Have fun making instruments out of recyclables at our Tu B’Shvat Festival. Photo: Geoffrey Berliner
Our WinterGreen festival this Sunday, January 27, will celebrate Tu B’Shvat – one of the lesser known of Jewish holidays. Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year of Trees, celebrates trees and the start of spring in Israel. In recent years, this “Jewish Arbor Day” has becoming increasingly popular as a day to reflect on Jewish cultural and environmental roots. There are a number of holiday customs, including the eating of the 7 foods of the Land of Israel. (You will have to come to our event to find out what these seven foods are and enjoy tasty samples courtesy of The Pickle Guys and The Sweet Life.)
Check out Hazon’s website for great resources about Tu B’Shvat.
There will be many opportunities to explore both Jewish environmental heritage and roots on Sunday. Genealogist Roger Lustig will be on hand in our FamilyHistoryCenterto answer questions about how to conduct family research, tracing your ancestry back to earlier generations. We’ll also have activities for kids, including creating a family tree and making musical instruments out of eco-friendly materials followed by a concert by Bash the Trash. The Lower East Side Ecology Center will be on hand to conduct composting workshops (love those worms). Barley and olives are two of the foods associated with the holiday so we’ll have beer and olive tastings.
Museum educator, Mattie Ettenheim, will conduct a Tu B’Shvat seder for those who are curious to learn more about holiday customs. And in celebration of all things environmentally-friendly, I’ll be leading “green” synagogue tours that showcase the eco-friendly aspects of our restoration of the Eldridge Street Synagogue. Come and learn how we have used recycled milk jugs and denim jeans in hidden spaces in the building!
In all, our WinterGreen Festival: A Tu B’Shvat Celebration promises to be a special day focusing on trees and roots – of both the physical and family genus.
Thank you to the Lori and David Moore family for sponsoring this special day!
Tell us if you do anything special to celebrate Tu B’Shvat.
Here in New York, winter is in full bloom. Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced snow, freezing rain and winds that seemed likely to lift our historic building all the way to Kansas! This coming Sunday, January 31st from 1-5 PM, join us as we wish away the winter blues with our first-ever Tu B’shvat Winter Garden Festival, a free event celebrating the Jewish Arbor Day and environmentalism.
You may be asking yourself: what in the world is Tu B’shvat? We admit, it is certainly one of the more obscure Jewish holidays, but its focus on celebrating the bounty of the earth and conservation seemed a natural fit with our building’s green restoration. And there is never a bad reason for a free festival! We see this as the winter counterpart to our fabulous Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival, which we host every June in celebration of the Jewish and Chinese cultures that share Eldridge Street.
The name Tu B’shvat is actually the date of the holiday, the 15th of the month of S’hvat. The holiday is first mentioned in the Mishna, where the ancient rabbis have a little throwdown over the date. They discuss the four “New Years” in the Jewish calendar (I wonder what they used for the ball drop in ancient Babylon?):
The first of Nisan – new year for kings and festivals – The first of Elul – new year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say: the first of Tishrei. – The first of Tishrei- new year for calculation of the calendar, sabbatical years and jubilees, for planting and sowing – The first of Shevat – new year for trees, according to the school of Shamai; The school of Hillel say: the fifteenth of Shevat (Rosh Hashana:2a)
Image via Ironic Sans
Our buddy Hillel seems to have won this argument, since the New Year for Trees has been celebrated on the 15th of S’hvat ever since. At Eldridge, we’ll be green-ing out with kosher organic wine tasting fromTishbi
winery, a seder
featuring many varieties of dried fruits and nuts (led by me), kid-friendly planting activities, family tree making and more! Check out the event on our Facebook
page for more information (and become a fan while you’re there!) For a taste of spring in the dead of winter, this is one event you won’t want to miss.
Visitors to the Museum currently have the option of going on our standard tour, Landmark of the Spirit, which focuses on the synagogue’s history, the Jewish East Side neighborhood, and the American immigrant experience. They can also explore our surroundings through our menu of walking tours, which range from the thrilling Gangster, Writer, Rabbi to the moving Love & Courtship.
Our building, however, is multifaceted—not just a historical site, but a significant portal into architecture and religious practice. In order to explore these planes and present them to the public, we are in the process of developing two new visitor experiences.
The Architecture Tour will debut in Spring 2010, and will explore the award-winning restoration of our National Historic Landmark. It will draw parallels with other prominent sites in New York City, nationally, and around the world that have faced preservation challenges and responded in innovative ways.
This tour is a collaborative project between the Museum at Eldridge Street and the preservation programs of Columbia University, Pratt Institute and the University of Pennsylvania. Students are researching and writing about aspects of the building and design that will help the public to engage in the building and its architecture.
Questions to be answered include: Does the design reflect the process of Americanization? What choices were made in its restoration? How does it fit into the museum’s preservation ethos? Are there examples at other sites that might be meaningful? Ultimately, we will hear back from the students about preservation projects that use green technology or sustainable practices, sites that provide creative examples of adaptive re-use, using the case study at Eldridge Street, among others.
We’ll be keeping you updated as this project develops further.