A Wilderness Torah event (Photo/file)
A Wilderness Torah event (Photo/file)

Tu B’Shevat in the Bay means Tu B’Shevat in the redwoods

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David Katznelson goes to redwood forests when he needs to make a big decision or a major change in his life. That’s where he went in 2016 before taking over as executive director of Reboot, the creative Jewish think tank.

Now he’s bringing his organization to the redwoods as part of a Tu B’Shevat celebration on Sunday, Jan. 28 held with the Save the Redwoods League.

The free event at Heroes Grove in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is one of many throughout the Bay Area planned to mark the Jewish holiday of the trees, which begins this year at sundown Tuesday, Jan. 30.

It’s the first time Reboot and the Save the Redwoods League have teamed up on a Tu B’Shevat event, and Katznelson said it’s a natural pairing — even though Reboot uses holidays to focus on Jewish ideas and texts, and the league is a secular organization.

“[Save the Redwoods] might not be a Jewish organization, but its mandate is so tied to the very DNA of Tu B’Shevat and planting trees for the next generations,” Katznelson said. “For an organization like Reboot, which is all about new ways of celebrating Judaism, partnering with a secular organization that shares a mandate with a Jewish tradition is just a dream.”

The event will open the centennial celebration for Save the Redwoods, which since 1918 has worked to protect more than 200,000 acres of redwoods and provided educational programs for nearly a half-million kids.

Among the group’s other programs this year are Free Second Saturdays, on which the league is offering free admission to more than 40 redwood state parks the second Saturday of each month in 2018. To take advantage, you need to pre-register online; passes are limited in availability, and many for Feb. 10 are already taken.

Sam Hodder, the league’s president and CEO, pointed out that the Bay Area Jewish community has always strongly supported Save the Redwoods, and said he hopes this year’s Tu B’Shevat celebration can become an annual event.

“Looking ahead to the work of the next 100 years, so much of the conservation vision is about restoring what we’ve lost,” Hodder said. “The restoration element, the confluence with the culture of the Tu B’Shevat event, just rings so true. Together, it’s about shared responsibility for healing our broken planet.”

Other Tu B’Shevat celebrations around the Bay Area include Wilderness Torah’s annual event on Sunday, Jan. 28 in Roberts Regional Recreation Area in the Oakland Hills. Tickets for the event, which range from $36 to $100, must be purchased by Jan. 25.

Also in Oakland, the Aquarian Minyan and JeWitch Collective are collaborating on a Tu B’Shevat ritual to be held on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Sequoia Lodge on Mountain Blvd. Homemade organic soup and music will be among the offerings. Tickets are $25-$60, though people helping out on the day of the event will pay $15.

Music also will be part of the Reboot/Save the Redwoods League event, as well as educational workshops. A redwood tree will be planted in Heroes Grove as part of the celebration.

Katznelson, who hiked the James Irvine Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County in the days before he took over at Reboot, says the massive trees give him energy.

I actually came to rely on the redwoods, because I felt that when there was an issue in my life, when I was going through a change or personal evolution, walking among the redwoods was just a great thing for me,” he said.

Like Hodder, he said this year’s event should become an annual partnership.

“The league has a rich tradition of Jews being a part of the work that they do, and this kind of completes the circle to have the Jewish community rise up and use the holiday of Tu B’Shevat to focus on the redwoods and the league,” Katznelson said.

“The goal is to come back every year with music, with discussion, with other creative activities and create our own activities around Tu B’Shevat.”

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.