On Monday, January 21, area temples will celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the ancient Jewish holiday honoring trees and the coming of spring in the Land of Israel. On the same day, Americans will commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The convergence of a holiday that honors environmental stewardship with one that honors human rights creates a unique opportunity to use Torah and Jewish practice to remind ourselves that our actions can cause either destruction or healing. Thanks in large part to a North Shore Community Grant from Combined Jewish Philanthropies to increase focus on the environment and sustainability, local congregations will host honoring these two important legacies.
The festivities begin at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly, where Leora Mallach of Ganei Beantown – Beantown Jewish Gardens (an organization devoted to building Jewish communities through experiential food and agriculture education rooted in Jewish text and traditions) will lead the community in cooking a locally-sourced, Tu B’Shvat-themed meal on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 5:30. The food will be served at a Shabbat dinner the following night, at 6:00. This will be followed by the congregation’s annual Social Action Shabbat service, a family friendly event with a special activity for children led by Ganei Beantown. (Please RSVP to email@example.com.)
The service will feature the awarding of the Leah Shriro Social Action Honor, which recognizes members who represent the best of TBA through their community involvement. The 2019 honoree will be longtime Board member Jim Younger, who has chaired the Temple’s Social Action Committee for seven years. Younger is also the heart and soul of the congregation’s Pe’ah Garden, which provides food for charity and values-based learning for the community’s children. Jim’s spirit and values embody everything the CJP grant hopes to achieve.
On Jan. 20, Gloucester’s Temple Ahavat Achim will host their first ever “zero-waste” Tu B’Shvat seder. The synagogue is also taking steps to install solar panels on its roof and plant a pollinator garden.
On Friday, Jan. 25, Peabody’s Temple Tiferet Shalom will hold an environmentally-themed Kabbalat Shabbat service led by their 8th grade pre-confirmation class, along with a discussion about creating a Temple garden and providing food to disadvantaged people.
On Shabbat morning, sixth-graders will lead a service with the same theme. Temple Ner Tamid of Peabody and Temple Ahavat Achim of Gloucester will also integrate eco-related teachings into their Shabbat services.
On March 31, the North Shore Jewish community will come together for a multigenerational summit on sustainability, environmental action, and how to incorporate it into everyday life. Other organizations involved in this effort so far include Newburyport’s Congregation Ahavas Achim and Peabody’s Sons of Israel, the Jewish Climate Action Network (JCAN), the Lappin Foundation, and the Jewish Teen Initiative.
For more information, contact Rabbi Alison Adler at Temple B’nai Abraham, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Adler often quotes an ancient midrash that, “When God created the first human beings, God led them around all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said: ‘Look at My works! See how beautiful they are – how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.’ ”
“This beautiful and precious world is our home and our actions impact our lives and the lives of our children,” said Rabbi Adler. “I, like so many of us, can be overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges we face; but our tradition and our children implore us to act. Let’s come together as a community to take concrete actions to heal and to repair.”