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Monday, February 05, 2007

Celebrating Tu B'Shevat

By Jamie Henline

Monday, February 5, 2007

More than 40 people from the Chabad Jewish Center of Naples gathered at Farmer Mike's U-Pick in Bonita Springs on Sunday morning to celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the New Year for Trees.

Armed with grocery store bags, the children of Chabad's Hebrew School scattered in the pick-your-own strawberry patch at Farmer Mike's, their small fingers rooting through the vines to pluck the bright red berries.

Tu B'Shevat is a celebration of life for trees, and it is marked by eating fruits, including pomegranates, figs, olives, grapes and dates, said Rabbi Fischel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples. Those are the fruits mentioned in the Torah in its praise of the Holy Land, according to www.chabadnaples.com.

Tu B'Shevat is celebrated because a tree's life cycle is like that of a human, said Zaklos. A seed is planted, and after much watering and nurturing, it begins to grow. Two pieces of wood are used to support the tree in its younger years, and then a few decades later, you reap the benefits, he said.

This is the second year students from the Hebrew School, or Jewish Enrichment Program, have gone to Farmer Mike's to celebrate the New Year for Trees, he said. Later, the strawberries will be made into strawberry shortcake or dipped in chocolate and eaten, he said.

Rachel Koral, 9, of Naples, did not let the brisk air or slight smattering of raindrops slow her down. In less than 10 minutes, she had her bag half full of the ripe, red fruit.

"Since we're celebrating Tu B'Shevat, we should pick fruit," she said. "It's fun."

Her mother, Marcy Koral, agreed.

"I think this is really fun and different," she said. "We've been in Naples for five years, and we never knew this was here."

The sweet red fruit is also really tasty, she said with a laugh, adding she had tried a couple of the berries already.

"They taste really good," she said.

Teaching the importance and significance of a Jewish holiday in such a hands-on way is really unique, said Robert Gurdian, who brought his 4-year-old son, Ari, and his 8-year-old daughter, Tova.

"You're so used to Publix. Being outside and actually picking them yourself is a different experience," he said.

Chabad of Naples strives to provide hands-on learning because it has the most lasting results, said Ettie Zaklos, wife of Fischel Zaklos and director of the school. Even the Zaklos' 3-year-old son, Mendel, got in on the picking, stooping over the plants in his blue yarmulke and bright yellow Crocs shoes to grab the reddest berries.

"Mendel also picked last year. This year, he is bigger, so he's picked a lot more," Ettie Zaklos said, laughing.

Carla Morstein came to Farmer Mike's with her husband, Steve, and her two children, Scott and Hailey. They had never been strawberry picking before.

"I think I'm having more fun than the kids," she said with a chuckle as she bent over the plants. She clutched a pile of the berries in one hand, her nails painted nearly the same shade of red as the fruit.

"I think...this is the way a child should learn. It explains to them what they're learning about," she said.

© 2006 Naples Daily News and NDN Productions. Published in Naples, Florida, USA by the E.W. Scripps Co.

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