hope I am doing well on this stage. Even though sometimes I need to be reminded to face and conquer my fears, I know that making sure my fears don’t overwhelm my chances to succeed in, and even surpass my goals, will make me feel much better about myself. I am sure that Barbra knows letting her fears over take her will affect her performance as well.

Other than being bold through characters she plays in movies and on T.V., Barbra Streisand is very bold with her views in politics. As Barbra has said, “…until women are treated equally with men, until gays and minorities are not discriminated against, until children have their full rights, artists must continue to speak out, and I will be one of them. Sorry, Rush… Newt… Jesse…the artist as a citizen is here to stay.” I personally support the idea of artists as citizens because I know that everybody, as a citizen has a right to their opinions and to express those opinions. Not all celebrities take a stand for what they believe in, and if they do, most do not take a stand in and out of the spotlight. Out of the respect she has for our world, Barbra does support the issues she believes in, in and out of the spotlight.

Issues that Barbra Streisand takes a stand for are gun control, gay rights, women’s rights, voter education, nuclear disarmament, and overcoming the problems of poverty and AIDS. She also supports equality, dignity and respect for all people and, most importantly, ecological studies and slowing down global warming.

Barbra Streisand donates to the issues she believes are worth her time and money through performing, her website, and her foundation. In her website, Barbra offers suggestions on ways to save energy, and she has written letters to President Bush, and about President Bush on his policies, and ideas. “The Barbra Streisand Foundation” established in 1986 supports her activism in politics. It has raised millions of dollars.

For the movie Yentl, Barbra Streisand co-wrote the screenplay based on Isaac Bashevis Singers’ book, and directed the movie. She also acted and sang as the main character. It is a story about a young Orthodox Jewish girl named Yentl who loves to read Talmud- a book containing commentary of rabbis on aspects of Judaism. But, because of her gender she is not allowed by the culture of her community to pursue her passions.

Her father had secretly taught her what she was not allowed to learn and when he died, she took her dreams into her own hands. She dressed like a male and went to a Yeshiva, a school for orthodox Jewish boys to study Talmud.

Barbra raised awareness of several issues by being a huge part of Yentl’s production. These issues are equality between men and woman, pursuing your dreams no matter what obstacles are thrown in your way, loyalty, and friendship.

Barbra Streisand, as an actress, has never failed (at least in the many movies I have watched) to make some or many parts of her character and the movie laugh out loud funny. No matter how serious the role, she makes sure viewers can laugh. I truly admire this and in my own way try to find the humor in everything I can. Life can get very hard, and stressful, but being overly serious is not going to help us
get through most of our hard times. We can learn from our hard times, but as we live through them it is important to find humor in them because if you can make yourself a little happier, why not?

Barbra Streisand grew up in a kosher home, attended a Jewish school, Hebrew summer camp, and learned to read Hebrew and sound fluent. However, because she did not learn how to understand Hebrew, she concluded there wasn’t a point for her, in learning how to read it. Now, as an adult she sees herself as deeply Jewish and does not approve of traditions or ceremonies in which someone memorizes and reads something they do not understand. It seems as though she would agree with the type of Bat Mitzvah ceremony I am having because I am not only aware of what my papers say, I wrote them! Barbra is proud to be Jewish and generously supports Jewish causes and philanthropies in the United States and Israel.

Barbra Streisand is a bold, respectful, intelligent, creative, humorous, loyal person who I find to be a hero and a role model. Her ways of life are not out of my reach, and I believe that many of the qualities I admire about her, I can incorporate into my own lifestyle. Barbra Streisand is someone who I am like now, and someone I hope to be like in the future.


“Heroes and Role Models: Art Spiegelman” by Sam Lewis
June 9, 2007

I chose Art Spiegelman for my hero and role model paper. He is a graphic artist specializing in comics, who is best known for the graphic novel Maus, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Graphic novels use the comic form to tell a story. Art Spiegelman is a child of Holocaust survivors.

Maus was the first graphic novel to cover an idea as serious as the Holocaust. Spiegelman interviewed his father, Vladek, about his survival from Auschwitz. Maus not only covers the details of Vladek’s time in the Holocaust but also Spiegelman’s relationship with Vladek at the time the book was being written. The action switches between 1980’s Rego Park and WWII-era Poland.

To add another layer of meaning to Maus, Spiegelman drew the characters as different animals, according to their roles. The Jews are mice, the Poles are pigs, the Germans are cats, and the Americans are dogs. By using these stereotypes in comic book drawings, Spiegelman accentuates characteristics, such as the powerlessness of the Jews, as mice, or the predatory nature of the German cats that would
kill them.

Every time I read this book I find another meaning or interesting piece to the story. The words and pictures go together very well and it offers incredible descriptive details in a different way than a novel ever could. The comic book format helped me understand how horrible it was, to have been there.

