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Two loaves of challah on a silver platter next to a cup of wine

In 1890, Rabbi Wolf Zeev Yavetz from Zichron Yaakov (a town south of Haifa) wanted to celebrate the Mishnaic holiday of Tu BiShvat with his young students. He decided to plant trees with them.

Tu BiShvat was, in Mishnaic times, a calendar landmark set to evaluate the fruit of the trees for tax purposes. Rabbi Yavetz identified the educational and spiritual potential and seized the opportunity for an outdoor educational experience that left a mark both on the landscape and on his students' hearts...

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Smokey forest scene after wildfire

The Painted Cave Wildfire roared through Santa Barbara when I was 20 years old, blackening 5,000 acres, destroying 427 homes, killing countless animals, and taking one precious human life.

My neighborhood was leveled, and my home was gone. I fell into a depression so deep and oppressive that I could not imagine any other way of being.

Two long years later, I began to notice a subtle change. To my bewilderment and delight, delicate tendrils of interest emerged from my charred inner landscape. Tiny shoots of ambition miraculously unfurled, first one and then another. I began...

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A crowd at the Women's March

Over the course of the past several weeks, I have been part of numerous conversations about the upcoming Women’s March. Should we endorse or condemn? Should we march or sit on the sidelines? Is it best to engage or should we boycott?

These conversations have taken place in multiple spaces – among progressive Jewish organizations, women’s organizations, Reform Movement leaders and, of course, among Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) members. These have been vibrant, challenging, and heartfelt conversations and, as one might expect, we are not of one mind...

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Many pairs of hands forming hearts

When he died in 2001, Rabbi Chaim Stern left a vast collection of groundbreaking – though unpublished – writings on myriad topics. This essay was written on April 11, 1969, approximately a year after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was the outstanding spokesperson for non-violent change while he lived. Like his teacher and inspirer, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King suffered the ironic fate of death by violence. Since Dr. King’s assassination, no one remotely approaching him in stature has taken his place. If such was the purpose of his...

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Israeli children, eyes covered, reciting the Sh'ma

Tu BiShvat is known as the Jewish Arbor Day, and as such, it’s the time each year when Israeli schoolchildren plant trees. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that it was a teacher, Ze'ev Yavetz, who instituted the custom of planting trees on Tu BiShvat.

Only an educator could come up with such a hands-on, personalized way to connect with the building of the Jewish homeland. There is such profound wisdom in this act, proving that every action, no matter how small, counts. Even the small hands of a child can bring...

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