Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for the Trees, is a holiday of renewal. It celebrates the return of fertility after a dormant season (in Israel, anyway), as well our renewal of commitments to God. The holiday derives from a verse in Deuteronomy, in which we are commanded to commit a portion of the land’s yield to the poor, “so that you may learn to revere your God forever.”
Commentators note that the holiday is simultaneously about relationships among humans (bein adam l’havero) and between humans and God (bein adam lamakom). Our faith becomes meaningful only if it leads to, and flows from, respect for fellow human beings and the environment that nourishes and sustains them.
As such, Tu B’Shevat has become a day of connecting spirit and action. The Jewish National Fund has long made this connection, turning theoretical love for Israel into the concrete act of planting trees to anchor its parched soil. More recently the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life has tapped the spirit of Tu B’Shevat in its efforts to protect a fragile planet.
This week COEJL will announce that 42 Jewish organizational leaders have renewed their commitment to the planet by pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent within three years. COEJL will assist each signatory by providing training seminars. In a show of interdenominational cooperation, the signatories to the Jewish Environmental and Energy Imperative include the president of the Union for Reform Judaism and the head of the Orthodox Union.
“[T]his campaign will galvanize the Jewish American community to stand together with one voice, take concrete action, and make tangible change, as well as serve as a model for other communities,” writes COEJL. “With this commitment to action, awareness of sustainable environmental responsibility will become part of the daily life of Jewish homes, communities, and institutions.”
To read more about the Jewish community’s commitment to action, and to learn how you can make that commitment your own, see coejl.org/jecc.