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How the JCC Movement Is Celebrating Tu B’Shvat

By Jane E. Herman

Although it’s the middle of winter for many of us in North America, in Israel, it’s time to celebrate trees and the earth as they awaken from winter. Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) from coast to coast are marking Tu B’Shvat, the new year of the trees, in wonderful, creative, and online ways.

    • At the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Cyndi Kleinbart, a Jewish educator and the chef and program manager of Jewish Family and Children’s Services culinary program will share traditions around the holiday and guide participants in creating treats, including a pomegranate cocktail, chocolate fig truffles, and raspberry crumble bars to enjoy at their own Tu B’Shvat seder.
    • In the lead-up to the holiday, the JCC of Greater Baltimore in Maryland offered a Sunday morning Tu B’Shvat edition of “Babies, Books, and Bagels!” for families with young children. Participants received a breakfast bag that included bagels, cream cheese, and a special treat to enjoy during the program, which included singing songs, planting seeds, and an opportunity to meet other parents.
    • The JCC of Youngstown in Ohio also will host a holiday program for families and children, “Tu B’Shvat Sip and Plant.” To celebrate the birthday of the trees, children will enjoy a Tu B’Shvat craft and juice while their parents create terrariums over wine.
    • Through Virtual J, Prosserman JCC in Toronto, Canada, is offering a Tu B’Shvat program with a spiritual twist, “Connecting and Flourishing Through Deep Spiritual Roots.” Featuring Jewish educator Adrienne Gold, participants will learn about the mystical facets of the holiday, how to maximize its spiritual energy, and nurture their own root systems, even in the depth of winter.
    • In partnership with Ekar Farms, the Staenberg-Loup JCC in Denver, Colorado, is offering an activity kit so families can learn about Tu B’Shvat, reconnect with nature, and find joy as environmental stewards of the earth and its beautiful garden.
    • Members of the Shimon and Sara Birnbaum JCC in Bridgewater, New Jersey, can celebrate Tu B’Shvat with an at-home Israeli wine tasting—including a red wine, a white wine, dried fruit, nuts, and other traditional holiday snacks—led by a representative of the Barkan Winery at Kibbutz Hulda. Following the wine tasting, the JCC will screen “Nicky’s Family,” the true story of Nicholas Winton who, in 1939, saved the lives of 669 Czechoslovakian Jewish children in 1939 by relocating them to Britain. Michelle Edgar from the Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Raritan Valley Community College will moderate a discussion after the film.
    • As part of its Shamayim Challenge, the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood will celebrate Tu B’Shvat by exploring plant-based cooking, discussing compassion for animals from a Jewish perspective, and creating a fruit salad that incorporate the sheva minim (seven species) mentioned in the Bible, as well as a blueberry compote.

    Whether or not you participate in a formal Tu B’Shvat program this year, take time this week to be grateful for the trees around you and consider ways we all can sustain and protect the earth for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

    Jane E. Herman is the senior writer at JCC Association of North America.

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