Planting Roots

Planting Roots
Sunday night begins the holiday of Tu b’Shevat (15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat), the birthday of the trees (or some think of it as “Jewish Earth Day”). Tu b’Shevat is an opportunity to raise awareness about and to care for the environment through the teaching of Jewish sources celebrating nature. It is also a day to focus on the environmental sensitivity of the Jewish tradition by planting trees wherever Jews may live.
Many of you may remember the days when on your way to Hebrew School your parents would provide you with “keren ami” money to put into the tzedakah box. On Tu b’Shevat I would bring additional money to plant trees in Israel.
To mark the progress towards purchasing our very own tree for the State of Israel, our class had a chart with our names on it featuring the outline of a tree. For every quarter value contribution, we received a paper leaf that we would proudly add to our class chart. Week after week, we filled in each tree with leaves. I loved watching the progress, imagining the real trees our class would help to plant in a land far away, the Land of Israel.
The early Zionists seized upon Tu b’Shevat as an opportunity to celebrate their tree-planting efforts to restore the ecology of ancient Israel and as a symbol of renewed growth and flowering of the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, trees were of crucial importance for reclaiming the arid, nearly unusable land and moreover, that it was centrally related to the holiday of Tu b’Shevat, the new year of the trees.
Tu b'Shevat is a holiday everybody can embrace – easy to understand, easy to prepare for, and it is a huge positive for our environment. It is the perfect way to bring a little bit of Israel into your own home – and to truly “plant roots.”
Click here for more information, history, family activities, and recipes for Tu b’Shevat. Here is information on how to create your own seder.
Plus, the Jewish Federation is sponsoring a MLK Day of Service with a Tu b’Shevat theme for preschoolers and their families at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center starting at 10:00 a.m. – register here.
Wednesday night, more “roots” were planted in our Jewish community as I had the pleasure of meeting 14 members of our Pathways program. Pathways is a program for young adults wishing to learn more about our Jewish community, network with veteran communal leaders, and find ways to give back. Interestingly, only three of the participants were native Portlanders.
During the evening, we introduced ourselves, discussed an overview of the Greater Portland Jewish community and learned about “Federation 101.” At the start of the meeting I asked each person to write down three things/ideas that would make our Jewish community even better. Some quick ideas:
  • Greater collaboration between organizations. “Feels like organizations are fighting over me. Makes involvement feel daunting.”
  • More programming in the outlying suburbs
  • More hands-on volunteer opportunities
  • Intergenerational programming and experiences. “Not everything has to be for young adults to only meet young adults.
  • Additional Jewish food/kosher/deli options
We should be very excited by these wonderful young people who have a passion for Jewish life and are “planting roots” in our Jewish community.
On Thursday, I joined a dozen clergy from the Jewish community, and about 250 other faith-based leaders, to learn more about a new national program called the “One Congregation One Precinct” (OneCOP) initiative. This program is in recognition of the importance for every law enforcement leader in our community to forge strong bonds and substantive, sustained partnerships with the faith community. Portland has been selected to be among the first in the national implementation phase of this trailblazing effort (Atlanta and Indianapolis are also participating).
The objectives of the OneCOP initiative include: 1) improving public safety through collaboration and information sharing to combat crime and violence by leveraging the varied resources of faith-based institutions; 2) increasing community engagement with patrol officers, via congregations, to decrease biases and increase familiarity, mutual understanding, respect and trust; and 3) proactively creating direct links between law enforcement executives and community leaders in an effort to prevent violent responses to officer-involved incidents while also giving voice to growing public concerns relative to policing.
Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw explained that the OneCOP initiative is a cutting-edge enhancement to the community outreach that our law enforcement community has long engaged in.
As we approach the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial holiday, the lead speaker at the luncheon quoted Dr. King, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other." That may be a major part of our country’s challenges today and the reasons for the OneCOP program. We look forward to partnering in this effort.
Finally, mazel tov again to Carol Danish, a long-time community leader, who just returned from the International Lion of Judah Conference in Florida where she was recognized with the Kipnis-Wilson Friedland Award. Carol, along with three others from Portland and 1400 other Jewish women philanthropists from around the world, came together to listen, learn, and inspire each other. At the conference, Bari Weiss, opinion editor and writer for the New York Times and who will be our speaker on March 18 for the Women’s Philanthropy Impact Event, interviewed gymnast Aly Raisman, which was one of the highlights of the conference. Carol embodies the spirit of “planting roots” -- look no further than her children and their families.
Shabbat shalom, I hope you engage in a Tu b’Shevat seder and other activities, and let’s continue to further the work and ideals of Dr. King.


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