The holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the birthday of trees, provides many opportunities for us to celebrate as we honor our planet, the environment and reinforce values of Tikkun Olam. This week Pardes Jewish Day School middle school students traveled to Tucson, AZ where they participated in several volunteer projects helping those in need. The day concluded with a late-afternoon hike through the picturesque Sabino Canyon before heading back north to Scottsdale.
The first stop of the day was to Casa Maria where the group worked in teams to make over 800 sandwiches to feed the homeless. Brian Flagg, the director of Casa Maria, commented that what impressed him the most was witnessing the harmony between the teachers and the students. He shared with school leaders that everyone worked with such enthusiasm, determination, and care.
Next, the students traveled to Felicia’s Farm, an organization that supplies organic produce to this soup kitchen and other homes in the area. Students and teachers planted fruit trees and plowed new fields for the spring harvest. They planted seeds, cleared fields for future planting, collected eggs, painted flower pots, and repaired some wear and tear on the farm. “The students got so involved that we could not tear them away when it was time to leave. Again, the farmers and community volunteers could not believe how amazing our students were,” commented Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz, Director of Jewish Life and Learning.
“On this trip, we celebrated God’s creation – nature, trees, and people. We tried to do our part by paying respects to the environment and using our resources to help those less fortunate than us. Students were engaged in making sandwiches for the poor and completing a variety of tasks on an organic farm. Working hard and collaboratively to make a positive impact and bond with one another. In addition, students got to connect with nature on a gorgeous hike through Sabino Canyon,” shared Hebrew teacher Maya Gafni-Mor, who helped to coordinate the trip with Rabbi Billy.
Students had so many wonderful thoughts to share about the trip. “I really liked that we had the opportunity to help the community, and it was a really fun time. I enjoyed the hike but in terms of helping the community, my favorite was Felicia’s Farm. I got to collect the eggs from the chickens, which was great. We were also able to plant things and that is helping the environment. It was special to do that on Tu B’Shevat,” fifth grader Brielle explained.
Students and faculty returned home exhausted but inspired knowing that they made a positive impact on others and made the world a better place on Tu B’Shevat.
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