Feb 1st, 2012

Jewish Arbor Day in Richmond

by Kristen Ablamsky, PR & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Did you know there is a holiday, native to Israel, that celebrates a new year in honor of plants? It’s called Tu B’shevat (TOO-bish-VAHT).  It’s sometimes called Jewish Arbor Day.

This agricultural holiday began in ancient times as a way to keep track of the crops and fruit trees that grew in Israel. Tu B’shevat is actually known as a new year for trees. You may be thinking -– but wait, it’s not spring yet. Well, in Israel it is! Israel has a rainy winter that transitions into a hot and dry summer.  This lends to great weather for the fruits of the earth. The custom of this holiday is to eat one of seven species of grains and fruit that are plentiful in Isreal, called shivat haminim:  wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.

Tu BishvatRamona Brand, director of education at Congregation Beth Ahabah, explains that a modern twist to the traditional  celebration has created a sense of awareness for local eating and shopping smart in a way that’s good for the earth.

The Jewish Appleseed Foundation, further explains:

Today we celebrate Tu B’Shevat to thank God for the gifts of creation, especially foods that grow on trees and the beauties of nature we enjoy. The holiday also reminds us of our responsibility to care for the earth that God created in order to preserve it for future generations.

Of course the Garden’s take on it is secular, but in many ways it is similar. Part of our mission is to advocate for sustainability and stewardship of our planet.  And the Garden’s  vision is that we will reveal the unity and integration of human and plant life, celebrate the fundamental significance of the natural world, and enrich our community and beyond.

This year, in Richmond, Congregation Beth Ahabah  will celebrate this eco-centric holiday with a  Tu B’shevat Gala Celebration (being held this Sunday) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. This is a private rental of the Garden, but the community is welcome.

Children and adults will take part in tikkun olam, or repairing the world, by planting parsley seeds, making all-natural bird feeders, and learning from a park ranger.  With recycled materials brought such as old toys, video games, and found things from nature, boys and girls can make jewelry, photo frames, and more. Plus, there will be a scavenger hunt, leading participants through the Conservatory to find crops of ancient worlds.

Image courtesy of: http://www.jerusalembaskets.com/Tu-Bishvat-Gifts_cat.html


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