As a former teacher and current student, my year still revolves around the academic calendar. Around the end of August I start to come to terms with the end of summer and the arrival of fall, which means a new school year and the start of a new Jewish year. This month my daughter, Noa, starts first grade at Cohen Hillel Academy. She often talks with her friend Sasha about how much they love and adore their school, which gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling and makes me feel that the money my wife and I spend on Jewish day school is worthwhile. During a recent play date I decided to give Noa and Sasha a playful quiz to see if what they had learned about Jewish holidays in kindergarten had sunk in (you know, in case it comes up later on the SAT).

Noa, left, and Sasha

Me: “Noa and Sasha, do you remember what holidays are coming up in September?”

Noa: “Um, Chanukah?”

Me: “Not quite. That’s in December this year.”

Sasha: “Yom Kippur?”

Me: “Yep, that’s a biggie, which comes 10 days later, in October. What else?”

Noa: “The birthday one? The New Year?”

Me: “Rosh Hashanah! You’re right! Do you remember anything from kindergarten about the ways we celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?”

Noa: “My teacher talked to us about apologizing.”

Sasha: “And we threw breadcrumbs into the ocean!”

Me: “Do you remember what you thought about as you were throwing those crumbs in?”

Noa: “All of our mistakes, and saying sorry.”

Me: “What kinds of things did you have to apologize for? Do you remember?”

Sasha: “We fought a lot last year about what games to play. I’d say, ‘I want this game!’ And Noa would say that she wanted another game. We’d sometimes even fight in school! Mrs. Sidman would have to come and tell us to stop.”

Me: “Can you two think of different ways to figure out how to play this year without fighting?”

Noa: “I think we should just take turns. I also should apologize to you for when I’d yell at you for making my bath too cold.”

Me: “I’ll accept that apology; you know I don’t like being yelled at. Besides, now I make your baths very warm!”

Sasha: “And I need to apologize to my [2-year-old] sister, Meirav, for saying silly things to her. I like to teach her to say silly words and my mom gets mad because she doesn’t want her to grow up being silly!”

Me: “Maybe it’s your mom who could use an apology in this case?”

Sasha: “Yeah, maybe. I think Meirav likes saying silly words.”

At that point our conversation ended, but I’d say both girls passed my little holiday quiz with flying colors (and giggled a lot in the process). And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like saying silly words?

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year, celebrated with family and good friends. L’shanah tovah!

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