Content warnings: Discussions of death, genocide, state violence
I made a short zine exploring new ways to observe Tu B’Shvat, which you can read on my Twitter or grab as a PDF. There are both print and screen-friendly copies of the PDF at that link. Please note that I wrote this recently enough that I have not been able to run it past a sensitivity reader yet — all errors are my own and I fully expect to have a new version in time for Tu B’Shvat 5783.
If you’re interested in reading further on the topics I mention in the zine, here is a list of websites, articles, and videos that I recommend, broken down by topics. The sources I used to create my zine are included here, along with those covering details I couldn’t fit into just eight pages.
What is Tu B’Shvat? History and origins
- “The Four Types of Tu Bishvat” (article) — This article covers how Tu B’Shvat has been observed in different eras. My Jewish Learning also has an entire section of resources related to this holiday.
- “Meet Asherah, the Little Known Jewish Tree Goddess” (article) — Rachel Pass wrote about the connection between the Semetic goddess of fertility, Asherah, and the early evolution of Judaism.
- Tu Bishvat for activists and their friends (zine, PDF) — Meli of the Weird Jewish Digest created a zine haggadah for hosting your own Tu B’Shvat seder. It’s available to download with pay-what-you-want pricing.
- “Tu B’Shvat and Malida” (video) — This short video from the Institute of Jewish Experience covers the Bene Israel custom of making malida (a sweet treat made of pressed rice and fruit) for Tu B’Shvat, as well as a summary of the history of the Bene Israel community in India.
- “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Tu BiShevat: New Year of Trees, a.k.a Fruticas” (article) — The Seattle Sephardic Network put together this look at Sephardic customs for celebrating Tu B’Shvat, which is also called Fruticas in Sephardic communities.
New and evolving ways to observe Tu B’shvat
- “Shvat: Moon of Interdependence” (article) — This article from Dori Midnight discusses historical connections to communities of care. It also includes practices for connecting with trees for the month of Shvat and links to a playlist of Tu B’Shvat songs.
- “Tu B’Shvat? Why Not?” (article) — Linda Gritz, from the Boston Workmen’s Circle, documented the process of creating a secular observance of Tu B’Shvat.
- “Tu B’Shevat in the Age of Ecofeminism” (article) — This article includes several ways to observe Tu B’Shevat while considering both climate change and feminism. Writer Steph Black highlights options like a Reverse Tashlich ceremony to clean up rivers.
- “Tu Bi’Shevat” (website) — Ritualwell has an entire section of their website devoted to meditations, liturgy, and other suggestions for observing Tu B’Shvat.
Resources on Indigenous land return
- “Remothering the Land” (video) — Patagonia produced this 10-minute film to discuss the concept of ‘rematriation’ (or ‘remothering’ the land) using sustainable agriculture techniques with William Smith, land steward of the Village of Huchiun, and Nazshonnii Brown-Almaweri, land team member of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.
- “#LandBack is Climate Justice” (article) — Restoring stolen lands to Indigenous sovereignty counteracts climate change, as documented by the Lakota People’s Law Project.
- Braiding Sweatgrass (book) — Robin Wall Kimmerer’s collection of essays on Indigenous ecological knowledge provides a foundational guide. At the time of compiling this list, I haven’t finished reading Braiding Sweatgrass but I already find it informative enough to recommend.
- Landback U (website) — The Landback Movement created a series of courses on land struggles in different locations to build a foundation of knowledge about Indigenous sovereignty. The organization accepts donations to continue their work.
- Land Reparations and Indigenous Solidarity Toolkit (guide) — This guide from Resource Generation goes through methods for paying land reparations and returning land to tribes.
- Native Land Digital (website) — You can look up the Indigenous tribes native to specific places on the Native Land Digital map.
- “The Myth of a Wilderness Without Humans” (article) — This piece is actually a chapter from Mark Dowie’s book, Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict Between Global Conservation and Native Peoples, which looks at the harm inflicted on Indigenous people by many conservation efforts to date and showcases the importance for following Indigenous leadership.
Resources on Jewish relationships with Indigenous sovereignty
- “How to Come Correct” (article) — This guide from the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust clarifies how non-Indigenous people can respectfully support Indigenous movements and listen to Indigenous leadership.
- Jews on Ohlone Land (website) — Jews on Ohlone Land is an organization building Jewish community solidarity on on traditional Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone lands. The organization directly supports the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.
- “Tu Bishvat: Dish with One Spoon” (article) — Mazon Canada published this article on the Haudenosaunee concept of ‘the Dish with One Spoon,’ a way to discuss the interconnected relationship between humans and land. The article also links to a video where historian Richard Hill covers some aspects of Haudenosaunee culture and history that’s worth watching.
- “Being Jewish and Owning Privilege” (article) — Rabbi Dev Noily writes about balancing their experiences as a white Jew unpacking personal privilege.
- “How Tokenism Affects Jews of Color and 5 Ways Allies Can Interrupt It” (article) — The Jews of Color Initiative works for racial equality in Jewish communities, including for Indigenous Jews. This article is an important reminder to avoid tokenizing Jews of Color in our communities and includes steps we can take.
