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Jewish Journal

Tu B’Shevat fest branching out

by Ryan Torok

January 26, 2012 | 12:42 pm

What do Grammy-winning band Ozomatli, tree planting and a bungee trampoline have in common? This year, they’ll all be part of a festival celebrating Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday of nature and abundance.

On Jan. 29, Ozomatli, known for fusing Latin music with hip-hop and rock, will headline a concert bill at the Tu B’Shevat Nature Fest.

An expected 2,000-2,500 people likely will turn out for the festival, according to Craig Taubman, founder of Craig N’ Co. and an organizer of the festival. Taubman, a musician in his own right, handpicked the artists.

“If your goal is quality and to represent as many people, support as many people as possible, then your talent has to reflect that,” Taubman said.

Veteran songwriter Cindy Paley, folkie Billy Jonas and the MATI Kids Choir round out the versatile lineup.

Taubman says that it’s no small thing that Ozomatli is performing. In addition to the 2004 Grammy win and the high-profile gigs, the U.S. State Department selected Ozomatli to be cultural ambassadors on a series of government-sponsored musical tours overseas in 2007.

“By having Ozomatli there, it also makes a statement,” Taubman said, “…we’re having an outdoor festival, and it’s not just a Jewish value, nature, it’s a universal value so why not get a group that represents universal symbols.”

Craig n’ Co is new to the Tu B’Shevat festival. For the past 14 years, the Shalom Institute has been the presenter. This year, Taubman and Bill Kaplan, executive director of the Shalom Institute, teamed up to boost the profile of the festival, making it more community-oriented, bringing it under the umbrella of the Big Jewish Tent. Founded in 2011, the Big Jewish Tent facilitates themed, large-scale recreational community events, hoping to build bridges. More than 60 local synagogues and nonprofits, including The Jewish Journal, are sponsors of Big Jewish Tent events, Taubman said.

Two of the four Big Jewish Tent events, including an outdoor Shabbat celebration with Israeli musician Idan Raichel, were held in August and October last year. The final one, a health and wellness retreat in celebration of Shavuot, which marks the giving of the Torah at Sinai, will be titled “Spavuot” and held in May.

The Big Jewish Tent’s Tu B’Shevat festival takes place at the Shalom Institute’s 135-acres Malibu campus. Activities at the Tu B’Shevat festival — suitable for all ages — go from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. 

Activities at the festival will reflect the environmental spirit of the holiday, including tree planting on an organic farm, a green-themed scavenger hunt and a seder hike. If that’s not enough, a bungee trampoline, a petting zoo, tomahawk throwing, pita cooking and a climbing wall should keep the kids busy.

Tu B’Shevat’s actual date is Feb. 8. Other holiday events taking place in the coming weeks include the Friendship Circle Tu B’Shevat Festival on Feb. 5, as well as the Westside JCC’s Annual Tu B’Shevat Festival and IKAR’s community-wide 3rd Annual Tu B’Shevat Seder and Celebration, both on Feb. 12.

Still not convinced to attend on the 29th? Perhaps you need some encouragement from Taubman, who exclaimed that he lives and breathes events like these.

“I love community,” he said. “It’s what turns me on.”

Big Jewish Tent’s Tu B’Shevat Nature Fest takes place at the Shalom Institute, 34342 Mulholland Highway, Malibu. $5 (advance), $10 (door), free (kids 3 and under). Visit bigjewishtent.com for more details.

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