On Mitzvah Day, Students Celebrate Tu B’Shevat While Honoring the Messages of Dr. Martin Luther King

January 18 –  On Mitzvah Day, Pardes students celebrated everything from Tu B’Shevat to the messages of Dr. Martin Luther King as they learned about and helped with various needs in the community.  Students literally tilled the soil, sent messages of hope, and worked on projects to benefit those in need.

To kick of the morning, representatives from Gesher Disability Resources, Arizona Helping Hands, and Jewish Family and Children’s Services spoke to students about their very important and distinct missions.  Afterwards, students engaged in special hands on projects and activities.

Amy Hummell explained how Gesher works with people who learn differently and the teachers who teach them.  The organization provides education, religious services, residential homes, and social groups and activities.  For their project, students were given “Plague Wheels” and finger puppets representing the Ten Plagues, to color and decorate. They will be used for this year’s Passover Seders.

“Who here has their own bed to sleep in?” asked Sheri Siegel from Arizona Helping Hands. When every hand went up, Siegel explained that not everyone has that luxury.  Her organization is the largest provider of essential needs for boys and girls in foster care, including new cribs, beds, clothing, diapers and toiletries. Last year, Arizona Helping Hands provided 3,338 beds alone.  For their project, students were given large bags to decorate. The organization will later fill them with birthday packages, including a new book. Students got creative, decorating their individual bags with colorful drawings of everything from birthday cakes and ice cream cones to flowers, sports symbols, rainbows and more with beautiful wishes for a happy birthday.

Jewish Children and Family Services representative Carolyn Perlow talked about real life issues like food insecurity and how The Real World Food Bank and Just 3 Things  program is helping provide food to those who need it.  Students brought items to school for the program. “JFCS recently told me that we are doing a tremendous mitzvah by bringing in 3 items,” said Director of Jewish Life,  Mitch Flatow. “The partial government shutdown is affecting many agencies and individuals who receive food from them.”  The agency provided activities for students to learn more about their services through a special crossword puzzle and word search.

In recognition of Tu B’Shevat, groups of students took turns spray-painting car tires which others filled with dirt and planted flowers. These were generously provided by the IAC (Israeli American Council). Students also painted recycled plastic liter bottles and metal cans, turning them into decorative  planters which they used to create new and beautiful installations around campus. “You don’t get to do things like this in other schools,” exclaimed seventh grader Leo R.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, a unique “Wishing Trees” project was created on campus.  Each student took time to contemplate their special wish for the world. They then wrote their wish on a colorfully painted strip of fabric and tied it to branches on a cluster of trees in the middle of the playground.  All are encouraged to come explore and contemplate each others “dreams” for a better world. “I love hanging them on the the Wishing Trees,” said Eight grader Noi Z. “They are our hopes and dreams for today.”