Tu B'Shvat Gleanings: Saving Trees and Oranges for the Hungry

Congregation Har Shalom celebrated Tu BiShivat with a weekend of indoor and outdoor activities designed to connect congregants with the local environment and Jewish ecological values.

Community Contact Information:
Rabbi Eliot J. Baskin
Congregation Har Shalom, Durango, CO


  • Bring congregants and community together for a unique Tu BiSh’vat celebration
  • Connect with environmental and Jewish values through outdoor activity, celebration, worship and study
  • Engage in conversation on environmental issues with local leaders

The “Rocky Mountain Chai” at Congregation Har Shalom celebrated Tu BiSh’vat with a weekend of indoor and outdoor activities designed to connect congregants with the local environment and Jewish ecological values. The mezuzah/havdalah hop was the pinnacle of a weekend of activities following the Jewish New Year for the Trees. Har Shalom congregants gathered for a “havdalah hop,” visiting the homes of several congregants for mezuzah blessings, meals and prayer and an evening of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and song. The celebration follows on their tradition of hosting “pre-powder” shacharit on winter weekends. The program also included a Tu BiSh’vat seder and adult education text study led by the rabbi. The mayor of Durango joined for the celebration, leading a discussion of local environmental issues.

The rabbi gathered resources for the Tu BiSh’vat seder and text study, including the RAC Tu BiSh’vat Living Talmud. Congregants arranged a schedule for meals and activities at their homes, and prepared dishes for the Friday pot luck dinner.

Project Implementation
Part 1: Tu BiSh’vat Pot Luck and Seder
The weekend began with a Tu BiSh’vat seder on Friday evening, bringing together congregants and local leaders to discuss the story and meaning of Tu BiSh’vat. The evening included a vegetarian potluck meal before the seder. The mayor of Durango joined for the seder and led a conversation following the meal, sharing the environmental lessons “gleaned” during his time as mayor. The evening ended with a conversation around local environmental challenges and potential solutions.

Part 2: Havdalah hop
Congregants came together on Saturday evening for mezuzah blessings at the home of a fellow congregant, and then “hopped” to another home for dinner and prayer. The carpooling continued to another site for havdalah and dessert, and the evening culminated with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing across the surrounding area. Participants also brought musical instruments and sang songs and prayers for the holiday.

Part 3: Judaism 360 Tu BiSh'vat Living Treemendous Talmud
The weekend culminated on Sunday morning with an adult text study on environmental issues, based on the RAC’s Tu BiSh’vat Living Talmud resource. The text study is part of a “Judaism 360” series at Har Shalom.

This event brought the Har Shalom community together for a true celebration of the birthday of the trees. Weaving together study, worship, and hands-on activities provided ways for many community members to engage and sparked discussion of the environmental challenges faced in the community. The text study and seder were also successful in showing participants the deep connections between Jewish value and issues of environmental sustainability.