Now that the mournful day of Tisha B’av has passed, the Jewish calendar takes a very different turn. Today marks a change in mood with an even less well-known holiday called Tu B’av. Tu B’av, the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Av, is celebrated as the day of love.
What? A Jewish Valentine’s Day? While widely observed in Israel, few in the North American Jewish community are even remotely familiar with the holiday. Perhaps you, too, have never heard of Tu B’av. Or perhaps you’ve celebrated Tu B’av the way our ancestors did, by dressing up in white and go out to your local vineyards to dance?
I was once at a Jewish retreat with of adults of all ages, most of whom had never heard of Tu B’av. Because the holiday fell during the retreat, the leaders chanted the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) in English and Hebrew, sang love songs, and danced with scarves. Within a few hours, we all had a clear understanding of the holiday and its history, and a deeper appreciation of Judaism for providing this element of love. But a question for us at JOI is, can an obscure Jewish holiday be an outreach opportunity, or is that unrealistic? Can it be an opportunity to learn about the holiday? Or must outreach programming focus on a Jewish slant to Valentine’s Day, the holiday that the unaffiliated are already familiar with?
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