Next week is Tu B'Shevat, and for many Jews the holiday has become about a lot more than tithing trees, according to a recent article in Something Jewish. With the upsurge in environmental activism jump-started by Hurricane Katrina and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and our continuing concern over where our food comes from, Jews in their 20s and 30s are incorporating green ideology into their Tu B'Shevat seders.
Some organizers will relate Tu B'Shevat to issues of environmental justice and environmental racism, while others are using the holiday to advocate for local and organic food. According to the article, a seder scheduled in San Francisco is billing itself as "eco-kosher," meaning the food served is sustainably grown and produced in a socially just manner, "[combining] progressive politics with religious imperative."
While Tu B'Shevat seders focusing on environmental concerns have been around since the 1970s, today's seders include much more religious content, according to many of the organizers. Combining environmental activism, an issue so prominent on today's forecast, with Jewish tradition may prove to be an attraction for formerly disenchanted Jews to rejoin the religious community.
Here's a list of environmental seders to check out in the big cities:
* In Chicago, Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps is running its first communitywide Tu B’Shevat seder in the co-op apartment shared by this year’s seven young program participants, all in their early 20s.
* The Tu B’Shevat seder in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, held in Dolgin’s living room the past several years, is moving into a rented space to accommodate its growing numbers.
* The Kavod Jewish Social Justice House is having a seder in Boston for young adults with students from Hebrew College, alumni of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and the Charles River Bet Midrash.
* In the Washington area, Shomrei Adamah will be co hosting a Tu B'Shevat seder and Shabbat celebration with Am Kolel, Jews United for Justice and the Shalom Center.
* Hazon, a New York-based Jewish environmental group, is running its sixth Tu B’Shevat seder at the JCC in Manhattan, and one is being organized for Limmud NY, a Jewish learning program taking place Jan. 17-20 in the Catskill Mountains.