Now, I’d like to talk about what a hero or role model means to me: I believe a hero is someone who can run into a burning building and save lives or jump into a freezing lake and pull a child out to safety. I believe a role model is someone whom younger people want to be like, when they grow up.

Spiegelman, to me, is not a hero, but a role model. His ideas and beliefs are something I would like to emulate. I do not base my life on looking up to a hero. I think that I would rather emulate a person’s beliefs and ideas because I am not sure I’m the type of person who would have enough courage to put my life on the line.

I recognize that someone who would risk his or her life for someone else’s life is a true hero. In the large format comic book he wrote after 9/11 titled In the Shadow of No Towers, Spiegelman writes, “I don’t even believe in heroes.”

There are many other values that I greatly admire in Spiegelman, such as his belief in free speech, humor, family and education.

I really like the fact that no matter what the critics have said, he has defended his work— even under scrutiny by the government, the media, or someone in his family. I believe that these values are very worthy of emulation.

As a child, Spiegelman loved Mad Magazine. I am also a subscriber. It is filled with celebrity satires, crazy pop-culture references, and popular movie parodies. Since the jokes can be crude and gross, at the time, it was a hit with kids across the country, but not with the adults.

In Spiegelman’s day, Mad was considered a threat to morality and was banned from classrooms because of its counter culture attitude. The magazine was reacting to the atmosphere in the country, the cold war, Vietnam and how censored things had become, especially in teen literature. Spiegelman loved this about the magazine and adopted some of this attitude.

He believes that kids should do their own thinking, and not just mimic adults. Today, Mad isn’t considered a threat to morality, especially when one considers other forms of pop culture, such as some video games.

Spiegelman had an encounter with the establishment when he got a job with the Topps Card Company, which makes baseball cards. He was the creative consultant for both Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky packages. I have a few packs of Garbage Pail Kids and I think they are very gross, but also funny.

Spiegelman considered it the highest form of complement when a state official from West Virginia said that the cards should be banned from that state entirely.

Spiegelman was at the forefront of a new underground comics industry, called comix, spelled with an x, that weren’t authorized by the comics code authority, weren’t sold by the news stands and most stores, and they were meant for adult readers.

His comic book RAW, which came out in 1980, where Maus was first serialized, shows how Spiegelman felt about comics. Most comic books were fantasies filled with heroes like Superman and Spiderman who fought crime and were undefeatable. Spiegelman didn’t like those comics and neither do I. The subject matter of this comic book and of Maus shocked many readers. The main characters did not have any super powers and weren’t undefeatable. Maus I was published in 1986.

In the early nineties Spiegelman won the Guggenheim fellowship, and that helped him complete Maus II.

It took ten years to write the two books of Maus and at times Spiegelman had to take some work he didn’t love to make ends meet. I believe that sometimes in order to get what you want, you must do work that you don’t love to get closer to your true goals.

Eventually, when the Maus serial comics were collected and published as a book, Spiegelman was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, the first for a graphic novel.

Spiegelman’s career continued to develop. He started to draw covers for the New Yorker magazine. Up to then, the New Yorker’s covers were great illustrations, but weren’t dealing with the controversies of the period. Art Spiegelman changed that. For instance, in 1993, a conflict in Crown Heights between Hasidic Jews and African Americans was front page news. Spiegelman created a New Yorker magazine cover that featured a black woman kissing a Hasidic man. It may have been one of their most controversial covers, at that time because some people were racist and did not want to see that sort of thing. People were very shocked by it, the cover pushed many boundaries. I think that this image is a great way of commenting on the problems at that time in a very direct way.

With the tragedy of 9/11, Spiegelman, once again, addressed a major matter that he witnessed. He came out with the large format comic book, In the Shadow of No Towers. Combining the events of 9/11 with many old comic books, this book is the most controversial of Spiegelman’s work. There is one comic in the book, in which he shows that the American flag is a flag of unity, but he believes that because of partisan politics, the Democrats versus the Republicans, that we have become a nation under two flags.

Researching Art Spiegelman has really shown me that just because things such as comics have been a certain way for as long as anyone can remember, does not mean that they can’t be changed by a single person. He inspires me to help change things in life, whether it is a huge world wide idea, a small local matter, or just the way I feel about something.

Two months ago I got to see Art Spiegelman speak at Colombia University. He talked about the development of comics in America and how they changed over the years. I thought that it was very interesting seeing him in person and actually hearing him talk. It brought him to life for me, and it validated what I wrote in the paper.

Although Spiegelman has done all great things, he is not nearly a perfect person. In college he experimented with illegal drugs, he smokes a lot, and lastly nobody is perfect. We all have done bad things at one point in our lives. I like how he tackled ideas that were hard for people to deal with and made them more personal. I also like how he made the New Yorker covers controversial and helped the events of the time be recognized by many people. I also like his sense of humor, which comes out even around serious topics. And that may have led me to the subject of my major project on Jewish humor, which I’ll share with you shortly.


