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H
EBREW
U
NION
C
OLLEGE
-
J
EWISH
I
NSTITUTE OF
R
ELIGION
2003-2004
Annual Report
Dear Friends,
s we reflect on the
accomplishments of
the past year and look toward
the challenges ahead, the
publication of this Annual
Report coincides with
Tu
B’S hevat
,
one of the four days
designated in the Mishnah
(
Rosh Hashanah 1:1) as a
Jewish New Year.
Three of these New Years were set as the first day of their
respective months. The first of Nisan was recognized as the
New Year for Jewish kings, for the religious calendar for
festivals, and, according to the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 7a),
as the New Year for the purchase of congregational sacrifices
with the
shekalim
collected in Adar and for the renting of
houses. The first of Elul was determined as the New Year for
the tithing of cattle. The first of Tishri was set as the New
Year for the civil calendar, for the Sabbatical and Jubilee
years, for the planting of fruit and vegetables, and as the
religious New Year, for on that day “all the world is judged”
(
Rosh Hashanah 1:2).
The fourth New Year,
Tu B’Shevat
(
the 15 th of Shevat) was
chosen by Bet Hillel as the New Year for trees, because most of
the annual rainfall in the land of Israel was deemed to have
fallen by that date (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 14a, Rosh
Hashana 1:2) and thus, the fruits of the trees blossoming
after this date were part of the new year for purposes of
tithing. Over the centuries, Ashkenazic communities have
marked this occasion by eating 15 different kinds of fruit,
while Sephardic communities, under the influence of the
kabbalists of Safed in the 16 th century, devised The Feast of
Fruits, modeled on the Passover
seder
with four cups of wine
and special readings of poems (
complas
),
piyyutim,
and
midrashic literature. From the late 19 th century on, this
New Year has taken on new meaning with the revitalization
of the land of Israel and Jewish national aspirations realized
through the establishment of the State of Israel.
In the context of
Tu B’Shevat
,
the College-Institute is
blossoming as well, as we nurture the professional
development of leaders for the Reform Movement and
klal
yisrael
,
promote the scholarship of our distinguished faculty,
strengthen the resources of our libraries, archives, museums,
and research centers, build a liberal Judaism in the State
of Israel, and ensure the vitality of our Jewish values
and heritage.
A