With these words, President Barack Obama concluded his historic swearing in. I was thinking that perhaps I should incorporate them into my prayers the next time I show up at synagogue. My synagogue, (Or Hadash) is a wonderful Reconstructionist synagogue in Ft. Washington, PA. Even better for the purposes of this blog, it has a strong environmental consciousness. And as chairman of the synagogue’s Environmental Working Group, I should know.
It has been a tough winter so far in the Northeast, and I could really use a reminder of spring. Fortunately, the days are beginning to get noticeably longer. Even better, perhaps my favorite Jewish holiday, Tu B’Shevat, is right around the corner. It is also known as the New Year for the Trees. It has to do with the trees coming back to life in the Land of Israel. The budding leaves on the trees each year is the annual sign spring is here—so a New Year for the Trees means spring is on the way (eventually). This year the actual day of Tu B’Shevat is Monday, February 9th. No matter what the groundhog says the week before, eventually is the operative word for spring’s arrival in 2009.
But Tu B’Shevat is more than spring. It also has to do with an appreciation for the environment. And at Or Hadash, we have not one, but two events for the holiday. The first is a Tu B’Shevat seder (Friday, Feb 6th after services). This seder features a variety of fruits and nuts from the Land of Israel (plus up to 4 glasses of wine). It also celebrates the upcoming transformation of the dormancy of winter into the abundance of spring and summer.
The following evening, (Sat Feb 7th), we are having a Tu B’Shevat coffeehouse. This coffeehouse is dedicated to helping the synagogue go more green (examples: more clean energy, more environmentally friendly products in the kitchen). Not only is my synagogue environmentally conscious, it is socially conscious as well. So the admission charge has 2 components—$5 for the synagogue’s greening, and a can of baby formula for a local food bank.
These events are really made possible by the fact that people across the synagogue care enough. They care about the synagogue, the community at large, and the environment. They care enough to put together a seder, and buy the needed fruits, nuts and wine. They care enough to organize a coffeehouse. They care enough to perform music and not charge. They care enough to bake goodies for the coffeehouse. They care enough to come. That’s a lot of caring.
I think God is helping.