Resources for planting trees
- “Examining the Viability of Planting Trees to Help Mitigate Climate Change” (article) — Wondering why planting native trees matters? NASA wrote up the science behind planting trees to reduce climate change.
- “Planting the Promised Landscape: Zionism, Nature, and Resistance in Israel/Palestine” (article, PDF) — This academic article is long at 50 pages, but author Irus Braverman provides important insights into the ways that Jewish campaigns to plant pine trees in Israel have been used to remove Palestinian presences from the land and are iconic to the Zionist experience. Pine trees are not native to Israel and act as a method to make the land more comfortable to Ashkenzai settlers.
- “Why I no longer donate to the Jewish National Fund” (article) — This short article touches on some of the topics covered in more depth in the source above. Writer Matthew Gindin looks at the militarism and greenwashing associated with the JNF, the leading organization planting pine trees in Israel.
- “Jerusalem Wildfires in Summer 2021, When Climate Change-Related Wildfires Expose the JNF’s Colonial Afforestation Project” (article) — This article focuses on the cultural and climate impacts, including wildfires, of the JNF’s campaigns to plant European tree species in Israel.
- “Cultivating Resilience: Growing Olives in Palestine” (article) — Emily Baron Cadloff’s article on how Palestinian olive farmers have been forced to watch their trees systematically destroyed (along with their livelihoods) is a difficult but necessary read for American Jews.
- “Palestine’s Budding Fair Trade Olive Oil Industry” (article) — Adrian Fadil wrote this article, along with several others, as a Reporting Fellow with the Pulitzer Center. It covers the development of the Palestine Fair Trade Association.
- “Fostering Palestine’s Connection to the Earth: Non-Violent Activism at the Tent of Nations” (article) — Another of Fadil’s articles, this piece looked at a summer camp connecting Palestinian children to the land, as well as the legal battles connected to the land the camp takes place on.
- “Trees for Life 2021 Report” (report, PDF) — The Palestine Fair Trade Association’s annual report on its Trees for Life program describes the organization’s work distributing more than 37,800 seedlings of native trees to more than 350 Palestinian farmers. The organization also educates farmers on regenerative farming and the use of native seeds.
- Rooting Resistance (donation page) — For U.S. donors interested in contributing to the PFTA’s Trees for Life program, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights offers a donation process that doesn’t require you to figure out international payment processors. Every $25 donated equals one tree sapling planted. Guidestar has reviewed the organization.
Resources for working in nature, including agriculture
- Cultivating Culture 2022 (conference) — This upcoming conference includes sessions on Jewish relationships to agriculture and food. Tickets start at $36.
- “Crops of African Origin of African Diffusion in the Americas” (article) — Michael W. Twitty has long influenced my thoughts on what Jewish food is. He wrote this article to highlight the use of crops native to Africa in American cuisine. Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene, goes deeper into the creation of Southern food culture, including the impacts of slavery.
- National River Cleanup Organizer Handbook (guide, PDF) — If you’re interested in organizing a river cleanup in your area, American Rivers provides a step-by-step guide to creating a successful event.
- “#LandBack and Indigenous Sovereignty, with Paul Robert Wolf Wilson” (podcast) — Portland Monthly’s Footnotes podcast covered the impacts so far of the landback movement in Oregon. Unfortunately, a transcript is not available.
- “Native land management could save us from wildfires, experts say” (article) — Street Roots published this piece on Indigenous stewardship after the destructive 2020 wildfire season.
- “Where Were You When Chinook Lost Our Federal Acknowledgement?” (article) — The Chinook Indian Nation’s federal recognition was most recently reversed in 2002. This article by Rachel Cushman looks back on her experience learning about the loss. You can sign a petition to restore recognition on Change.org and donate to preserve the Chinook language and culture.
- Friends of Trees (website) — Friends of Trees plants trees in the Portland metro area (as well as other parts of Oregon) and have streamlined the process. If you’re considering planting trees here, working with Friends of Trees is the easiest option. I’ve used their services in the past. And if you’re not in a position to plant a tree yourself this year, you can donate to the organization to help plant trees elsewhere in the city.
- “Urban Heat Islands: A Peek into Portland’s Shady History” (article) — This article from the Columbia Slough Watershed Council shows the connections between the number of trees in a neighborhood and the rates of death and illness due to last summer’s heatwave.
- Native Plants and Trees of Oregon (brochure, PDF) — This list of trees native to Oregon offers options to consider if you plan to plant trees locally to observe Tu B’Shvat.
- “Approved Street Tree Planting Lists” (article) — The government of Portland requires trees planted in the city to be permitted and be on the approved list of trees. This article covers their requirements.
- Palestinian Products: Olive Oil and Medjool Dates (retail page) — Equal Exchange is a co-op that sells Fair Trade products in the U.S, which has partnered with the Palestinian Agricultural Committee to sell olive oil and Medjool dates grown by small-scale Palestinian farmers. Wholesale purchasing is also available.
- Willamette River Cleanup (website) — The Willamette River Cleanup organization works to clean up the Portland Harbor, along with the rest of the Willamette River. Consider signing up for updates and donating to their work.
- “Portland Harbor Superfund Site” (article) — As part of the effort to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, the EPA created a resource documenting the history of Portland Harbor, the impacts of its pollution on marginalized communities, and the work necessary to fix the site.