Jewish National Fund-USA’s annual Tu b’Shevat event Jan. 23 will be a drive-thru at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood for a second consecutive year due to COVID-19.

The event is family-friendly and attendees will receive all the supplies to plant their own tree on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.

“People will be driving through the JCC by Stonehill Auditorium,” said Mitch Wasserman, a JNF-USA board member and a member of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood. “They will be directed to a station where we are going to give bags of goodies and a bag containing the sapling, soil and pots.”

One of the goodie items for children is a gift certificate to Mitchell’s Ice Cream, a longtime partner of the event.

Tu b’Shevat, also called “Rosh Hashanah La’ilanot,” meaning “New Year of the Trees,” falls on Jan. 16 this year and celebrates ecological awareness, especially in the land of Israel which is two-thirds covered by arid climate.

“It’s a very significant holiday for Israel and it is also celebrated by Jews worldwide because of the significance of trees and ecology in Jewish culture,” said Rob Singer, a JNF-USA board member and a member of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike and Cleveland Heights.

Before COVID-19, JNF-USA collaborated with the JCC to bring families inside for stations involving planting and decorating pots, learning about Israel, face painting, balloon art, food and music provide by synagogue choirs.

This year, families can come indoors in small, safely distanced groups to pot their trees, or they may take the materials home. Registration is required.

“We are prepared to accommodate 150 kids,” Wasserman said. “We are looking forward to seeing them, and participating and sharing what JNF-USA is all about. And the importance of a relationship with Israel and what they’re doing to support the cause.”

JNF-USA, founded in 1901, funds projects throughout Israel that focus on at least one of seven action areas, one being environmentalism. Since its founding, JNF-USA has planted over 300 million trees in Israel.

“Historically, one of the historically biggest efforts of JNF-USA is planting trees in Israel and anybody who can’t attend is still able to plant a tree in Israel by going to our website,” Ari Milgrom, JNF-USA director of northern Ohio and member of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, said.

The cost to have JNF-USA plant a tree in Israel starts at $18 per tree and JNF-USA will send a certificate to the buyer.

Since this year in the Jewish calendar is Shmita, when the fields in the land of Israel lie in fallow, JNF-USA will plant any trees purchased this year after Rosh Hashanah when the new year begins. Trees may still be planted outside of Israel.

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