Celebrating Tu B’Shevat (New Year of the Trees) In Queens

There are some holidays you can never get tired of celebrating. There is the secular New Year (New Year’s Eve), the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana), and even a New Year for the Trees (Tu B’shevat) celebrated in Judaism. This is a welcome holiday, especially since we lost so many of our own beautiful trees right here in Queens during the Tornado (these things just don’t happen in Kansas anymore).

Even well before one ever thought the strongest part of a Tornado would hit just miles from the Grand Central Parkway, Jews have been celebrating the New Year of trees everywhere. Tu B’shevat literally means the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar. This date coincides with the secular calendar on Thursday, January 20th. In the land of Israel, this is when certain trees come out of their winter hibernation and start bearing new fruits. The Jewish custom is to celebrate this new cycle of life by eating a delicious platter of fruit derived from trees in Israel: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Not only are these trees numerous in Israel, they are mentioned repeatedly in the Torah (the overall body of Jewish religious teachings encompassing the whole body of Jewish law, practice and tradition). Many Jewish people host a Tu B’shevat Seder in their homes with large platters of these fruits, while other Jews use these fruits in their dinner menu and cook them with brisket or chicken.

Even though we are many miles away from the land of Israel, you can find some great fruit platters to help celebrate this holiday at Aron’s Kissena Farms, 7215 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY 11367.

If you would like to participate in a Tu B’Shevat Seder, The Jewish Center of Oak Hills will be celebrating the joyous Jewish Arbor Day holiday of Tu B’Shevat at a special Seder on Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 11 AM. There will be a reading of the Tu B’Shevat Haggadah and seasonal fruit and nuts will be served. The public is invited, at no charge, to join with the membership in enjoying this holiday which has taken on even more meaning as we are all increasingly aware of environmental concerns. The Center is located at 50-35 Cloverdale Boulevard in Oakland Gardens (Bayside) Queens. For directions, and to reserve a table space for you, please call 718-631-0100 or email oakhillnews@aol.com. The building is handicap-accessible and has an elevator to all floors.

The Astoria Center of Israel is hosting a TU B’SHEVAT TREE DRIVE – In honor of the holiday of Tu B’Shevat (New Year of the Trees). They are especially interested in getting people to purchase trees this year because of the recent devastating forest fires in Israel.

You can help Israel to rebulit its forests (and its damaged communities) and help ACI out a bit as well, by purchasing trees through the synagogue at a tax deductible cost to you of $18 per tree. Please contact the Center office during the week at 718-278-2680 and place your order with Joyce. She will instruct you on how to make the purchase.

–by Esti Berkowitz