Posted by: Kirsten | Friday, 11 January 2008

Touro Synagogue and the Fruits of Tu Bishvat

Touro Synagogue NHSOne thing I love about our National Parks is that there are so many of them — practically a lifetime of travel and learning opportunities!  I was busy poking around the NPS website, trying to determine whether I had actually included all 50 states in the various posts I’ve made since last July. 

Naturally, I turned my attention to little Rhode Island which only has one NPS site.  Oh wait…there’s another park on the RI state map now!  Why is it that I’ve never seen THAT before?

Google Search time.  Touro Synagogue [Search].  Wow, it’s an active synagogue and the oldest one in the United States.

Back to Google.  2008 Jewish Calendar [Search].  Next date on the Jewish holiday calendar is Tu Bishvat.  Not being well-versed in the Jewish faith, it’s back to Google for me.

Tu Bishvat [Search].  חמישה-עשר בשבט  Wow, it’s like the Jewish version of Arbor Day, Earth Day, and New Years Day all rolled into one!  Sounds like a reason to celebrate for me — and what better tie-in to the National Parks could I ask for?

From Wikipedia.comIn modern times Tu Bishvat has become popular with many Jews, and is celebrated with much enthusiasm in Jewish schools, synagogues, and communities. There are two general interpretations of the holiday which are echoed in most of these celebrations. The first is reclaiming of the land of Israel through tree-planting. This is the main activity in Israel, and in this aspect the holiday quite resembles Arbor Day as celebrated in other parts of the world. The second is the celebration of the earth, in essence a Jewish Earth Day, often accompanied by reflections on ecological or environmental issues.

On leap years, it’s celebrated on the 3rd full moon before Passover, so that’s Tuesday, the 22nd of January.  If you live anywhere nearby, you owe it to yourself to get out there and celebrate at the National Historic Site that week.  Of course, be sensitive to the active congregation’s activities and call ahead to see what’s going on.  The Touro Synagogue Foundation’s website is a good place to start.  If you can’t visit the synagogue, plant a tree, eat some fruit, and by all means celebrate with your own congregation.

Through April 30th, tours are available on Fridays at 1:00pm and every half hour on Sundays from 11:00am to 3:00pm (last tour starts at 2:30).  Additional hours are offered on Monday, January 21 (11:00-3:00), Monday, February 18 (11:00-3:00), and April 22, 23, 24 (1:00-3:00).  After May 1st they’ll be back to offering more frequent tours of the site.  The NPS website’s info doesn’t exactly match up with the Foundation’s info regarding tour times, so be sure to call or e-mail them so you don’t miss out.

There is a $5.00 adult admission charge and the NPS website says that the National Parks pass or America the Beautful Pass is honored. Group tours for 10 or more people can be scheduled by calling 401-847-4794 extension 23. Group Tour fees are $55 per group for tours conducted during regularly scheduled hours and $110 per group for other times.

If you want to introduce your young kids to the Tu Bishvat holiday, either from a Jewish faith or cultural awareness perspective, check out this link to TorahTots.  The music alone will make you want to get up and dance!

May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the sin of the first human against the fruit of the tree, be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life.

Parke Diem!
— Jon

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