Tu B'Shevat

Tu B'shvat Prep For Educators

Tu B'shvat  

Spotlight on the Olive Tree:

Tu Bishvat - New Year of the Trees (Rosh Ha'shana La'ilanot) - was originally the ancient fiscal new year created to calculate the age of trees for tithing.

Today, it is celebrated in Israel with tree planting and as an environmental awareness day.

Trees (and planting significant numbers of them!) are of great importance in Israel. Many Israelis are named after trees. In your classrooms, among your friends, and in the halls of the Knesset, you will find people named: Amir, Amira, (treetop), Oren (pine), Ilan, Ilana, Ilanit (tree), Elah (Terebinth), Alon, Alona (Oak), Erez (Cedar), Hadas (Myrtle), Tomer (Palm) and Shaked (Almond).

Even though you are unlikely to find a kid name Zayit (Olive), of all the trees, the Olive Tree has a special national meaning. With its deep roots, steadfastness, gnarled and hollow trunk, and multipurpose fruit and oil, it serves as a symbol of survival, oneness with the land, and of course, peace. 

READ more in a post Vavi Toran wrote for the iCenter a while back.

It includes “Trees!" lesson plans for various grade levels developed by Rabbi Avi Deutsch for Jewish LearningWorks

In addition check this Visrael video about how Israeli kids celebrate Tu B'shvat







Resources To Address Race and Social Justice

By Rabbi Yoshi Fenton

These have been trying times for our community, our country, and our world.  The lights of the hannukiot in our homes, the blasts of the fireworks at new year's celebrations, and the expressions of hope for a better year, have all been muted by the violence of recent weeks.

In this post you’ll find resources on teaching about protest, bigotry, terrorism, violence, the unrest in Ferguson, and our responsibilities to further civil rights.  We hope they are a help to you in your classes, with your students, and in your personal and professional lives as we all grapple to make sense of the brokenness of our world. 

With Tu b’Shevat and springtime around the corner, I am reminded of the light which always follows the darkness of winter and so I’d like to share two additional teaching with you, as a blessing for us all. The first from the sage of the Mishna, Rabbi Tarfon, and the second from the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Shneerson. 

Rabbi Tarfon teaches, "It is not our job to complete the task, but neither are we free to desist from it." The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often conclude a letter or article with the blessing “Immediately to Teshuva (repentance), Immediately to Redemption.” 

It is our prayer for this New Year that we commit ourselves to creating a better, kinder and more loving place for our students and the world around us.  We offer this guide of educational resources as a support to you, Jewish educators, in your work to make our prayer a reality. 

Websites for Resources on Teaching about Social Justice

On1Foot is a project of AJWS and a wonderful website and resource for sources and texts on a variety of social justice topics.  You can both use already created materials or make your own. 

Justaction.org is a project of Panim, The Institute of Jewish Leadership and Values, and is another wonderful website that offers a variety of resources relating to teaching about and for social justice and change. 

Uri l’Tzedek is another organization committed to both working for and teaching about social justice and responsibility, and is the first Orthodox organization committed to social justice work.  The website is a great resource.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a wonderful resource to learn about what’s happening around the country regarding race and class.  Lots of articles and thought pieces. 

In Response to Ferguson

Channukahaction.org was created to help support those who celebrate Hanukah, connect the holiday and its observances to the events in Ferguson and conversations related to race, justice, violence, and social responsibility.  The resources and tools section is a wonderful collection of materials from a variety of sources. 

The following Jweekly article highlights many of the ways in which the Bay Area Jewish community has come together to support calls for an end to police brutality and demand a new perspective on equality and justice for all. 

This Kveller article exploring what if anything to say to our children about race in our country is an interesting and thought provoking read. 

A rabbi's response

Articles and Resources on Teaching about Race and Violence

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton is an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Are We Born Racist?: New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology. 

The Atlantic Monthly asked teachers, academics, community leaders, and parents to recommend resources they’ve used and/or would recommend to support adults as they teach children about race. 

The PBS program The Teachers’ Lounge gathered a number of teaching strategies for how to talk about Ferguson in school.  Here’s a link to the google doc

Also check out this blog from The Teachers’ Lounge on grade specific strategies. 

Reuven Firestone wrote a wonderful article examining the major Jewish sources which speak to violence and reconciliation.  For those of you interested in diving into the sources, this should be just what you’re looking for

Text Studies, Lesson Plans, and Curricular Resources

Ask Big Questions, a project of Hillel International, has put together some wonderful collections of texts and study guides geared towards young adults and teens. 

When Do You Take a Stand?

For Whom are We Responsible?

What Advantages Do You Have?

The Rabbinical Assembly has also made available a few really great source sheets below.

On Gun Violence

On Our Obligation to Remember We Were Once Slaves

Embracing the Stranger

Moving the World from Awareness to Inclusion

From David Neufeld, Director of Special Needs Programs and Services

A human being mints many coins from the same mold, and they are all identical.  But the Holy One, blessed be God, strikes us all from the mold of the first human and each one of us is unique.  (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)

As I sat, enjoying the INCLUDE Tu B’Shevat Seder last month, I was struck by one particular aspect of the ceremony. In a traditional Tu B’Shevat seder, we eat three different types of fruit—fruits with one large inedible pit or seed (e.g., dates, olives, avocados), fruits with many small edible seeds (e.g., carobs, figs, blueberries), and nuts or fruits with inedible shells or peels (e.g., almonds, bananas). We drink fourdifferent cups of grape juice: one that is all red, one that is mostly red with a little white, one that is mostly white with a little red, and one that is all white.

What struck me about this tradition is its celebration of difference. Each type of fruit or cup of grape juice is equally delicious, and each is equally important to the integrity of the seder. Just as this is true in a Tu B’Shevat seder, it is true in the larger Jewish community. We are blessed to have many different kinds of people in the Bay Area—people with different appearances, different traditions, different strengths, different challenges, and different learning styles. Judaism tells us that each of these people is equally important.  Each member of our community matters. A common thread among us - our desire to learn and to connect with one another.

While the Jewish community has made strides towards successful inclusion of many different types of people, there is still work to be done. Despite our best intentions, too many families with children with special needs have felt unwelcome—they have been looked at strangely when their child has a meltdown during Shabbat services, told that our educational programs are not able to support the needs of their children, or had to leave a community event because the environment was too overwhelming for their child’s sensory system.

However, with increased awareness, knowledge and resources, more and more Jewish institutions across the Bay Area are investing in their ability to welcome everyone through their doors. They do this in many ways: providing professional development opportunities for their teachers, inclusive holiday programming for their congregations, developing support groups, chavurot and more.  

February is National Jewish Disability Awareness Month. We at Jewish LearningWorks, along with many of our community collaborators* are celebrating difference through many different programs. Between ourJewish Disability Awareness Month events, our Navigating Difference, Embracing Inclusion workshop series (a groundbreaking collaboration starting on February 23rd), our Special Needs Family Camp weekend and more, we are working every day to improve and extend Jewish learning to those who have had to live without it for too long. We are challenging ourselves to shift our attitudes, to recognize that having a disability is part of the human condition, and to see that humanity in each person we meet. Jewish Disability Awareness Month is recognized in February; the need to belong goes on month after month, day after day.Thank you for being a part of this holy work.

*our community collaborators include: The SF-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, Friendship Circle, Rosh Pina, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Celebrations!, Be’chol Lashon, InterfaithFamily, Keshet, our INCLUDE North and South Peninsula partners, and many others.