By Yelena Gerovich
New American Acculturation Program Coordinator
Someone who plants trees, or is involved in education, knows that it is about connecting the past to the future. Even when you do not see the fruit, you believe that it is burgeoning and is already on its way. The Jewish Federation has not stopped its educational programs despite the coronavirus pandemic. The New American Acculturation Program virtually gathered people and provided numerous individual consultations helping members of our community to enjoy the learning process and to celebrate Jewish and American holidays.
Israel is one of the few nations that entered the 21st century with more trees than it had 100 years ago. Early Zionists planted trees in Israel to help restore Israel’s land, and as a symbol of the growth of the Jewish people. The Jewish custom was to plant a cypress for a girl and a cedar for a boy. Then when the child got married, branches from each tree were used to make the chuppah.
Tu B’Shevat is the day that marks the beginning of the "New Year of the Trees." It is the period when the earliest-blooming trees in Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. Tu B’Shevat begins at sundown on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, and ends at nightfall on Thursday, January 28. In Russia and many other parts of the former Soviet Union, Tu B’Shevat comes at a time when snow and ice still abound, and the sprouting of tree buds that the holiday celebrates are nowhere to be seen. The only fruit that was available at wintertime in Russia was apples. If you were lucky, you could find a food market with oranges or tangerines in stock. After standing in line for a couple of hours, you could buy up to two pounds (it was limited for shoppers). Some people brought their children to stand in line with them because more people were allowed to purchase more pounds. Not many Jews knew and celebrated Tu B’Shevat in Russia.
In keeping with the idea of Tu B’Shevat marking the revival of nature, many of Israel’s major institutions have chosen this day for their inauguration, including the cornerstone laying of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1918, the Technion in Haifa in 1925 and the Knesset in 1949.
Let’s celebrate Tu B’Shevat and connect the past to the future. We are blessed in Connecticut to be able to openly celebrate Jewish holidays. We have the opportunity to celebrate Tu B’Shevat with a variety of fruits despite the cold weather and the pandemic. The elderly and Holocaust survivors receive tremendous support from the organizations that deliver free food in our community.
For more information about the New American Acculturation Program, including sponsorships of specific program, contact Yelena Gerovich at (203) 387-2424 x321, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.