January 22, 2024 /
Emily Koppel

A Night of Environmental Justice

This Thursday, Jews and tree lovers alike will celebrate the holiday of Tu B’Shvat, or as it’s often referred to, “Jewish Arbor Day”. The day is recognized as the “birthday of all trees” and is a call to appreciate nature and serve as better stewards of the land. In honor of the holiday, last week the Capital Jewish Museum hosted ‘Nights at the Round Table: Conversations about Environmental Justice’, an event presented in partnership with Casey Trees, Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, Interfaith Power and Light, and Jewish Earth Alliance.

The evening started with an engaging panel discussion focused on local efforts for equal access to natural resources and equal protection from pollution. The panelists included Rhonda Hamilton, Ward 6 ANC commissioner, Dr. Janet Phoenix, Research Professor at GW’s School of Public Health, and Brenda Richardson, Casey Trees board member and Coordinator of the Anacostia Parks and Community Collaborative. The conversation was deftly moderated by Dahlia Rockowitz, the Director of Campaigns and Partnerships at Dayenu. Each panelist spoke from their unique perspectives and backgrounds on the pressing environmental issues in their communities and the ways that we all can contribute to tackling them.

The panel was then followed by dinner and guided conversation at each table, with the menu inspired by the Tu B’Shvat tradition of eating the seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The event ended with dessert and activities provided by Casey Trees meant to inspire further contemplation, including comparing DC’s heat index map to its tree canopy map, and reflecting on the Jewish values that inspire environmental justice work.

Attendees left with action steps to take to address environmental injustice. The recommendations ranged from ongoing opportunities to one-time events, including:

  • Apply to join a monthly DC Table meeting to work on DC environmental justice issues
  • Support the Campaign to Reduce Lead Exposure and Asthma by signing on to receive their monthly updates
  • Testify at DC City Council Environment and Health Committee hearings
  • Visit Dayenu’s website to learn more about the Jewish climate movement
  • Attend Casey Trees’ next community tree care event this Friday at Elesavetgrad Cemetery

Happy Tu B’Shvat to those who celebrate! And even if you don’t, we can all take the opportunity to celebrate trees and the multitude of benefits they provide to all living beings. Scroll down to enjoy some snapshots of the event!