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Tu Bishvat

This exhibit shares fun facts, curriculum content, liturgy, and other resources surrounding Tu Bishvat around the Jewish world and in various Jewish languages.

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You can download and print this image or purchase a printed version

Known as "the new year for trees," Tu Bishvat has been increasingly embraced as a holiday celebrating the environment and honoring the bountiful planet that is our home. In some Jewish languages, the name of this holiday appears as a close variation on the Hebrew: Tubisbat in Judeo-Arabic and Haketia, and Tubizvat in Judeo-Italian. Other names for this holiday hint at the variety of ways it has been celebrated around the world. In Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), spoken by Sephardic Jews, the holiday is called Las Frutas, meaning "the fruits." Sephardic communities have traditionally held Tu Bishvat seders featuring symbolic fruits like dates, olives, and pomegranates; the ritual was initially created by Jewish mystics in medieval times. The name for the holiday in Judeo-Georgian, Shbídi Pherobá, means "the seven species." These are the seven foods described in the Book of Deuteronomy as growing abundantly in the Land of Israel, reinforcing the connection between Diaspora communities and the Holy Land. In Jewish Neo-Aramaic, spoken by Kurdish Jews, the name Mzdane 'Ilane means "gifts of the trees." Each of these languages offers a window into how communities observe the Tu Bishvat holiday and the variety of texts, customs, and ideas that inform how Jews honor the earth's abundance.

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Based in the ancient land of Israel and medieval mysticism, Tu Bishvat offers a meaningful framework for considering the modern Jewish relationship with the earth. While Jewish communities today might not participate in regular tree planting or fruit harvesting, we can all relate to the experience of sitting under the welcoming shade of a tree or biting into a tender fig. In an era where we sometimes feel overrun by technology and regulated by data, it can be refreshing to embrace the rhythms of nature instead. Tu Bishvat is a chance to witness a moment in the cycle of plant growth, and the rituals developed around this holiday, both old and new, offer opportunities to connect more deeply with the miraculous nature around us. Tu Bishvat also challenges us to consider how we, personally, are accepting responsibility for our increasingly fragile planet. What can inspired Jewish ecological activism look like? How can we better protect the plants and animals fighting for their survival? Stewardship of the earth is a global challenge rooted in Jewish values; likewise, the community of Jews thinking through these issues and raising awareness of climate change is global in its makeup. Sharing a diversity of names for the holiday is a fitting way to teach about Tu Bishvat: Jewish languages, just like the trees, flowers, and plants populating our earth, are a beautifully diverse group in need of preservation!

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Tu Bishvat Word Sleuths: An Educational Activity
Running an activity for the kids? We've got you covered! Download the worksheet here and the image files here.

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Tu Bishvat in Indian Jewish English


Lady Rachel Ezra (née Sassoon, 1877-1952), a member of a prominent Iraqi Jewish family living in Calcutta, wrote this plan for her family's Tu Bishvat seder in 1951. The document's primary language is English, and blessing names are in Hebrew. "Rev D J Cohen says מזונות on Kaka, all do the same... Maurice says on Dates העץ... J R Jacob on Poms [likely pomegranates] העץ... Abe Silas on Wine הגפן... Rav Cohen on Plantain אדמה..." The guest list includes mostly Mizrahi/Sephardi surnames like Bahar and David, but also some Ashkenazi names like Friedlander and Green. The first names are European, including Hilda, Josephine, Sybil, Max, Abe, and Jack. The rabbi is called "Rev," short for Reverend - a common rabbinic title of the time. Kaka is a savory caraway cookie, which the Jews of the Calcutta were known for, and Loozina are candied fruits.

Image from the National Library of Israel exhibit room.

Fruticas, Tu Bishvat song in Ladino

Judeo-Esfahani Dialogue on Eelanut (Tu Bishvat)

Engagement Questions:

  1. For green thumbs: How does working in your garden or tending your houseplants make you feel connected to the earth? Do you think there is anything particularly Jewish about the way you approach gardening? 

  2. For foodies: Do you create rituals around trying new foods? Do you make it a priority to eat produce that is in season, support farmers' markets, or subscribe to CSAs (community-supported agriculture - farm deliveries)? What perspective does Tu Bishvat offer for these practices that may already be part of your life?

  3. For anyone: What Tu Bishvat rituals have you tried or would you consider trying in the future? What could be a new ritual that you implement with your friends, family, or community?

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