By Rabbi Tamara Cohen and Jennifer Anolik
As we approach Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for the Trees, we are thinking about Jewishly-rooted social change and how we keep nurturing it among teens even in moments of real challenge.
This generation of Jewish teens has benefited from many, many seeds planted by their ancestors. There were the seeds planted by the suffragettes and other early women and civil rights activists; by Judith Kaplan when she had the first bat mitzvah; by Tarana Burke when she started the #MeToo movement to support survivors of sexual violence. And there was the seed planted in 1973 in the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade.
Today’s young people are already busy planting many seeds for the next generation. As they do so, they also struggle with the sobering responsibility of responding to the question, “How do we keep planting when we seem to keep witnessing trees planted by our ancestors being cut down?”
Indeed this February many of us will be thinking about the things that previous generations of activists fought so hard for that have not yielded the fruit they planned for – at least not yet. We just marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the first when it is no longer the law of the land. LGBTQ+ and civil rights also have been under attack in ways that the activists who “planted” earlier changes might not have anticipated and certainly would not have wanted. Gun violence, poverty, freedom to learn and teach – so many advances feel threatened, like trees in danger of being cut down.
We hope that this Sunday on Tu B’Shvat, you can take some time with the teens in your life to discuss how they and you are wrestling with the current moment.
We offer you Planting and Replanting for Change, a new ritual for you to use with the teens in your life this Tu B’Shvat, featuring a classical Jewish text and some reflection questions to deepen your discussion and root it in Judaism. At Moving Traditions, we use the story of Honi the Circle Maker as part of working with the teens in the Meyer-Gottesman Kol Koleinu Teen Feminist Fellowship to support them in balancing their energy and ambition to create radical change as quickly as possible with the understanding that sustainable, lasting social change takes time. Sometimes, it is the next generation that will truly experience the fruits of our activism and labor.
Wishing you perspective, resolve, and reconnection as you celebrate Tu B’Shvat with the teens in your life.
As the National Council for Jewish Women’s Repro Shabbat also approaches on February 17, we invite you to look at Moving Traditions’ resource on Jewish Reproductive Justice to learn more about how you can help replant the seeds for reproductive rights.