Berlin’s Bambinim Families Go Green for Tu B’Shvat

February 15, 2011


In the year since the Bendini family first came to JDC’s Bambinim early childhood education program in Berlin, it’s become hard to tell who’s been enjoying the club’s activities more, five-year-old Marc or his parents?

Bambinim’s recent Tu B’Shvat seder, an Arbor Day-type event celebrating the “Jewish New Year for Trees,” was typical. Like all Bambinim activities, the seder was an open and inviting event reflecting the diverse backgrounds of Berlin’s multicultural and multilingual Jewish families. Most educational and cultural courses combine the use of German, Russian, English, and Hebrew.

Marc’s parents, who are Italian and Canadian (and speak Italian, English, and German with Marc, who was born in Germany), are drawn to Bambinim events precisely because they are innovative and culturally rich. That says a lot in a city as cosmopolitan as Berlin, where there is a surfeit of quality artistic and cultural events—even for children—and the competition for audiences is stiff.

Bambinim events “are THE place to be for Jewish children’s activities in an open, pluralistic setting,” said Marc’s father. “My wife and I enjoy bringing Marc to these activities, and we look forward to participating ourselves.”

The past month’s Tu B’Shvat seder was no exception. Parents helped their children paint their own flower pots before the seder began, so they would be ready to take home later as a reminder of the holiday.

A Jewish story alluding to nature’s remarkable healing powers (how a magical pomegranate saves a king’s son) was read in German. And Bambinim staff members spoke about the symbols of seasonal changes, including the trees and foliage.

Participants were given different mixes of grape juice (instead of wine) to see if they could taste this change in seasons, and they were asked to identify fruits characteristic of the different parts of the year in a playful variation of “show and tell.”

An Israeli intern who works at Bambinim helped explain the appropriate blessings for the wine and fruit, and organized the Israeli dances that brought parents and children enthusiastically to their feet between each seder “course”.

Emphasizing the continuity of nature and the ongoing cycle of life, each child got to take home his or her flowerpot—but only after carefully filling it with soil and planting the seeds they would nurture for next year’s Tu B’shvat celebration.

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