Local Organizations Celebrate Tu B’Shevat

Families enjoy a Tu B’Shevat event at the Ambler Arboretum. (Photo by Naomi Shapiro)

You live in Philadelphia or one of its suburbs in the winter. It’s cold out. It’s that time of year when you may not get outside as often as you would like.

But the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat is an annual reminder of the beauty and importance of trees and the great outdoors. This year, the holiday falls on Feb. 5 and 6, and local organizations are planning a variety of events designed to get you outside so you can appreciate the natural world.

Here’s a sampling of events you can attend, as well as the intention behind them.

Tu B’Shevat Gathering

Laurel Hill West Conservatory
215 Belmont Ave.
Bala Cynwyd
Sunday, Feb. 5, 1-3 p.m.

Laurel Hill West and the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History are bringing together arboretum manager Lauren Greenberg (Laurel Hill West) and Tu B’Shevat educator Nati Passow (Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action) to offer a tour of the conservatory’s “barks, buds and berries,” according to an event listing. The Weitzman wants attendees to understand both the nature around them and its deeper importance, said Dan Samuels, the museum’s director of public programs.

“The arboretum master gives great context on the history of these trees and how they fit into this region,” he said. “It’s about asking questions like, ‘What is our relationship today to trees?’”

General admission is $20 for those 13 and older and $10 for people under 13. Find tickets on Laurel Hill’s website.

Happy Birthday Etzi

Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel
300 S 18th St.
Sunday, Feb. 5, 10 a.m.-noon

A year ago, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Center City celebrated Tu B’Shevat by planting a tree in front of its synagogue. Members named the tree Etzi and, this year, they will gather for its first birthday.

Rabbi Abe Friedman explained that the community found out a year ago that it could apply for a free tree from Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation department. You just have to make a strong case in your application that you can take care of the tree. So, the synagogue explained that preschool students would tend to it during the school year and facility staff members would take over during the summer. The city got the tree from a nursery, and it was already 4 feet tall when the congregation planted it.

“Hopefully as they grow up, they grow up with a sense that the natural world is something to care for and be loved,” Friedman said of the students.

Sign up for the party on BZBI’s website.

Combining Tu B’Shevat with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

A few local organizations — jkidphilly, the Kehillah of Buxmont and Tribe 12 — are focusing less on just getting people outside and more on using appreciation for the world around us to motivate people to make it better. The appreciation part comes with Tu B’Shevat, while the motivation to make the world better shines through on MLK Day, which took place on Jan. 16. Last year, both holidays fell on the same day. And even though they are weeks apart this year, they can still complement each other.

Parents and kids at the Tu B’Shevat event at the Ambler Arboretum (Photo by Naomi Shapiro)

Tribe 12 is hosting a guided meditation and reflection on Feb. 6 from 6:30-8 p.m. on Zoom. The meditations will be about expanding minds and connecting with Judaism, according to event organizer Jess Meyers. But they also will focus on specific topics that relate more to MLK Day, like “understanding our privilege and understanding ways we can uplift members of diverse identities,” Meyers said.

“As members of both marginalized and privileged groups, Jews share a unique position in society of both understanding certain aspects of oppression, while also having the power and responsibility to uplift others,” an event description reads.

Register for the Zoom on Tribe 12’s website.

The Kehillah of Buxmont and jkidphilly already had their event in mid-January around MLK Day. More than 40 families visited the Ambler Arboretum to “enjoy story time, traverse the arboretum labyrinth, explore the campus gardens and celebrate the diversity of benefits that trees offer,” according to a Temple Ambler Facebook post. Then they went “back into a warm space to talk about trees and the origins of Tu B’Shevat,” said Lisa Litman, the director of jkidphilly. “Why trees need a birthday,” she added.

“We need families to take care of the natural environment and our natural resources before they all disappear,” she concluded. ■

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