Temple Beth-El hosts virtual Tu BiShvat, MLK event

  • Temple Beth-El, Northbrook, Religious School students and students at the Kijana Global Innovation School in Kenya participate in an intracultural exchange Zoom session.

    Temple Beth-El, Northbrook, Religious School students and students at the Kijana Global Innovation School in Kenya participate in an intracultural exchange Zoom session. Courtesy of Temple Beth-El

 
 
Updated 1/12/2022 11:25 AM

The community is invited to attend a virtual Shabbat service hosted by Temple Beth-El, Northbrook, highlighted by guest speaker Jen Cullerton Johnson, a local educator and author who wrote the children's book "Seeds of Change."

The book is about Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist and political activist and the first woman from Africa to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Cullerton Johnson's book ties together a call for racial and environmental justice -- themes from both the Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat, which celebrates trees, and the national holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Racial Justice Shabbat service hosted by Temple Beth-El, Northbrook, will be held via Zoom at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14. Services will be appropriate for families with children. To RSVP, visit www.templebeth-el.org/event/justice-shabbat-dinner.

"This year, the MLK Day long weekend and the Jewish holiday celebrating trees, called Tu BiShvat, happen to take place over the same weekend in January," said Rabbi Ari Moffic, director of Congregational Learning and Engagement, Temple Beth-El.

"It is called Shabbat Shira -- the Song of the Sea -- because it is the Shabbat when we read the narrative recounting the exodus from Egypt and the song the people broke into as they crossed into freedom," Moffic said.

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"To honor all of these calendar occurrences, we have created a special service and experience. We can connect this Hebrew song of freedom to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King to work toward a day when all are free."

Virtual cultural exchange

"As we were discussing her participating in Friday night services, Jen asked if a class in our Sunday school would like to connect with children in Kenya, in the schools that her project works with. Of course, we jumped at this possibility," Moffic said.

As part of this effort, Temple Beth-El fifth grade Religious School students participated in a virtual intercultural, interreligious exchange with children in Kenya's Kijana Global Innovation School on their shared connection to the environment. The Zoom event took place Sunday, Dec. 12.

"The way our Zoom worked is our students prepared a 20-minute presentation about their connection to nature in Chicago. Our students shared a presentation about both Hanukkah and Tu BiShvat and shared a song in Hebrew," Moffic said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The Kenyan students introduced themselves (they are mostly Protestant Christians) and shared their school experiences."

Voices of the students

"When do you go to Temple," asked one of the Kenyan students.

"What days you do celebrate holidays," asked one of the Temple Beth-El students.

Both groups of students agreed they would do more "homework" about their respective religions and Zoom again soon.

"May you one day visit with us," said one of the Kenyan students.

The Zoom session was moderated by Jen Cullerton Johnson, Rabbi Moffic and joined by Rabbi Sidney Helbraun, Temple Beth-El, as well as teachers at the Kijana Global Innovation School in Kenya.

For information about the Kijana Global Innovation School, visit kijana.org.

For information about membership and the Religious School at Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Road, Northbrook, contact Janice Hadesman, executive director, at jhadesman@templebeth-el.org; call (847) 205-9982, ext. 211; or visit www.templebeth-el.org.

Additionally, Rabbi Ari Moffic can be reached directly at AriMoffic@templebeth-el.org.

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