Tonight is Tu B'Shevat, the "Jewish birthday for trees" that has become synonymous with Jewish environmentalism. In order to identify and honor Jewish women working in environmental activism, we are inviting you to put an environmentalist "On the Map." You can read more about that project here or watch this quick tutorial to get started.
Next week is Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish birthday for trees. The meaning of the holiday has undergone some major evolution over the years; it started as a tax deadline, was co-opted by Kabbalists and then the Zionists, and is now considered a holiday celebrating the environment and environmental activism in a broad sense. At the Jewish Women's Archive, our Tu B'Shevat tradition is to seek out and celebrate Jewish women who have dedicated their lives to environmental activism.
In January, we asked you to help us recognize the many Jewish women working to increase environmental consciousness and protect our planet. We were delighted by the response, and have been working on adding these new and important stories to our collection.
We have seen our fair share of crime dramas, medical dramas and political dramas. Is it time for a new genre? Abby Phon, Executive Producer and star of Life Without Green, is on a mission to bring environmental issues to primetime.
Last year in honor of Tu B'Shevat, we created a new page on jwa.org to feature Jewish women in environmental activism, and honored six women actively engaged in that work. After it “went live,” we were excited to find that several people submitted comments suggesting other Jewish women who deserved recognition. We heard those suggestions, and this year we brought the question to you—“who would you add to our list?” We asked, and you answered! We have received the names of over 30 women in response to our call.
Saturday is Tu B'Shevat, known as the "Jewish New Year for trees," the "Jewish Arbor Day," or the "Jewish birthday for trees." The holiday has an interesting history that, believe it or not, began with taxes. Lenore Skenazy explains in The Forward:
Back about 2,000 years ago, Tu B’Shevat — literally the 15th day of the month of Shvat — was a tax deadline, of sorts. Any trees planted before Tu B’Shvat were considered to have been “born” the previous year. Those planted after Tu B’Shvat (or, perhaps those that started blooming after Tu B’Shvat) were part of the next year’s crop. As the amount of fruit you were required to tithe from each tree was determined by its age, this date was significant. And since the easiest way to remember a tree’s birthday was to plant it on that day, that’s what some folks did: planted.
To cap off Women's History Month, we want to recognize two stellar women who were recently honored in Chicago as part of JWA's Women Who Dared project. You may have seen our online exhibition of Women Who Dared, which features interview segments with over 50 pioneering women in Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, and New Orleans.
I'd like to give a special congratulatory shout-out to Arlene Blum, a phenomenal Jewess and founder of the Green Science Policy Institute, who was just awarded the 2008 Purpose Prize for people over the age of 60 who are taking on society's biggest challenges.