Samantha, I have watched you grow up into a beautiful young woman, and I hope you will hold close to your heart the words I am going to say. Many years ago, you said you wanted to become a Bat Mitzvah, and we went to services at many different temples, until you said “this one,” and we joined Temple Israel, and you started your journey towards today. You have enjoyed your journey to get to this place. You have had wonderful teachers and rarely did you mind coming to Hebrew school. Being a Jew is very much a personal thing. No one but you can define what your relationship to God is, and you must find your own meaning in Judaism. I have tried to give you the tools to do that, and I think that you have a good hold on your faith and beliefs.

As you have grown from infant to toddler, young child to teenager, one thing remains the same. You are and always will be my daughter. As my daughter, there is a bond that connects me to you and makes us responsible to work, to love, to give and take as a family. I don’t always have the answers, and we don’t always agree, but that bond tells us that we must assume the responsibility of trying to find ourselves as individuals and as a family unit.

Samantha, I wish I could clear every road for you, pick up the rocks over which you may fall, and light all the dark places you might go. I know I can’t. It doesn’t mean I won’t try! I hope that I have given you the common sense, the inner strength, and the humor to create your own path through the rocks and the ability to light up the night. I want you to know that it’s ok to fall. Grace is knowing how to stand up and keep going. Of the many things you will learn as you continue your journey into adulthood, remember to be true to yourself. Sometimes, the most beautiful things you can create are acts of loving-kindness. Your grandmother use to say that you were street-smart because you always seemed to know what was going on around you. You have always tried to make the world a better place, from taking care of your friends, to volunteering at Braille with your grandfather, to traveling to Washington DC to learn sign language, and doing community service wherever and whenever you could. It is a great gift that you have. Don’t compare yourself to others. Always be yourself. Know your own greatness. You know what you want, and you’ve never been afraid to stand up for what you believe in.

As you continue to grow, I will tell you to be cautious and encourage you to question and challenge, to look beneath the surface. But I want you to trust yourself and trust life’s possibilities. Continue to believe in goodness, in dreams, and to have faith. Don’t take foolish risks, but don’t be afraid to take a chance on something important, even if it seems impossible, and don’t ever lose your enthusiasm or your smile.

Live each day to the fullest. Get the most from each hour, each day, and each age of your life. Then you can look forward with confidence and back without regrets. Be yourself, but be your best self. Dare to be different and to follow your own star. And don’t be afraid to be happy. Enjoy what is beautiful. Love with all of your heart and soul. Believe that those you love love you. Forget what you have done for your friends, and remember what they have done for you. Disregard what the world owes you, and concentrate on what you owe the world. When you are faced with a decision, make the decision as wisely as possible—then forget it.

We share so much. I watch you everyday with great pride, knowing what a wonderful young woman you are becoming. Your father and I were overjoyed when you arrived into this world, and I know he would have been thrilled at the beautiful young woman you have become. I love you very much and am very proud of you, and know that I will always be there to give you love and support whether you want it or not. I love you.

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