Hello Friends,

I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.

The Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat begins at sundown Wednesday, January 27 and ends at sundown on Thursday, January 28. Although it is a minor holiday, it is certainly lovely and meaningful. Often referred to as the “New Year of the Trees,” this Jewish Arbor Day marks the arrival of spring in Israel. To celebrate, people often plant trees in Israel (and all around the world) to honor or to memorialize a loved one. Tu Bishvat is also a time to connect to the land of Israel and all its beauty.

In Wisconsin, however, as I look outside and see the snow and ice, I wonder if it feels strange to discuss planting trees. Afterall, we still have at least four more months of winter! (I am kidding… well, maybe..)  Rabbi Steve Adams, Director of Pastoral Care at Ovation Communities, suggests that Tu Bishvat is a time “we can connect with our spiritual homeland, Israel.” He recommends that we try to mentally transport ourselves to Israel and feel what our ancestors experienced at this time of year. In addition, with many of us spending a great deal of time at home, he says, “this type of mental escape is one way to deal with the challenges of living through the pandemic.”

I hope this Touch Points E-Newsletter helps you reconnect with the land of Israel and offers exciting ideas to enrich your Tu Bishvat celebration. There are loads of links to click on; I hope they inspire your creativity! Have fun, smile and try something uniquely Tu Bishvat-ie! (That’s my new word.)


I said to the almond tree “Speak to me of G-d.”

and the almond trees blossomed. (-Nikos Kazantzakis)


Beautiful Ways to Celebrate and Mark the Day:

  1. Enjoy the Beauty of Israel from Your Home-   Discover the natural areas in Israel. Click on the links below to see the land and learn more. Then, visualize yourself walking around these spectacular spaces. You will be amazed! Later, when you need to escape, simply close your eyes and see yourself in these ideal settings! 
  • Ein Gedi- Filled with waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife and history, this unique oasis is located in the middle of the desert. Click here to see photos, learn more about the area, and watch videos of the Ein Gedi Reserve and National Park in Israel.  https://www.deadsea.com/articles-tips/ein-gedi-nature-reserve/
  • Rosh HaNikra Grottoes- This is a geologic formation with dramatic white cliffs and grottoes, located on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Walk around with this Google Earth view. (Zoom out and in with the buttons on the right, or “walk around” the area by pressing the person icon.)  Click here:


  • The Kineret (Sea of Galilee)- Enjoy this bird’s eye view of the breathtaking Sea of Galilee and Tiberias.  The Kineret is Israel’s biggest lake. Click here for this one minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUalrFNLZLA
  1. Host a Tu Bishvat Seder-  In the 16th and 17th century, Kabbalists (mystics) of Israel created the Tu Bishvat Seder. Similar to the Passover Seder, during this ceremonial meal, we eat foods in a certain order. However, in the Tu Bishvat Seder, we focus on the important role of trees . Through this wonderful ritual, you will enjoy the many delicious fruits and nuts of Israel. Try using flowers and branches for a festive table decoration. Click here to lead a simple Tu Bishvat Seder  https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/a-tu-bishvat-seder/
  2. Creative Tu Bishvat Activities:
  • Enjoy a tree themed book or movie- Read or listen to Shel Sliverstein’s famous children’ book, The Giving Tree. Although it is a youngsters’ book, it has a meaningful message for any age. Click to listen to a 4 minute read aloud:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hmTc9rm8-o   Enjoy the movie, Intelligent Trees.  German forester, Peter Wohlleben, and scientist, Suzanne Simard, have been observing and studying the communication between trees. Their findings are surprising! Click here for the official movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HPgqqdcQXA
  • Plant indoor seeds- Use an ordinary paper egg carton, fill with a few tablespoons of soil, and then plant herbs or flower seeds. Here is a link for additional directions.  (Good for all ages.) https://thekitchengarten.com/egg-carton-seed-starters/
  • Grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit– Enjoy this activity. Click here for the step-by-step process. https://inhabitat.com/how-to-grow-an-avocado-tree-from-an-avocado-pit/
  • Looking for an interesting, edible activity?– Check out this fun 2 minute video on how to sprout anything, and then eat in a salad or on a sandwich!  Yum! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mbR5xcO8aI
  • Make a terrarium-  “Terrariums are miniature ecosystems that you can make on your own using a few simple items to get started.” (thecuriouslycreative.com) Making a terrarium is fairly easy. Click here to learn how they work and how to make your own. https://www.thecuriouslycreative.com/making-a-terrarium/
  • Celebrate the fruits and nuts of Israel with these recipes- Some of the symbolic Tu Bishvat foods are figs, dates, and carob.  For a simple treat, make a yogurt parfait including some of the fruits and nuts. Feeling adventurous? Click here to see Jamie Geller’s incredible Tu Bishvat recipe ideas. There are easy and more advanced choices. https://jamiegeller.com/recipes/collection/holiday-tu-b-shevat/
  1. Improve Your Brain HealthTry the attached the “Tree and Flower Word Jumble.” The letters of the trees and flowers are wrenched out of their proper position. Can you reconstruct the original word out of the jumble? See the attached worksheet and answer key. 
  2. Remember Vital Lessons from a Tree- Trees are wise; let’s learn from them. “Stand tall and proud. Sink your roots into the earth. Be content with your natural beauty. Go out on a limb. Drink plenty of water. Remember your roots. Enjoy the view!” (Author unknown)
  3. Learn about The Jewish National Fund-  The Jewish National Fund works to reforest Israel, and has reported planting 260 million trees there!  During Tu Bishvat, many people contribute to this organization. Throughout the year, Jewish people also commemorate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or memorialize a loved one by planting a tree in a person’s honor/memory. Click here to learn how they strengthen and protect Israel’s green spaces and nature.   https://www.jnf.org/our-work/forestry-green-innovations


  1. Enjoy a “Museum Moment”-  In this (13 minute) video, Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s  Education Director, Ellie Gettinger discusses the Jewish Agricultural Settlement in Arpin, WI. As you watch, imagine the challenges of creating a new life while learning the intricacies of farming and caring for livestock. What difficulties would the Arpin community encounter? Click here for this fascinating story.  https://youtu.be/bhN8tYFRagk


Happy Tu Bishvat everyone! I hope your holiday is filled with joy and meaning. Please let me know how you celebrated and what were your favorite links.

Do you have questions related to aging, memory loss or caregiving?  I am here for you, and happy to assist! Please do not hesitate to contact me at DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org

…and now I am going to “make like a tree and leave!”

Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,