ruOn January 23, Wake Forest Hillel, the Office of Sustainability, and Landscaping Services joined together for our third annual celebration of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year for trees.

Tu B’Shevat is not a Jewish high holiday, but at Wake Forest, it offers students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to explore a cultural tradition that celebrates shared values.  This year, the multi-faceted group congregated at the Southeast corner of the new North Dining Hall to plant an Eastern Redbud tree that was generously donated by Landscaping Services.

Chanel Shulman, President of Hillel, welcomed and thanked everyone for attending the event. Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the Director of the Office of Sustainability, explained Tu B’Shevat and its importance. Gail Bretan, the newly appointed Director of Jewish Life, read a poem and recited various blessings that praised God for creating the earth, preserving life, and creating the fruit of the tree. After these blessings, students and staff ate fruit and nuts, traditional foods of Tu B’Shevat.

Ph.D. student Rachel Hillyer spoke about her work at the event as well. Hillyer is currently researching migrating tree communities in the Andes, with Dr. Miles Silman, in the Biology Department. Dr. Lucas Johnston of the Religion Department spoke about the religious significance of trees around the world.

To end the event, students and staff got their hands dirty, working together to shovel soil around the tree. Due to the starting date of the spring semester, this year’s celebration of Tu B’Shevat occurred a week later than the official date of the holiday. The day was bright and cold; the celebration invited visions of an approaching spring and the splendor of the Eastern Redbud in bloom.

Contributed by Chanel Shulman ‘16