Tu B’Shevat, often referred to as the ‘new year of the trees’ — often remains a much-less-observed holiday than others, given that it was more of a fruit tree tax date, and lacked the narrative of more momentous holidays in the Jewish year cycle. And yet, fruit trees, as perennials, were the anchor of our ancestors’ subsistence food system that worked to provide nourishment for all in the community, even those who did not own land.

In modern times, when Jewish universities such as Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion in Haifa chose to lay the cornerstones of their institutions, they did so on Tu B’Shevat — as did the Israeli Knesset —  marking this date as one on which to establish a foundation and serve as a symbol of their  intention for future growth and direction. Likewise, planting a tree upon the arrival of a new child is a common tradition for Jewish families, as trees are a source of nourishment and a symbol of growth.  

As an organization committed to building community in connection with local food system sustainability, we returned to the holiday’s roots in the fruit trees and ecosystem around us, with a Tu B’Shevat box filled with tree-based and planting activities.