TT and JNF partner up to raise funds for Tu B’Shevat

A school wide Talmud Torah Tu B'Shvat seder was held in February. (Photo courtesy Talmud Torah Society).

By Matthew Levine

(AJNews) – Since the beginning of its existence, Talmud Torah has upheld the traditional Jewish value of tikun olam by contributing to tree planting in Israel during They partner with JNF each year and focus on a specific area in Israel that needs its forest rebuilt. Sometimes it is just new planting, while other times forests that have burned down need to be replaced. That was the case this year, and Talmud Torah responded by raising money to plant approximately 340 trees in the Segev forest.

Jay Cairns, Executive Director for JNF in Edmonton, works with Talmud Torah annually to complete this Tu B’shvat project. In an interview with Jay, he talked about the meaning behind planting trees in today’s world, and the opportunities this partnership with Talmud Torah provides for the students. Jay insists that there are historical, traditional, and modern aspects of Tu B’shavat. The historical aspect involves tree planting in Israel that goes back to Israel’s establishment. The traditional aspect refers to the meaning of the holiday Tu B’shvat and its importance in Judaism. Modernly, there is more and more of an appreciation for the environment and an increasing amount of climate change initiatives. Jay remarked, “People are more and more conscious and aware of their carbon footprint.”

Jay thinks of Tu Bishvat “in terms of tikun olam, which is repairing the world, and the strategies we use to repair the world? We’re repairing the world in part by being kind to the environment through campaigns like this,” He said. This environmentally conscious aspect is what the children at Talmud Torah can relate to and appreciate, and what allows the campaign to be so successful year after year.

Students at Talmud Torah contribute to the campaign in different ways. Each year there are 3 to 4 tree leaders selected from grade 6 to build videos, put together a pitch, build a slogan, and run the campaign. They must be organized, technologically knowledgeable, and have leadership skills. The tree leaders obtain marketing skills, learning how to sell an idea they believe in. Jay is passionate about this project because it ties into our heritage and into Israel’s right to exist. He works to spread this passion to the students leading the fundraising.

The other students at Talmud Torah contribute to the cause in whatever way they want. There are some kids who take a fundraising angle and others who take more of a marketing role. There is opportunity for these kids to get as involved as possible. Solly Singer, a student in grade 5 who will be a tree leader next year, went above and beyond this year. He was the top tree seller, playing a large role in bringing the school’s total trees sold from 229 to 340.

Yifat, JNF’s national education department head came out to Talmud Torah to run programming for the students. She ran different stations and programs for different age groups and talked about Israel and JNF.

Something different Jay did this year was to bring a five foot tree poster, and the students had little leaves that were put on the poster as they sold and planted trees. “By the end (of that campaign), when I saw it last week while I was in there, it went from being a naked tree to full and lush.” This provided an arts and crafts aspect for the kids and allowed them to see how hard they worked in a concrete and visual way.

Jay ended the interview by sharing his thanks, “I always want to just thank everyone who contributed, the tree leaders, the teachers, the everybody else who helped, because it takes a community to make this sort of thing happen.” He also wanted to share a special thanks to Ari Sniderman, a teacher at Talmud Torah, and Jay’s contact regard regarding his project. After reaching out to Ari about the success of this project he expressed how proud he is of what the students and this partnership accomplish every year. He also shared his thanks to JNF for providing his students with amazing leadership opportunities, and for this campaign that makes such a big difference in the world and spreads tikun olam.

Jay mentioned that this year Talmud Torah broke all previous records, planting more trees than they ever have in the past. So much so that they hit the minimum number of trees planted to get a plaque in their honour put up in Israel. This speaks to the success of this longstanding partnership and what they have accomplished.

 Matthew Levine is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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