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At Golda Och, a Lesson on the Meaning of 'I'm Sorry'

Rosh Hashanah lesson at Golda Och Academy brings home message of atonement.

Slih'a, the Hebrew word for sorry, was the theme of teacher Paula Spack's first grade lesson this past Monday morning. 

Speaking predominately in Hebrew, Spack, a teacher at the conservative Jewish led her 16 students through a series of activities and stories designed around the New Year holiday's message of atonement. 

The lesson, targeted for 6 year olds, focused on saying I'm sorry for mistakes made during the year.

Spack started the lesson by blowing the shofar, an instrument traditionally made of a ram's horn, and used in Jewish ceremonies to welcome the New Year. She asked her students what the shofar was saying. Students collectively responded, "Shana Tova," which means a good year in Hebrew.

She then engaged the class using sign language. Spack asked the students to raise their left hand "to make a very important 's' word." Folding her four fingers down onto her palm and bringing her thumb to lie across the reposed fingers, she demonstrated how to form the manual alphabet sign language symbol for the letter "s." She then asked them to "put your hand on your heart and make a circle." The "s" word was slih'a or sorry. The gesture, she told her students, meant "sorry was coming from the heart."

The students then gathered on mats at the front of the classroom where Spack read stories depicting scenarios where children acted Tov, Hebrew word for good, or Lo Tov, Hebrew phrase for not good. Spack asked her students if there was something they did last year that was not "your best you." She went on to say, "we all make mistakes so we all have to say we're sorry." She also told the students how there are two sides to slih'a. "We have to say slih'a and we also have to say Tov. I accept your slih'a."

The lesson concluded with children drawing a Lo Tov and Tov situation they encountered over the year. One student Jacob, drew a picture of his Mora (Hebrew word for teacher) Rachel asking him to do something and he didn't listen the first time. The Tov portion of his picture has him saying I'm sorry to her and she is giving him a hug. Grace, another student, said her Lo Tov picture was her "mommy telling me to get out of the pool." For her Tov response she said "then I got out of the pool."

Spack, an alumnus of the school herself, has been teaching at the institution for 23 years. The Rosh Hashanah holiday starts Wednesday night at sunset.

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