Jody London and fellow members of Temple Beth Abraham recently celebrated Tu B’Shevat by planting with us at Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh.
I checked my records. The first Temple Beth Abraham Wetlands Restoration Day was April 7, 2002. The idea of bringing a group from Temple Beth Abraham out to Save The Bay’s restoration site at Arrowhead Marsh was launched at the synagogue retreat, in October 2001. For me, with my older daughter in the two-year old class at the synagogue nursery school and serving on the Board of Save The Bay, it was an ideal way to bring together the organizations to which I was dedicating most of my spare time.
Over the years Temple Beth Abraham has worked at Arrowhead Marsh in many different locations, at different times of the year, doing different activities. The past few years, due to popular demand, we have settled in to using our workday to observe Tu B’Shevat. Tu B’Shevat is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the trees, spring, and being good stewards of the environment.
On Sunday, January 27, Temple Beth Abraham brought a group of 40 adults and kids to a location in Arrowhead Marsh we had not worked previously (and I thought we had worked every acre of the park!). About half the group was new to this activity. And many were coming for the second, third, or in the case of my family, twelfth time. It was great to have one of the preschool teachers there with her husband for the first time, and so many of her past and current students! We planted various native grasses, the seeds of which had been harvested at Arrowhead Marsh and grown in the native plant nursery Save The Bay operates in conjunction with the East Bay Regional Park District. The work was hard at times, as the soil was full of concrete from the days when the Marsh was slated to become more industrial park. And the work was fulfilling: we calculate we planted over 200 seedlings, which as they grow will provide habitat for all sorts of critters, filter out impurities in the water that flows into the Bay, and help control flooding that will come with rising sea levels.
We were especially honored that Save The Bay had us help plant an oak seedling at the restoration site! In our dozen years of work with Save the Bay, we have never planted trees, only seedlings that help restore native habitat. The Save The Bay staff recognized the significance of Tu B’Shevat, and the ongoing commitment from Temple Beth Abraham, and decided to allow us to plant a tree, in addition to grasses and lower lying plants. It is our hope that the oak tree will grow strong, and others may join it, reminding us of the native oak forest – the largest on the Pacific Coast – that once stood where we now live.
Many thanks to Michelle and Jack for another great workday at Arrowhead Marsh!
– Jody London
Jody London served on the Save the Bay from 1999 – 2008. Since 2009, she has served as an elected member of the Board of the Oakland Unified School District.