Lets do our part to honor MLK Day and Tu BShevat

Want to repair the world a little? With two upcoming holidays — one Jewish, the other secular — now’s your chance.

Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday celebrating nature and trees, begins at sunset on Jan. 25. This year, many local Jewish institutions will mark the day with eco-friendly events, some of them boasting a tikkun olam component.

Shalom Bayit, a Jewish nonprofit working to combat domestic violence, will host a community seder on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at Oakland’s Temple Sinai, with all donations going toward that organization’s good works.

Chabad of Cole Valley will sponsor a Jan. 27 picnic and tree planting at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park. And on the same day, Wilderness Torah will mark the “new year of the trees” with a family-friendly event that includes a morning seder and a hike through Oakland’s own forest primeval, Redwood Regional Park. There’s no better way to get in touch with nature — and to sharpen our dedication to protect the planet — than to traverse nature’s hushed trails.

On the secular side, Martin Luther King Day this year falls on Monday, Jan. 21, and will be celebrated across the country. Nationally, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and the UJA Federation of New York have prepared a special prayer honoring Dr. King, to be read in synagogues.

In the spirit of King’s message, Jewish Community Centers in the East Bay and Palo Alto will sponsor volunteer projects so Jews can aid their communities.

The JCC of the East Bay will host trash pickups and tree planting along the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline and the Richmond Greenway. The Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto will hold a Mitzvah Day, with 20 community service options available, from habitat restoration to serving meals at homeless shelters.

Not noted by many, Jan. 11 happened to be the birthday of the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the greatest Jewish sages of the 20th century. Born Jan. 11, 1907, he would have been 106. His eloquence spoke to generations of people, Jewish and non-Jewish.

Apropos of MLK Day, Heschel wrote, “Racism is man’s gravest threat to man — the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”

That fight goes on, and as past and present victims of racism, the Jewish community must always help lead that fight.

Deeply embedded in the Jewish way is this instinct to leap when a mitzvah opportunity arises. And that means action. To quote Heschel again, after his march arm-in-arm with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., in 1965, the rabbi famously said, “I felt my feet were praying.”

Let’s pray with our feet next week. Chag sameach to all.