Single parents and their children get a jump on Tu b’Shevat at Mission Trails Regional Park


By Donald H. Harrison


SAN DIEGO – On a perfect, sunny Sunday, a day after the rainstorms, Jewish single parents and their children got a five-day head start on Tu B’Shevat by planting three blue elderberry bushes near the Visitor Center at Mission Trails Regional Park.

One of the fathers, Elisha Blatt, pronounced the b’racha prior to the tree planting, and groundskeeper Tom Folk showed the children how to slide the baby bushes from their pots, pack them into the earth, build small berms around them, and give them water – which the elderberries needed even though the grounds still were moist from the rainstorms.

Educator Linda Hawley, an educator with Mission Trails Regional Park, said adult blue elderberry bushes, were utilized by the local Kumeyaay people in the fashioning of flutes.  The trunk and branches tend to grow straight, and are easy to hollow out for the musical instrument.

Tu B’Shevat is the day on the Hebrew calendar when trees are considered to have grown another year older – important both for purposes of determining in what year the first fruits may be harvested, and also for computing taxes.  Although the day started in such legalistic fashion, it has evolved into what some call the “Jewish arbor day” – a time for celebrating nature.  This year Tu B’Shevat begins on Shabbat (sunset, January 29).  To avoid breaking the sanctity of the Sabbath, many groups scheduled their Tu B’Shevat celebrations either before or after the holiday.

A celebration of nature was exactly what members of Supporting Jewish Single Parents (SJSP) had in mind when they arranged to come out to the Mission Trails Regional Park for tree planting, parent-child activities led by Hawley, and a picnic.

The program is coordinated by Jewish Family Service.  For one of the activities on Sunday, the SJSP contingent divided into smaller groups. Each was asked to be “tree detectives” using clues explained by Hawley to determine what leaves they had been assigned.  All were species that naturally occur at Mission Trails Regional Park, including western sycamore, Fremont cottonwood, coast live oak, arroyo willow, laurel sumac and toyon.

For Leah Grace and her son Dante, 7, the late morning gathering in the eastern portion of the City of San Diego was worth the drive down from Oceanside, where they reside .  “We so love hiking and nature,” Grace said.  “In the past we did a really cool hike and they explained everything to us.  We went to the base of the mountains and there was a trail we stayed on, and they explained the trees and the plants and what to stay away from.”

Another SJSP activity that she and Dante participated in was a Chanukah party at a member’s home.

“I think it is important for him to be around Jewish families,” Grace reflected.

Up where they live, she added, “we don’t have a lot of opportunity.  This is a group that gets together with cool activities for the kid that creates more Jewish awareness.”

A JFS staff member said the main goal of SJSP is “connecting Jewish single parents and their children to each other and also to the Jewish community.  The parents make a connection to each other for support and also to be exposed to many aspects of the Jewish community.   The idea is for them to maintain and enhance their Judaic background, their culture and their traditions within the home.”

Besides at Tu B’Shevat, the group plans activities around other holidays such as Purim and Passover.  “We are going to have Purim this year at Temple Adat Shalom, where they are going to have a Beatles Purim; we’ve had Passover at the JCC, and we went to Tifereth Israel Synagogue for a Succot family dinner,” the JFS spokesperson said.  “In May we have an annual camp that I organize… we go to Camp Mountain Chai on a Sunday, with activities for the kids and their families….”

Besides social events, SJSP responds to individuals’ needs with a variety of resources. For example, said the spokesperson, “we can help people join temples, or with their Hebrew school fees, or arrange for food pantry deliveries), or child care services.  I also have a social support group once a month and also do educational presentations on single parenting issues.”

Such subjects may be covered as “how to talk to your children about difficult subjects, safety on the Internet, interfaith relationships, the holidays, and stress reduction.  It really is a mix of social, educational and support services.”

Harrison is editor of  San Diego Jewish World  



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Copyright 2010 San Diego Jewish World

No Responses to “Single parents and their children get a jump on Tu b’Shevat at Mission Trails Regional Park”

  1. elissa landsman says:

    Hello…what a beautiful picture and what a lovely event…
    thanks for talking about this wonderful program.
    Elissa Landsman


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