(January 25, 2021 / JNS) The sight of a Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) tree certificate or blue pushka box sparks recognition among Jews all over the world. Since its founding, JNF has planted more than 240 million trees in Israel; therefore, it is only fitting that Tu B’Shevat—or “New Year of the Trees”—has unofficially become JNF-USA’s holiday.
“Tu B’Shevat reminds us that no matter what happens, we all have to share this planet and care for it,” says JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson. “Perhaps no other organization is as strongly associated with a holiday as JNF-USA is with Tu B’Shevat.”
The holiday will be celebrated this year on Jan. 28. It’s a time to appreciate the connection between people and earth and has come to embody the dedication to environmentalism and conservation that JNF has always championed. Trees have been planted to maintain forest health, combat desertification, protect watersheds and manage water flow.
Each year, JNF provides hundreds of schools and youth groups with Tu B’Shevat materials encouraging students and their families to explore their connection to the land of Israel. This year, some 600 schools and youth groups will be utilizing JNF’s resources.
“We like to say that we aim to keep youth involved in Israel engagement from birth to the boardroom,” states Miranda Lapides, a marketing executive for JNF-USA’s Israel advocacy and education department. “We want students, educators, rabbis and members of the community to know that there is age-appropriate programming for students every step of the way—from kindergarten to college.”
This year includes materials for students at every level—from a Do-It-Yourself Theodor Herzl Chia Pet, which allows families to plant parsley to be harvested for Passover—to text-study source sheets compiled from biblical and rabbinic sources about Judaism’s relationships with trees.
The theme of this year’s program is “The Trees in Your Neighborhood.” Designed for these unusual times, the program can be implemented in traditional classrooms as well as in remote learning settings.
Through videos and accompanying discussion questions and activities, participants can investigate the attributes of different trees. Some schools may choose to examine trees in their own neighborhood or state, while others can opt to study Israel’s trees and their significance.
Schools are further encouraged to participate in the annual tree competition, where institutions can earn prizes based on the number of trees planted.
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