01/04/2016

Tu B'Shevat in Snowy Cleveland

Tags: Family, Kids, PJ Library, Interfaith, Holidays, Federation, Blog

  • Share This Story

by Kelly Rubanenko, Director of Growing Jewish Cleveland and Young Family Outreach

Tu B’Shevat is around the corner. As 10-year-old Gabe says, it’s hard to celebrate the “festival of trees” in Cleveland this time of year when the ground is covered in snow. Youngsters like Gabe understand the importance of this holiday through Federation-supported programs like PJ Our Way and our Community Relations Committee’s (CRC) Interfaith Tu B’Shevat Seder. Read how Gabe learned about the values of Tu B’Shevat right here in snowy Cleveland:

According to my son, Gabe (age 10), celebrating Tu B’Shevat (the birthday of the trees) in Cleveland makes no sense at all. With the ground frozen and covered in snow, it’s hard to imagine that trees in Israel are beginning to bloom. Even if some kids can imagine their peers in Israel planting trees and going on hikes, it’s really hard for Gabe to feel connected to springtime and the land of Israel while he’s still slinging snowballs at his siblings and being scolded for trekking wet boots through the house. So this Tu B’Shevat (January 25, 2016), we’ve decided to think about trees by celebrating our Jewish ROOTS.

Most elementary school kids understand that trees have roots in order to take in water, support the trunk of the tree, and carry nutrients from the soil to the tree. Thanks to PJ Our Way, all kinds of Jewish families are discovering Jewish roots that support and nourish growth and identity. Here’s a glimpse into how Gabe has learned about his own roots – roots that have strengthened his connection to family and Jewish values.

Most elementary school kids understand that trees have roots in order to take in water, support the trunk of the tree, and carry nutrients from the soil to the tree. Thanks to PJ Our Way, all kinds of Jewish families are discovering Jewish roots that support and nourish growth and identity. Here’s a glimpse into how Gabe has learned about his own roots – roots that have strengthened his connection to family and Jewish values.

Gabe immediately connected to the young boy named Jessie in Jessie’s Star by Ellen Schwartz. Jessie waited until the last minute to do a report on an ancestor from “long, long ago” and his busy mom, who was rushing out to a meeting, told him to look for an old traveling case in the attic. Poking around, Jessie found a Star of David necklace belonging to Yossi Mendelsohn, his great-great-grandfather. When Jessie slipped on the necklace, he immediately became Yossi, living in a Russian village called Braslav in the late 18th century. Without giving too much away, I’ll share with you that Yossi showed extreme courage in saving his family. Meanwhile, Gabe wanted to know where his great-great-grandfather came from and if there were Russian soldiers who were mean to our family like they were to Yossi’s. This led to a discussion about courage (ometz in Hebrew) and Gabe’s desire to buy his own Star of David necklace.

Next on the list of favorite PJ Our Way books is When the Hurricane Came by Nechama Liss-Levinson. When we looked at the monthly list of book options, I wasn’t sure if Gabe would identify with a nine year-old girl from New Orleans. I casually mentioned to Gabe that he was born just days after Hurricane Katrina and that in lieu of baby gifts, we asked for donations to help people devastated by the storm. I told him that he performed a mitzvah even before his bris. (Thankfully, he didn’t ask many questions about his bris.) Gabe selected When the Hurricane Came and couldn’t wait to learn how nine year-old Gertie and her family left everything behind (including her dad, a doctor) to flee the storm. A few days into reading the book, Gabe informed me that he and Gertie were very similar because, “we both have annoying siblings and have to go around the table at Thanksgiving and share what we are thankful for.”

Since Gabe is a diehard sports fan, it wasn’t surprising that he chose to read Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson and The Saturday Secret by Miriam Rinn. What was surprising was that he allowed me to snuggle and read with him…and that we had a lengthy discussion about friendship, honesty and family. (Okay, I’ll admit that it was past his bedtime and that he knew he could get away with stalling since I’m a huge PJ Our Way fan.)

I still agree with Gabe that it’s hard to imagine a tree blooming in Cleveland when all one sees is frozen ground and piles of snow. But, with the help of PJ Our Way, it is remarkably easy to see that my son Gabe is developing a new appreciation for stories with Jewish characters: Jewish characters that relate to his Jewish roots and beliefs; Jewish characters that connect him to his past and future; and Jewish characters that live according to values we share. My little boy is taking it in, feeling supported and blooming. Thank you PJ Our Way and Happy Tu B’Shevat!

Read more on the PJ Our Way Parents Blog.


Related Items

Learn More: Family, Kids, PJ Library, Interfaith, Holidays, Federation, Blog

Comments

Powered by ARCOS | Hosting by Plus Three | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use