On Monday, January 21st, in addition to celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this year we also happen to celebrate Tu B’Shevat. Known as the “Festival of the Trees,” the holiday traditionally celebrates the blooming of Israel’s almond trees and the pending return of spring. Lately, however, a growing movement of Jewish environmental activists have infused the holiday with fresh meaning by turning it into a wider appreciation of nature and an opportunity to consider the ways in which Judaism informs our obligations around issues like climate change, sustainability, food production and consumerism.
We can all take small steps in our daily lives towards a greener world. Here are a few ways you can join with community to be a little greener this Tu B’Shevat:
1. Attend the Jewish Farm School Seder
A Seder not on Passover!? Yes, indeed: Tu B’Shevat Seders are an old tradition now making a comeback among the ecologically-minded. Our Jewish Federation-supported Jewish Farm School is co-hosting one such Seder with Kol Tzedek synagogue on January 31st. Registration is required for this intimate discussion about climate change and climate justice.
2. Conduct your own Seder with Hazon’s free Haggadah
Our Hungry for Change food conference partners Hazon — the “Jewish lab for sustainability ” — has compiled a thoughtful, creative and free downloadable Haggadah for Tu B’Shevat. Updated for 2019, it encourages us to examine our relationships with food, Israel, trees and the wider world, including a social justice component in honor of MLK Day.
3. Learn at KALLAH: Night of Jewish Learning
On January 19th, the Kehillah of Bux-Mont and Kehillah of Chester County present “Three T’s: Torah, Tikkun Olam, Tu B’Shevat,” an evening of teachings by local scholars and rabbis. Delve into trees’ mystical significance in the Torah; the modern religious response to today’s environmental crisis; and, with our Jewish Federation’s own shlicha, stories about the seven species.
4. Celebrate With Family-Friendly Tu B’shvat Programs
On January 13th, get hands-on with Jewish Federation-supported jkidphilly as they explore “The Science Behind Tu B’Shevat” in Elkins Park and on the Main Line. Or get outdoors with your little ones on January 21st with a special Family Tree Walk and Storytime at Philadelphia Horticultural Society; a nature walk, Seder, planting and reception on the 24th at Scott Arboretum; and on various January dates, tree-themed activities at Morris Arboretum.
However you choose to celebrate, chag sameach!