Modern-day Jews celebrate Tu BiShvat by expressing joy and thankfulness for trees, harvests, and the natural world. Many Jews plant trees at home and in Israel, and eat delicious fruits and greens in celebration of this “New Year of the Trees.” During this agricultural festival, Jews around the world consider our obligation to care for the environment and our sacred responsibility to share the fruits of God’s earth with all.
You can incorporate social justice themes into your Tu BiShvat celebration in the following ways.
1. Take action for the environment.
On its environmental issues page, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) shares action alerts on pressing environmentally related legislative issues. Bookmark the RAC's environmental issues page to keep updated in the future.
2. Host a Tu BiShvat social action seder.
Infuse your Tu BiShvat seder with environmental education to give modern meaning to this celebration. Many such seders focus on the natural world and our responsibility to protect it, like this Tu BiShvat seder, published by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and NFTY - The Reform Jewish Youth Movement, or this Tu BiShvat seder from Hazon. In keeping with the nature of this holiday, this seder is a call to action, a time of education and reflection at we examine our impact on the world around us and commit to changing the way we interact with our environment.
3. Reduce, reuse, recycle - then go further
In honor of Tu BiShvat, make a commitment as a family or with friends to focus on one or more of these environmental practices:
- Reduce waste by buying products that use less packaging.
- Use the reverse side of paper as scrap paper or for art projects.
- Learn about your community’s most up-to-date regulations on recycling.
- Consider the slightly more advanced step of starting to compost.
4. Get back to nature.
Adopting natural areas, such as parks, streams, and roadsides, are projects individuals of all ages can get involved in to enhance the beauty and environmental quality of natural green spaces. Together with family members and friends, you can informally “adopt” an area simply by pledging to clean it regularly and advocating to the local government for its needs; in some areas, more formal adoption programs are available. Cleaning up a natural area near home can make a big difference – not only to the ecological health of the area itself, but to the esteem of the neighborhood around the area. Helping restore such areas may also give local children a safe place to play.
5. Prepare an organic oneg.
Organic food is produced according to organic standards, which means crops are grown without the use of conventional pesticides or artificial fertilizers, animals are reared without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones, and food is processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. Introduce congregants to organic foods by organizing an “organic oneg” in which community members bring to the synagogue organic produce and foods for a Shabbat dinner or oneg.
Alternatively, host an “organic tasting” where blindfolded attendees are asked to taste different foods and determine which are organic and which are not. This program allows members to see for themselves that organic food tastes just as good as “regular” food and educates members about safe food measures. Include traditional Tu BiShvat foods like barley, dates, figs, grapes, pomegranates, olives, and wheat, which are native to Israel.
FInally, consider hosting a “no waste” oneg with reusable table clothes, kiddush cups, and plates to limit waste and pollution.
6. Learn how climate change affects your region.
Climate change impacts each area of the world differently. In 2018, the U.S. government released a comprehensive report that explores how climate change will impact each region of the U.S. differently. Educate yourself about the impacts of your area of the country, and then share it with your community. Use this easy-to-digest resource to better understand all of the impacts.
To learn more about environmental justice and how you can get involved, visit the Religious Action Center’s environment issues page.