Tu B’Shvat: A Hands-On Lesson in Jewish Environmentalism

By Sam Forman
No Jewish holiday is complete without a hands-on experience. Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, is no exception. Denoted in the Talmud as one of four “New Year” celebrations, the holiday is accompanied by traditions such as eating an eclectic sampling of tree-born nuts and fruits, conducting a Tu B’Shvat seder, and showing appreciation for trees by tending to green areas and planting new seedlings. Tu B’Shvat offers us some practical, profound learning when we engage with its meaningful traditions.
We don’t have to look far today to see signs of humanity’s neglectful stance towards nature, whether it is seeing serene nature wiped out by modern development, depleted natural resources, or ignoring considerations of sustainability. Tu B’Shvat teaches us that there is another way. Intentionally eating fruits and nuts from trees brings us a greater awareness of and gratitude for where many of our resources come from. The holiday ceremonies highlight our inseparable connection to nature with readings and ritual that urge us to keep the environment in our consciousness. And working the land by planting trees and caring for greenery reminds us of our responsibility to take action to protect the only nature we have.
To inspire the environmentalist spirit of Tu B’Shvat in an engaging way for families and children, the JCC of Greater New Haven will host Tu B’Shvat STEAM Fair on _____. The afternoon event will include science, technology, engineering, art and math activities connected to nature.
Sam Forman, a New Haven-based educator, also coordinates the JTE (Jewish Teen Learning) high school program and family holiday programming at the JCC.
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