JFarm UMD brings students together to celebrate Jewish birthday of trees

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By Ryan Lander
For the Mitzpeh
@RyanlanderUMD

JFarm UMD, the Jewish environmental group at this university, hosted a Tu B’Shevat Seder meditative session for students at Hillel Saturday.

Tu B’Shevat is the celebration of the birthday of the trees. It also is considered a day to celebrate ecological awareness.  While JFarm UMD hosted the event, many other Jewish organizations were involved, including Hillel, the Committee for Jewish Collaboration, Ometz, Ruach, and Kedma. In terms of JFarm’s broader organizational goals, the celebration was certainly relevant.

“We do gardening and educational events, sustainable initiatives, and social and holiday events,” said sophomore art major, and JFarm board member Sarah-Leah Thompson. “It makes sense for us as JFarm to celebrate this holiday.”

About 30 students attended the event from 4 to 5 p.m., which featured discussions on relationships with land and place, community, the world, and spirituality. These seasons, in the same order as their respective relationships, are Assisyah, Yetzirah, Briyah, and Atzilut. Each different relationship represented a different season — each shift was signified by a change in drink. They transitioned from white, to light red, to darker red, and finishing fully red shades in Atzilut. While purple and white grape juice are normally used, white grape juice proved hard to find and 7up became a substitute. Rabbi Aderet Drucker was met with laughter when she made light of the unconventional substitution at the beginning of the event.

“Let’s raise our 7Up,” said Drucker.

Besides the unconventional 7Up, the rest of the celebration was traditional in format. JFarm used a Tu B’Shevat Haggadah to guide them through the celebration. Participants sat in a circle as they enjoyed their drinks and various fruits, which also held particular meaning to each season. Discussions included reflecting on personal achievement related to the environment, intentions for the upcoming semester, and personal takes on topics such as mindful eating.

“This acts as an appreciation of what it took to get this food on my plate,” said Thompson. “One aspect of it is grander, meditative, and thought-provoking.”

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