Although it is often overshadowed by other Jewish holidays, Tu B’shvat is a holiday with a very important message. Many ask, however: What is it that we celebrate when we enjoy this holiday? Tu B’shevat is the celebration of the trees, an opportunity to rejoice in the spring and its fruitfulness. So how does one properly celebrate Tu B’shevat? It is customary to have an array of fruits ranging from fresh to dried, specifically those that are prominent in Israel such as dates and dried fruits that bring us closer to our heritage. Tu B’shvat seems like such a simple holiday when, in fact, there is so much more one can do to embrace this part of our culture. This begins with environmental awareness.
Due to many harsh weather conditions including drought and deforestation, the number of trees in the world is dropping drastically. Such occurrences are endangering wildlife, humanity and the environment as a whole. As leaders of the new generation, it is up to us to acknowledge these fundamental issues, step up, and strive for change in the world.
My school, the Yeshiva of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School, has realized this crisis and is encouraging students to make this Tu B’shevat more than just a celebration of fruits and harvest. As a school and community, we celebrated Tu B’shevat this year with the newfound intention to build a better Israel. Introduced to this mission by our school’s Jewish History department, our student body found the motivation to contribute to Israel’s role as an environmentally conscious and groundbreaking nation. We are trying to fulfill this mission in collaboration with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Students, faculty and family members are collecting donations for JNF, who will use that money to plant trees in Israel. This is a wonderful opportunity not only to make a greener Israel but also to use the trees as a way to commemorate those we have all lost. We can procure a future for our planet while also rooting ourselves in the past.