“Heroes and Role Models: John Lennon” by Sophie Silverstein
May 9, 2009

Just what is the difference between role models and heroes? Heroes do something you admire, but you do not necessarily want to emulate them — a role model is someone you look up to and want to be like.

John Lennon was a role model in the 1960s for both his music and politics during a politically and socially unstable era. He is my role model and hero today for several reasons– because he was determined to be an artist and performer, as I am; because he used his fame and popularity to spread peace during the Vietnam War; and because he was true to himself and loyal to his family. He embodied many of my own values: determination, having and following dreams, friendship, and loyalty.

It has been nearly thirty years since John was tragically killed by a crazed fan, but he remains famous to this day. His legacy lives on through his music, (his songs are an inspiration to me) and through his life’s work. But when he was born in Liverpool, England in 1940, he was just another middle class English boy, not the type anyone would expect to grow into a world-renowned figure.

As a young boy, John’s often absent mother sent him to live with his aunt and uncle, an event that shaped his concept of family, as he later depicted in his song Mother, in which he sang:

Mother, you had me but I never had you — I wanted you but you didn’t want me,

Father, you left me but I never left you — I needed you but you didn’t need me.

While attending grammar School, John started a band called the Quarrymen. Then he met Paul McCartney and the Beatles were born. The band broke up in 1970, with John going solo, recording songs with his wife Yoko Ono until his death in New York at the hands of Mark David Chapman as he entered his home, the Dakota on 72nd Street.

John Lennon and the Beatles exemplify for me that success does not come overnight. His work ethic shows me that I can realize my own aspirations if I work hard enough at it. When the Beatles first started out in 1961, they performed about three hundred times, for almost nobody, in the Cavern Club in Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany. They were not yet skilled musicians. They were totally raw. But they practiced and practiced until they knew how to play their instruments. This commitment inspires me. Learning how they cut their teeth through so much thankless work in difficult conditions made me realize how hard I have to work.

John is also hero to me because of his work for peace during a time of war. On the day he married Yoko in 1969, the newlyweds held a “bed-in for peace” in the presidential suite in the Amsterdam Hilton instead of going on a honeymoon. They stayed in bed and they refused to leave the bed until the U.S. left Vietnam. The bed-in failed to accomplish anything other than generate publicity, but John and Yoko stuck with it. Forbidden from enter the U.S., they took their bed-in to Montreal, where they recorded “Give Peace a Chance” along with many famous musicians. It became a huge hit and an anthem of the peace movement.

Along with his determination and his devotion to Yoko, even though she was a little wacky, I also admire how used his popularity and wealth to spread his ideals to a world he imagined where could live in peace. As he sings in the appropriately titled Imagine,

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.

Along with the bed-in and the songs “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance”, John also put up billboards declaring, “War is over, if you want it.” and repeated that message in “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)”. And when he was named a Member of the British Empire by the Queen of England, he returned the medal because of Britain’s involvement in Biafra, where famine was killing thousands of people trapped in the middle of a civil war, as well as for Britain’s support of the U.S. in Vietnam. He made plans to hold a huge peace festival, but these plans deteriorated, so he recorded the album “Instant Karma!” and edited hours of abandoned tapes to create the Beatles’ last original release, Let It Be.

But John was not perfect, and that, in my mind, makes him an even better role model. Role models need not be perfect — recognizing and avoiding their flaws make them even better models. While John did much good, he was also a drug abuser and a well-known jerk at times, constant using profanity and making many blatant generalizations.

His song “Cold Turkey” is tells about his withdrawal from heroin. This is not something I look up to at all, though I do applaud John for overcoming his addiction. If he had avoided drugs, he might have been able to accomplish even more. But even with these flaws, I admire John for his persistence in sticking to his values, despite political pressure from the Nixon administration and even with all the heat he took from Beatles fans who blamed Yoko for breaking up the band. He stuck with her to the end.

I also admire John’s belief system. His song “God” reflects some of my own beliefs. John sang that he does not believe in religion, superstition, pop culture, or government interference in people’s lives.

I don’t believe in magic, I don’t believe in bible,

I don’t believe in kings, I don’t believe in Beatles,

I just believe in me, Yoko and me.

I feel similarly. I do not believe in superstitions or a higher being, but I do believe in myself and my abilities and my family the same way John believed in himself and the woman he loved. John reiterated his personal belief in himself and his wife and family shortly before his death when he made a huge comeback with his album Double Fantasy. In the best-known song from that album, “Starting Over”, he sang of these values:

It’s time to spread our wings and fly

Don’t let another day go by my love

It’ll be just like starting over

John’s new start was cut down by one of the very things he spent so much time and energy fighting — a gun. But his values live on. New generations can start over with him as an inspiration, as I hope I do.


