Is Family Everything?
Four local readers share what family means to them.
Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.
My great-grandparents came to Argentina from Ukraine and Poland. My grandparents and parents emigrated from Argentina to South Florida before my parents had their four children. Over time, my parents brought half of their family to join them in the U.S., as well.
While my entire family initially remained in South Florida, when I met and married my wife, Miriam, we moved to Atlanta, where her family lives and our daughter, Isabella, was born. My two brothers soon followed my lead and moved to Atlanta, and during the pandemic my parents moved here. Now my parents, my brothers — one with a new wife — both my wife’s parents, my wife’s sister and our daughter live in the same neighborhood, and my brothers are nearby and spend a lot of time with us. So, in response to the question, “is family everything?”
I would immediately answer, “yes!” We’re happiest and have the most fun when we’re together.
A family joke is that Sukkah-hopping this year will be a riot marathon, with many different residences involved. My wife and I have a tight group of close friends who are our chosen family. Having the people I love the most nearby means the world to me. I look forward to watching our families grow, with kids, life cycle events and more relatives moving here. Our family and family-like friends comprise what is essential to me.
My family is everything — my wife and daughters, of course, but family includes a lot of other people. I grew up with a brother and three sisters, and nine out of ten Shabbatot, our family, plus two sets of grandparents, were together for meals.
We spoke English and Farsi at home because the older generations grew up in Iran, and Farsi is their first language. Farsi is also widely spoken at Netzach Yisrael, our synagogue. The members of Netzach Yisrael are our extended family, spiritually and emotionally.
We all go to the same synagogue, so members of our family walk home together. We still join for many meals and all simchas and, on Shabbat afternoons, we siblings and our children frequently end up together. Our daughters greatly benefit from being part of our tight-knit family.
My mother, Janet Afrah, and maternal grandmother, Soad Naghi, own and operate Judaica Corner. When my siblings and I were young, we were dropped off at Judaica Corner after school, where my late grandfather also worked, and now my children are dropped off there, too, having the same experience of working and hanging out in the back of the family store.
The glue of our life is that we depend and count on one another 100 percent. My father, brother and brother-in-law and I are involved in related businesses of construction, landscaping and real estate.
We confer and often work with each other. My always-busy father, Bijan Afrah, is probably best known in Atlanta for his popular kosher catering business of the ‘90s and early 2000s, Bijan’s Catering, which featured authentic Iranian cuisine. My father and sisters are wonderful cooks, and you can imagine what family meals are like.
I’m still friendly with classmates from Torah Day School and Yeshiva High School, yet the most powerful bond is with my family.
I am not Iranian and don’t share the Iranian American culture; however, when I met Levi and saw his family in action, I equated my New Hyde Park, N.Y., family’s values with his family’s values. I grew up in a close-knit family in which my mother had a big family and my father had a small family, impacted by the Holocaust. Our entire family, both sides, were together a lot.
Like Levi, I appreciate and admire my parents, who, although they come from different cultural backgrounds, are just as loving and supportive. I attended Central, a well-known girl’s school in Queens, and my parents and teachers nurtured us to be proud, knowledgeable, observant Jews.
We were also brought up to feel close to and care about our relatives. I’m close with my siblings; we talk to each other every day. My two brothers and sister have each come with their families to Atlanta for Pesach. Each family stayed in our home with their kids all eight days, and it was wonderful.
I am a nurse practitioner for Jewish HomeLife Communities. Growing up, I was very close with my grandparents, and I love working in geriatrics. I would never move away from the social, emotional and physical closeness of the multi-generational Afrah clan and Netzach Yisrael.
Our kids want to spend time in their grandmother’s store, where they have the added benefit of actively engaging with their great-grandmother. Yes, to me, family is everything.
Is family everything? I would answer, “no,” but family holds an essential place throughout a person’s life, and no relationships can compare to family.
Family is your support system as you grow older, but not the only human connection necessary to have a happy life.
I value and enjoy spending time with my friends, being part of favorite planned activities to keep occupied … trips to plan for and certainly to look forward to.
I enjoy working in my yard and look forward to the time when all my hard work results in a beautiful garden! Going out to dinner or being invited is always a special treat! Being part of a book club and having wonderful discussions with the group!
I enjoy being involved in organization work and, for many years, have been on different boards. I enjoy the work and the close bonds I make and the satisfaction I have when something important is accomplished. I take pride in seeing my children happy in their lives and having three wonderful granddaughters raising my four little great-grandchildren to be the best they can be!
Life is good if you’re lucky to have good health, good friends, keep active even into your 90s and remain so thankful for it, because it is a blessing!