With Discussion and Delicacies, Los Angeles Jewish Home Marks Tu B’Shvat and Martin Luther King Jr. Day
This past January 17th played witness to a unique confluence of events: the simultaneous observation of Tu B'Shvat—the birthday of the trees—and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Los Angeles Jewish Home ushered in both holidays with a spirited and soulful celebration broadcast to all residents via closed circuit TV and YouTube. Hosted by Rabbi Karen Bender, the Home's chief mission officer, and Rabbi Ron Goldberg, Eisenberg Village campus rabbi, the event also featured special guest Pastor Kenneth Davis. The clergy members gathered virtually to discuss the meaning of the two holidays and to engage Jewish Home residents in reflecting on these two distinct, but in some ways complementary, legacies.
To kick off the festivities, Pastor Kenneth offered insight into Martin Luther King Jr. Day, noting that, "it's really a celebration of a movement of people of goodwill to stand in the face of evil." Rabbi Bender related Dr. King's work to our society's present-day challenges around social justice, suggesting that, as we confront those challenges, each of us has an obligation not to stay silent. "We can't just hope things will get better," she said, "we have to see ourselves as participants" in building the world we want. Linking Tu B'Shvat and Martin Luther King Jr. Day together, Rabbi Ron said that, "MLK Day reminds us of how we're supposed to treat our fellow human beings, and Tu B'Shvat reminds us of how we have a responsibility to treat the physical environment and the earth around us."
In preparation for the event, the Jewish Home's dietary department prepared a beautiful plate of fruit for clergy and residents alike; the fruit was delivered to residents in advance so they could engage in a tasting simultaneously with the rabbis during the broadcast. To mark the occasion, Rabbi Bender led all those participating in a shehecheyanu, the traditional Jewish prayer thanking God for keeping us alive, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this occasion.