“Heroes and Role Models: Barbara Walters” by Yoela Koplow
May 23, 2009

The dictionary defines a role model as somebody we want to look up to and who is often an example to emulate. A hero is defined as somebody who is admired and looked up to for outstanding qualities or achievements.

I think the difference between a hero and role model is that a role model is somebody you identify with, look up to and try to be like in a certain way, while a hero is someone you admire for an achievement, even though you may not identify with the person. I think that someone can be a role model or hero even if they have flaws. A good example is someone that I didn’t choose to be my role model for this assignment, Miley Cyrus. She is a famous singer and actress. Miley has had many rumors and scandals swirl around her and many pictures of her using bad judgment, and yet, lots of people still consider her a role model. I think she is a great person, but a lot of times fame just gets the best of her. That happens to many celebrities at least once or twice. I consider Miley to be one of my role models because she is really good at what she does and she loves it and works hard at it. She inspires me to pursue my dream of acting.

My mom told me who her role models were when she was a kid. She told me that her 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Singer and her 7th grade teacher Mrs. Rabinsky were her role models because they were both really creative, really strong women, and very responsive to her and the rest of the class. When my mom first began her career she became a teacher like them, before she became a therapist.

I guess my criteria for role models are that they have to be in the entertainment business and they have to believe in equality and justice. They also have to be honest and trustworthy as people. Barbara Walters is a good example of someone who fits these criteria. I chose her because she was the first female news anchor in America. She has a very successful career on TV, which I hope to have, as I get older. Since she is a reporter she is committed to finding the truth and letting people know about it. She also is an example of the ways that women and men are equal and deserve the same opportunities since she has had jobs that only men used to have, and she was really good at those jobs.

Barbara Walters was born on September 25th, 1929. Her parents were Lou Walters and Dena Seletsky. Her brother died of pneumonia when he was 3, and Barbara and her sister were born 3 and 4 years later. Her sister, Jacqueline, was diagnosed with a mental disorder as a child, and died around 1984. At one point, Barbara’s father owned the nightclub “The Latin Quarter”, but he had trouble in business so the family moved around a lot. Barbara would attend a new school at least twice a year. She always tried to fit in, but never really managed to. I desperately wanted playmates,” she wrote, “to have friends over to my house, to belong instead of always feeling like an outsider”. She tried to be friends with some of the girls, but since she was always the new girl, she never really was accepted. The Walters’ financial status changed often. While her family moved, she moved in and out of celebrity circles. She once told a gossip columnist that “We were rich on Mondays, and we would lose it all on Tuesdays.”

Barbara Walters originally worked at NBC as a writer. She then became the “Today Girl”, the girl who did the weather. Finally Walters became a reporter in the 1960s. She got the position as a coanchor on NBC after the Civil Rights and Women’s movements. These social changes allowed women to start getting the same jobs as men. She once said “Back in 1976 you could freely attack a woman for wanting to attempt to do a so-called man’s job, especially in the holier-than-thou men-only news departments. Many people still believed that women were supposed to know their place — and stay in it … Today, that same attitude would not only be politically incorrect, but the backlash ould be enormous.”

One highlight of Walter’s career is when she interviewed Cuba’s former dictator, Fidel Castro, in 1977. Another major highlight of her career is when she broadcast Princess Diana’s funeral. She was the main reporter bringing that event to millions of people in America.

When Walters first met Barack Obama as a potential candidate for president, she asked him to appear on her talk show, “The View.” Obama told Walters that he’d already appeared on the show in 2004 to promote his book “Dreams for My Father.” “I’m so sorry I wasn’t on the program that day,” she recalls telling him, to which he responded, “Oh … but you were.” Months later, Barbara Walters had the opportunity to interview President Elect Obama and the future First Lady, allowing Obama to share his ideas about the economy with all of America.

I chose Barbara Walters because if you are the first female news anchor, you have to believe in gender equality. I myself totally believe in gender equality. I want to become an actress, and I hope that I can use my mad acting skills to make an impact with that message. I could play a role that shows how women can have power as well as men, and could handle it differently or even better than a man. For example, I could play a congresswoman who becomes the first female president of the United States of America.

Some people are not aware that Barbara Walters’ parents were both Jewish. However, Barbara Walters’ father later turned to atheism. The result was that Walters was raised with no religion in her home. Still, she is Jewish by heritage and culture. I guess you could say that Barbara Walters’ way of being Jewish is compatible with humanistic Judaism. She is not religious, but uses her power in the world for tikkun olam, making the world a better place. Barbara Walters has earned a lot of money, and is known to be generous to charities and causes, and started a foundation to help people with mental disorders, like her sister.

Barbara Walters and I have some things in common; an interest in celebrities, a belief in gender equality, and a desire to follow our dreams. She followed hers, and she inspires me to follow mine.

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