Tu B’Shevat and Martin Luther King Jr. Day both fall on Jan. 21 this year, resulting in a three-day weekend full of volunteer opportunities.
Both holidays have social justice connotations. In recognition of the civil rights leader, MLK Day has always been a holiday that promotes racial justice. Meanwhile, Tu B’Shevat, also called the “New Year of the Trees,” has, in modern times, become associated with environmentalism.
For some, the overlap serves as an opportunity to discuss the intersection between racial and environmental justice and participate in volunteerism.
The MLK Day weekend is one of Repair the World: Philadelphia’s biggest programs, fellow Rel Bogom-Shanon said.
The organization has more than a dozen activities planned, including an MLK Weekend Shabbat Dinner on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m., which will bring in Tu B’Shevat with a discussion on racial and environmental justice.
“[People] are more inclined to volunteer [on MLK Day],” Bogom-Shanon said. “Our mission is to have folks make volunteering and direct service a normative part of their lives. We love MLK Day because it gives people that little taste, and then we can say, ‘Hey, you can actually do this throughout the year and create relationships throughout the year.’”
Repair the World isn’t the only organization offering holiday-themed Shabbat activities.
At 6 p.m. on Jan. 18, Congregation Rodeph Shalom is holding a Friday evening Shabbat service in honor of MLK Day that will feature the Chester Children’s Chorus.
Mishkan Shalom has a special weekend planned as well, with a Shabbat service that includes a dialogue on racism and white privilege.
During services on Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m., founding Rabbi Emeritus Brian Walt will return to the synagogue for a talk on religious life and the pursuit of justice. The next day at 10 a.m., synagogue members will share their experiences and expertise in standing up to racism. That evening at 7 p.m., the synagogue’s Havdalah service will include a talk by Walt on his relationship with Israel.
Tu B’Shevat begins the evening of Jan. 20, and the synagogue will mark the start of the holiday with a seder at 7 p.m.
Kol Tzedek and the Jewish Farm School are also co-hosting a Tu B’Shevat seder at 7 p.m. on Jan. 20. The seder will include a discussion on the intersection of racial and land justice.
On Jan. 21, several Jewish organizations are holding events in collaboration with the MLK Day of Service.
This includes Beth David Reform Congregation, which is organizing a group of volunteers to clean up Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery from 9:30 a.m. to noon; Har Zion Temple, which is collecting nonperishable foods from 1 to 3 p.m. among other activities; and Beth Am Israel, which is hosting a variety of hands-on projects from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
While there are a good number of events celebrating either Tu B’Shevat or MLK Day, jkidphilly — a program of Jewish Learning Venture — is hosting events combining the two holidays.
On Jan. 21 at 10 a.m., everyone’s invited to jkidphilly’s Tu B’Shevat nature walk at the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University.
At 10:30 a.m., jkidphilly will make calendars and bookmarks at Wesley Enhanced Living in Media for the residents there. There will be a Tu B’Shevat component in this event as well, said Lori Rubin, chief program officer at Jewish Learning Venture.
“We look at the themes of Martin Luther King Day and peace and being kind to others. We want to be kind to the environment as well,” Rubin said. l
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