Kids like pomegranates. Especially Rosie, a 4th-grade student at the Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder Day School. So when MMSC teamed up with Seattle Hebrew Academy and three other Seattle Jewish day schools to celebrate Tu B’Shevat — the Jewish New Year for trees — Rosie was excited.
“But I like all the fruits,” she made clear.
On January 24, SHA hosted the interschool 4th- and 5th-grade Tu B’Shevat celebration with MMSC, Torah Day School, the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle, and the Seattle Jewish Community School.
Students engaged in a host of interactive activities throughout the morning to learn about the holiday. They went on nature walks, played Tu B’Shevat jeopardy, made Tu B’Shevat table centerpieces, and played Tu Bishvat Pictionary on a smart board. Students also learned about Israel, the blessings said over fruit, the environment, and about the holiday itself.
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of the month of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, marks the “new year” for the trees. According to Chabad.org, the earliest blooming trees in Israel emerge from winter hibernation and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle at this time. Furthermore, in ancient times the date was important for determining the age of trees so as to calculate the proper time of tithing produce.
The Torah references seven fruits, or species, that are special to Israel: Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Therefore, it is customary on Tu B’Shevat to eat these fruits.
Students from all of the day schools made Tu B’Shevat projects such as flower pots at the event.
At lunchtime, the students participated in a Tu B’Shevat seder, with opportunities to sample the seven special fruits. They also ate ice cream and sang songs together. While Tu B’Shevat is a somewhat obscure holiday, the concept of a spiritual seder around the seven species was begun by Kabbalists in the 16th century and has become a popular custom.
The students used art glass to create table centerpieces.
Staff said the goal was for Jewish kids in Seattle to make friends with each other, regardless of their respective schools. SHA acquired the money for these events by securing a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. Since then, the schools plan to continue interschool events. Earlier in the year, students met for an outdoor education week.
“There’s nothing better than bringing Jewish children together. It’s a wonderful thing,” said Chaya Elishevitz, programs coordinator at MMSC. “It was a very well organized and well done event. It’s a special experience to see the Jewish schools come together. It’s cool for the kids.”
The students said they appreciated the day, too, because it expanded their awareness.
“Basically, it shows what other schools are like and what’s good about other schools,” said Sam, a 4th-grade student at SJCS.