Beverly Kent Goldenberg
Life Member, Hadassah Greater Detroit

Tu B’Shevat is Here, the Holiday of the Trees

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Artwork courtesy of the author.

Tu B’Shevat falls on the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat in the Hebrew calendar, usually sometime in late January – early February. The holiday celebrates the “New Year for the Trees” and highlights their importance in Jewish society. Much like Arbor Day in the United States, Tu B’Shevat is about trees and planting them to make the land healthier and more vibrant.

It was hard to think about planting trees during the Midwestern winters of my youth. But that’s what we did in the 1950s when I was growing up in Detroit.

It’s Sunday morning. Time for Sunday school. It’s bitter cold, fourteen degrees below zero. Snow remains from the previous snowfall. Although our trees are barren, at Sunday school, we create trees for Israel.

My classmates and I celebrate Tu B’Shevat by helping to forest the Jewish homeland. We have been purchasing stamps with the money we bring each week from home. We paste them onto pieces of paper, each with the outline of a tree, building the trunk, its branches and leaves.

Once the stamps fill the page, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) can buy a tree to plant in Israel. Our goal is to complete our trees on this cold Sunday for the celebration of Tu B’Shevat. JNF trees will drain swamps and secure the soil. We are excited to be connected to Israel and helping to cultivate the land.

At home that night, Mother serves us dried carobs, which she calls by its Yiddish name, bokser, and almonds mixed with raisins and chocolate chips. The almonds are in honor of the skadia (almond trees). Both trees grow in Israel. The Hebrew song “Skandia Porchat” (The Almond Tree is Blooming) honors the almond tree that displays its beautiful flowers at this time of year for Tu B’Shevat.

This Sunday school experience was my first connection to Tu’B’Shevat and JNF. JNF has remained an important part of my life to this day: planting trees in memory or honor of someone; attending local JNF functions and putting money in JNF’s Tzedakah Blue Box before lighting Shabbat candles. It is an organization that my parents supported, and Mother volunteered in the Detroit office.

After my parents died, a grove was planted in American Independence Park, outside of Jerusalem, through contributions made to JNF in memory of my parents, Judge George and Jennie Kent. My family was thrilled to see the project with our own eyes on the occasion of our son Oren’s bar mitzvah, which we celebrated in Israel. Together, we, too, planted more trees in the American Independence Park with JNF.

On picnics and family outings, our Israeli family took us to numerous parks created by Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, JNF’s Hebrew name. In honor of Tu B’Shevat, I have continued to plant trees every year.

The Jewish National Fund (Hebrew: קֶרֶן קַיֶּימֶת לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. Keren Kayemet LeYisrael), was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land for Jewish settlement in Palestine. In the early twentieth century, JNF devoted Tu B’Shevat to planting eucalyptus trees to stop the plague of malaria in the Hula Valley. Today, planting events are scheduled in forest areas and millions of Israelis take part. Since its inception, JNF has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres of land and established more than 1,000 parks.

Tu B’Shevat is February 5th-6th this year. Will you be planting a tree in Israel for Tu’B’Shevat?

“Tu B’Shevat is Here!”
Tu’B’Shevat Hagiah, Chag Ha’Ilanot”
טו בשבט הגיע חג לאילנות

Hadassah stands for Jewish values and traditions. Hadassah also stands up for women’s empowerment and leadership, and therefore strongly supports the role of Jewish woman as keepers of the flame of Jewish values, traditions and beliefs. I am proud to be a Life Member of a national organization with such a noble purpose.

About the Author
Beverly Kent Goldenberg has been a life member of Hadassah since 1968 and is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. She was born and raised in Detroit and is a member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter, Hadassah Greater Detroit. A social worker by profession, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Michigan. Beverly worked at Jewish Family Service and Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit for over 30 years, creating social skills programs for children that were modeled state-wide. Her English teachers always thought that she would become a journalist. Better late than never, she has been writing and publishing memoir pieces and poetry the past several years. Beverly and her Israeli husband, Michael, raised their two sons, Etai (Caroline), a urologist, and Oren, a filmmaker and real estate developer, in Huntington Woods, Michigan, where they still reside today. Beverly is Savta to five grandchildren, Leo, Ami, Estee and Elie, Nesya and a grand-dog, Sparrow.
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